Sun server/storage exec: Virtualisation has customers confused
Sun hardware guru previews storage, server plans for 2008
By Jon Brodkin, Network World | Techworld | Published: 10:00, 18 December 2007
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Network World: Are you offering storage and servers as a service?
John Fowler: We have a capability today called network.com. It's used primarily by people doing applications development and universities. But on there you can get storage, applications services, you can build applications and run them as a service and not own your own computers. Network.com is small because at the end of the day were trying to enable many other people to do this, like Salesforce.com and others. We are selling people who want to be service providers the hardware, software and services to let them build their businesses.
Network World: What other major technology improvements do you expect?
John Fowler: The big driver for all this stuff is networking. It will all be 3G or WiMAX. That means we've got great bandwidth all the way down to end devices for any device we have [Fowler holds up a cell phone as he says this].
In three to five years thin clients will be everywhere. So is it your phone or is it your device, it doesn't really matter. The point is high-speed networking, both wireless and wired, will enable completely different kinds of user experiences.
Network World: You also say open storage will take on a bigger role. What do you mean by open storage?
John Fowler: We've open sourced Solaris. We've included in Solaris the ability to do RAID-equivalent capability plus a lot of file system technologies. But it's more than that because SAS [Serial Attached SCSI] is much more truly an open standard than Fibre Channel. It's faster and it's a lower-cost connectivity point. The other part of open storage is until now you had to build custom chips in order to run storage systems fast enough to be interesting.
What's happening now is regular processor chips are getting fast enough to actually run all the storage protocols. It's possible to build a very capable storage subsystem using open technologies. That's going to cause economics to drop dramatically.
Network World: How is the server business going?
John Fowler: The server business has been a bright spot for Sun. We’ve had seven quarters in a row of growth. Earlier this decade we actually had some revenue declines in servers but that's not the case recently.
Network World: What helped you turn the tide?
John Fowler: Two product things. The first one was Solaris 10. We released a new operating system that has built-in virtualisation.We also did refreshes of the entire server product line from top to bottom. We refreshed the entire SPARC product line from top to bottom.
Network World: What do you have planned for servers in the next year?
John Fowler: We have a lot of R&D investments. We have a constant pipeline of server products. The big news in the first half of next year is we're introducing larger versions of the Niagara server. So we have a whole family of larger server products coming out based around Niagara, which is our own very efficient processor that integrates 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
We have major products coming out with Intel and AMD. Most of the product announcements are concentrated in the midrange of servers and down.
Network World: What are the biggest differences between your largest and smallest customers?
John Fowler: What's harder about larger customers is they always have a huge legacy. If you take a typical bank or telecommunications company they've been in biz for 50 years, 100 years.
They have applications and software that extend back. In fact, we joke that our bigger customers are museums for technology.
Smaller businesses don't have the same level of technical staff. Solving a weird performance problem or a really hard bug just isn't in their capability. You have to give it to them so they can use it easily or have a service plan that caters to that, whereas if you go into a large bank there are people in there who know our technology as well as we do.