Bypass and disrupt
Sun's disk storage strategy
Best of breed hardly cuts it for a company that says innovation is in its DNA. Across the technology board Sun builds better mousetraps: faster processors; containerised data centres; an extended zettabyte file system (ZFS); and more. Yet with its hard drive-based storage it doesn't seem to be doing this.
Looking across Sun's product lines we see enormous innovation: CPU chips with Niagara 2; software with xVM virtualisation and ZFS; and tape automation with the coming 1TB+ T10K drives. But then we look at hard drive-based storage and the theme is best of breed; innovation being restricted to apparent niche oddities, like Thumper.
With hard drive-based arrays Sun is seemingly content to sell its line of NAS products and SAN storage arrays, the Engenio-based modular mid-range products and the high-end Hitachi-supplied products, and keep pace with instead of outmatching its competition
Disk storage sales are ho, hum and declining
An IDC report on external disk product sales showed Sun and NetApp sharing the number six spot. Gartner has recorded a decline in Sun's disk array sales. Its sales in the external controller-based disk storage market, from Q1 06 to Q1 07, showed a 15 percent decline according to Gartner.
This is not a great performance.
Put crudely, Sun is selling NAS and SAN array products which match or exceed competing products technically in several ways, but which are perceived by markets and analysts as not doing well enough because of the sales numbers vis a vis the competition.
Yet Sun is not developing better SAN arrays or NAS filers in the existing mode at all. Where are the Sun-develped products to take on Isilon (clustered NAS), EqualLogic and Left Hand Networks (iSCSI SANs), NetApp and EMC (filers and SAN arrays)?
They don't exist and Sun appears to be content with its Engenio and HDS-supplied 'best of breed' technology for these markets. Isn't that odd? In fact this is a holding strategy. Sun is not about trying to outsell the competitors above in these traditional storage markets. It aims to both bypass and disrupt them and their business models.