StorageTek takes spot in Sun's four key brands

Sun is gradually moving to rebrand all its storage products StorageTek while continuing work on integrating both the staff and technologies

Sun Microsystems now considers StorageTek one of its major core-business brands, a company executive said Tuesday.

Each of Sun's major brands -- Solaris, Java, UltraSparc and StorageTek -- could potentially be used by third-party vendors independent of Sun, said Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun's Data Management Group.

"We designed the StorageTek brand so it doesn't require Sun in front of it," he said Tuesday. It's the same strategy Sun has already adopted for its Solaris OS, its Java middleware and its UltraSparc hardware processors, Canepa said.

Sun is gradually moving to rebrand all its storage products StorageTek while continuing work on integrating both the staff and technologies it acquired through last year's $4.1 billion purchase of Storage Technology, more commonly known as StorageTek. With the purchase, Sun's storage business now accounts for about one third of the vendor's revenue, Canepa said.

He laid out the progress Sun has made so far on the integration work during a press event at the company's campus in Burlington, Massachusetts, Tuesday.

Executing on its strategy remains Sun's biggest challenge, he said. The vendor's staffers need to switch their "server-centric mindset" in order to be able to spot opportunities to sell StorageTek technologies to Fortune 2000 firms, Canepa said.

Sun's sales force and their peers from StorageTek have come from very different backgrounds,  with Sun still working to align salespeople to customers, he said. 

Canepa said Sun has only had a unified Sun/StorageTek sales force in place since Jan. 1, and some layoffs may be forthcoming over this quarter and next as that process continues.

Sun is also working on consolidating its IT systems with those of StorageTek, he said. Sun is an Oracle/Siebel Systems shop while StorageTek ran its business on enterprise applications from SAP AG, he said.

Canepa said another task is to re-engineer channel relationships over the coming six months. He said there would be "no change" to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) deals StorageTek had established with a number of key vendors, particularly Hewlett-Packard. Analysts estimated that between 5 percent and 7 percent of StorageTek's revenue was derived from HP reseller sales.

Since Sun sources some storage technology from HP and vice versa, Canepa said he met with his counterpart at HP, Bob Schultz, who is general manager of HP's storage business. HP Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Hurd also held meetings with Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president and chief operating officer, Canepa said.

"We've got far bigger enemies to go fight than for us to squabble," Canepa said. "It's business as usual between us and HP."

Having StorageTek under its belt has enabled Sun to act more "agnostic" when it comes to supporting third-party OSes including Linux, Microsoft's Windows and IBM's mainframe z/OS, he said.

"When storage is presented to the network, the first rule is that you don't care what's on the other side," Canepa said in an interview with the IDG News Service after Tuesday's event. However, that willingness to support OSes other than Sun's own Solaris is tempered with the vendor's "finite resources," he added.

So, while Sun's storage offerings will support the current version of IBM's AIX OS, the vendor is unlikely to provide the same support for previous versions of Big Blue's flavor of Unix. However, under a program known internally as "Get to Yes," Sun will build a "custom stack" for a particular customer which could include older versions of third-party OSes, Canepa said.

Sun has expanded the number of vertical markets it targets with its storage technology to include two areas where StorageTek was strong -- healthcare and energy, Canepa said. Sun already plays in the government, education and financial sectors.

Overall, Canepa judged it as "too early to tell what Sun has gained" from acquiring StorageTek. However, Sun is already finding it easier to convince customers to purchase tape products, he said. With StorageTek a part of Sun, the vendor is no longer reselling the products, but now owns the intellectual property for those offerings.

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