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Commentary: Sun, Hitachi deal targets EMC

Sun Microsystems' and Hitachi Data Systems' deal to market co-branded HDS Lightning 9900 storage provides Sun with a high-end product that competes directly with EMC's Symmetrix.

By Josh Krischer and Stan Zaffos, Gartner Analysts

Sun Microsystems' and Hitachi Data Systems' three-year deal to market co-branded HDS Lightning 9900 storage is a broad one, providing Sun with a high-end storage product that competes directly against EMC's Symmetrix.

This deal represents a major shift in Sun's storage strategy and is a tacit acknowledgement by Sun that modular and monolithic storage systems satisfy different customer requirements. Sun remains committed to its T3 product, however, as the agreement did not include Hitachi's 9200 series (also known as Thunder).

See news story:
Sun, Hitachi join forces on storage
A joint global service and support organization will provide support for the co-branded 9900 series. Initially, HDS call centers staffed by HDS and Sun personnel will provide support. This approach will help improve how quickly and efficiently problems are dealt with. Perhaps more importantly, Sun will learn how HDS delivers customer satisfaction in critical environments. In the long term, this could be a major benefit for Sun.

In the past, Sun suffered from lack of high-end storage subsystems in its product portfolio. Its A5000 and A3500 series and the T3 launched in mid-2000 could not meet all requirements, so most of the external storage on Sun's E10000 series servers came from EMC. The co-branded 9900 should enable Sun to gain some market share from EMC, although EMC will remain a strong competitor. Sun's strengths are its willingness to compete on price, a market-validated product, and ownership of the server and operating system.

Reselling the HDS Lightning product will also provide Sun with an advantage in the Unix market. In high-end projects, Sun previously could not compete on equal terms against Hewlett-Packard and IBM storage products. However, whether Sun can match EMC's support capabilities--particularly in accounts that support Sun, HP and IBM servers--remains unclear. In those accounts, conflict between HDS, HP and Sun could potentially arise. The conflict could stem from the desire of enterprises to rationalize their storage infrastructures by limiting the number of storage vendors.

The agreement between Sun and HDS should not have a significant impact on HDS's relationship with HP. However, there may be a potential problem with Sun's big resellers, Amdahl and Comparex, both of which resell EMC's Symmetrix, and not Sun's, storage products. Gartner believes that Sun will not tolerate this much longer, and those resellers will likely have to switch to HDS storage.

Gartner believes that this agreement cements HDS's status as the original equipment manufacturer of choice among high-end Unix server vendors, and it gives HDS more credibility in the market when competing against EMC and IBM.

(For related commentary on storage and total cost of ownership, see Gartner.com)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.