I’m radically increasing Sun’s focus on storage today.
Why? Because the market’s only going to grow, for as long as we’re on this earth, and I believe our talent and assets give us a big sustainable advantage – that we’re planning on exploiting. Aggressively.
How? First, I’m going to be combining our Storage and Server product teams to create a new converged group at Sun known simply as our “Systems” team. The Systems team will focus on the evolution and convergence of computing, storage and networking systems. Talk to any datacenter adminstrator, and that’s what they want to hear – they live in a world managing the (often idiosyncratic) interactions of that trinity (computing, storage and networking – and just wait until they’re virtualized). We want to be in a position to innovate on their behalf, at the system level, beyond the boxes – across blades, racks, disk and tape.
So we’ll still be strongly focused on being a multi-platform storage provider (just as our servers run multiple operating systems, and our operating system runs on every vendor’s servers), but we’re also going to start talking at a higher level to customers that see more standardization and integration in their future datacenters. That’s not everyone, but it’s definitely a trend we’re going to accelerate (and again, that’s what virtualization portends).
Now, why do I believe combining groups make sense? It’s a recipe that works for us. We combined our high volume x64 server group with our traditionally high scale SPARC server group over a year ago – leveraging the volume skills of the former with the scaling skills of the latter. What did that collaboration yield? The highest scale x64 systems in the market. And a refreshed lineup of volume systems powered, interchangeably, by SPARC, Intel and AMD. We also combined our networking expertise to build the best general purpose blade platform below (known internally as C10 or Constellation 10 – 10 blades, vs. “C48,” with 48), with integrated networking and seamless management. Can you tell where the server stops, and the storage starts? I can’t (and in a virtualized world, it’s not terribly important).
Secondly, as our servers clearly show, we’re heading to a general purpose world – in which open and general purpose platforms will be the dominant drivers of growth, for us and the market broadly. The first general purpose storage system from Sun was Thumper (our x4500) – powered by an open source operating system (Solaris), and file system (ZFS – soon to be parallelized by Lustre, a recent acquisition from Cluster File Systems). Thumper rocketed to a $100,000,000 annual runrate within its first two full quarters of shipment (on a $13 billion dollar revenue base, that’s hard to see, but we certainly took notice – at least one competitor did, too).
Combine these assets with some of our recent network innovations (like Magnum, the world’s largest Infiniband switch – which is not the smallest variant we’ll build, btw), the Crossbow community in Solaris – and it begins to look like we’ve got all the right ingredients to reinvent the datacenter.
So in this instance, I’m expecting our Systems team to be just as focused on standalone storage and networking – leveraging disk, tape (and all future removable media) – as they are on building great integrated systems (like the Constellation System, above, or our Thumper platform). I’m expecting to see more innovation, faster time to market, and a breadth of opportunities emerging from serving our current customers better than ever, while inviting new customers with a constant stream of high value innovation.
And before I end, I want to focus on one particular group, whose value only grows to Sun every day – our Tape and Archive business. From a market perspective, some data lasts forever – surveillance video, health and insurance records, trading histories, etc. In our view, the market for permanent data will only grow. Today, only tape can maintain the integrity of that data without electricity. And for the datacenters we serve, many are seeing the cost of electricity threatening to eclipse their hardware budgets (yes, I’m serious). For disk storage, over a decade, that’s easy to see – just look at the power bill to run a SAN, mulitply it by a decade.
So while we’ve been selling very large libraries to the largest companies in the world, in mainframe and open system shops, we’ve also begun meeting a variety of startups and web 2.0 companies (some household names, even). With the need for very, very large pools of archived storage (when you collect user generated high definition videos or satellite imagery for planetary social networks, it’s easy to find yourself with peta-scale archive problems).
Tape, with effective indexing and retrieval, represents the most economically responsible (that is, eco-responsible) archive platform for long term storage. Broadly speaking, tape (and in the future, other forms of removeable media) are a core part of Sun’s archive plans. We think there’s a ton of innovation we can bring to that market – now that we’ve done the basic integration (did you know a Solaris powered server is now embedded in our libraries – bringing new meaning to Free Inside!). As we converge high performance networking, virtualization and file system innovation – along with an overall Systems approach – our archive business will benefit just as much as our blades and rackmount systems. They are all, after all, members of the Systems family.
So like I said in the opening, I’m dramatically increasing Sun’s focus on storage today. By bringing to bear the talent and assets we have from across Sun to ensure our success. From where I sit, we have the right leaders and assets, and the right target in front of us.
Now’s a great time to put all the wood behind one arrowhead.