You Have to Stop to Change Direction

The bursting of the internet bubble was good for the computer industry.

Many of us didn’t like the medicine, but I can’t remember a single customer upset at the idea of paying $20,000 for computing infrastructure that used to cost them $100,000. The price compression came from open source software, and a move toward general purpose servers, and resulted in companies formerly making 65% gross profit on products (Sun among them) facing a new reality.

But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Since then, Sun’s built the biggest open source software business around (see this report for details), from platform software to application infrastructure (even a consumer product or two). Like Google and Microsoft, our products are both our ads and our revenue streams – our brands, and products, are recognized globally.

On Monday last week, you saw us continue to convert that brand awareness to revenue – with the introduction of a full line of MySQL optimized systems. By our estimates, there are about 11,000,000 MySQL users on earth – our new systems can triple their application performance. So we’ve made free evaluation units available to MySQL users (via our Try and Buy programs). Click the image to the right to listen to Marten Mickos and John Fowler talk about the opportunities ahead.

And that brings me to today. I was on a call last week with the Global CIO for one of our largest customers – one who was dramatically affected by the credit crisis. I was outlining where we were headed in open storage (a business that grew more than 150% for Sun last quarter), and he said, “One of your peers just told me flash was overhyped.” I asked him if the peer happened to work for a proprietary storage company. He protected his source, but I knew the answer (I probably knew the CEO, too).

The storage industry bears a remarkable resemblance to the proprietary server industry at the bursting of the

internet bubble – closed, highly profitable, frustrating customers with exorbitant charges. Plump, and ripe for change. Like a plum. Flash memory and open source file systems are about to change the landscape, and upend the industry – you read it here, first.

A notable philosopher once said, “You have to stop to change direction” – and for better or worse, I know a lot of customers stopping right now. They’re rethinking their future, and it’s into that thought process we’re introducing our newest open storage platforms, engineered with flash memory and open software to radically scale back what customers have to spend – while radically increasing performance, capability and ease of use.

Amplifying our Thumper product line, what started as the FISHWorks Project (Fully Integrated Software and Hardware) in Sun’s Labs, is now being unveiled – in the Sun Storage 7000 line of unified storage products.

Now, storing data on a disk is fairly straightforward. But administering large pools of fully replicated data, diagnosing problems on production systems, seamlessly dealing with capacity planning and disk failures, spanning every protocol known to man – all without draining your budget with antediluvian license keys and proprietary hardware – those are very high value problems to solve.

And those are exactly the problems we’ve solved.

The 7000 class systems take about five minutes to set up and provision (yes, five), and we’ve eliminated almost all the complexity around volume administration and drive failure (remember, ZFS technology is at the core). The 7000 systems are driven by the most scalable, powerful, open storage microcode in the industry: the OpenSolaris kernel. DTrace analytics provide a real-time lens into production systems – to understand performance, workloads, and help make live capacity-planning decisions (click picture at left for a sample control panel). The systems come bundled with a full suite of protocol, data management and availability features – built into the system without incremental fees or license keys.

For the geeks among you, we’ve turbocharged ZFS with Hybrid Storage Pools. Hybrid storage pools allow ZFS to optimize storage performance by spreading data out across DRAM, read or write optimized flash memory (they’re not the same thing, after all), and very lower power commodity disks. The net result is a massive speedup in storage performance, with an equivalently massive drop in power consumption, all managed transparently – applications will just run faster. Much, much faster. For a full set of technical videos/specs, go here.

Storage customers and administrators are about to experience a radical improvement to their quality of life – all without pharmaceutical intervention. And as the price of flash memory continues to plummet, it’s only going to get better.

But you have to stop to change direction.


Try out a 7000 free of charge – just go to our Try and Buy page, select a configuration, and give one a whirl.

And as we did to kick start awareness of our Niagara systems, for those capable or interested, write a blog or publish a review (use the tag “fishworks”) – we’ll select (at our sole discretion) from those we see, and give a few 7000’s away to those with the most valuable/constructive comments. All reviews are eligible (good and bad).

A little bit of history here, too.


Filed under General

24 responses to “You Have to Stop to Change Direction

  1. Andy

    But you should stop to change direction.
    Yes, that’s true and if Sun keeps doing what it is doing the way it is doing it, it will disappear just like DEC and others.
    Sun is a great company with many assets, but it is not focused and afraid of making money. One big are where Sun is missing: SERVICES.
    And I mean really services, not just infrastructure services.
    What customers want is a Sun engineer sitting with them installing Storage, Servers, Software and end applications, integrating these pieces with their own environment and so far Sun is unable of going so far.
    History proved that it is not enough to have the best technicalk products to be a great company. Having such a 7000 storage product is great but not enough to make the difference and make the customer happy.

  2. Congratulations! Sun Storage 7000 is a pleasant step in the world of reliable, clustered, optimized, energy aware and realtime monitored storage system.
    I just wonder why customers are not still able to quickly find (index) their precious data and access them from anywhere (24/24h). That’s the next step in the good direction (as I wrote to Jonathan on

  3. PRP

    The Sun Storage 7000 is probably the closest thing to being a NetApp NAS replacement, except for lacking online data de-duplication feature that does provides. Another thing that I cannot find reading your annoucement web site is what are the platforms certified to work with it. Specifically when will VMware ESX, Windows 2003/2008 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux users going to be able to start using this type of arrays?

  4. Angelo Hongens

    Wow Jonathan, that’s a nice addition to Sun’s portfolio of products, and being an uber-geek, that 7000 series looks amazing.
    Any plans on open-sourcing the software as well? That nice interface we see in the demo’s, the ZFS improvements, etc? That way, systems administrators like me would all throw out their home FreeNAS and Openfiler boxes, and start using the 7000 Series software. They’re all crazy about it, and they will install it in offices around the globe. That makes for a lot of enthousiastic users, and free publicity all along. These offices will then probably start buying support, and probably even upgrade to the great storage 7000 series..

  5. John Wallace

    Looks good. I’m glad to see you doing more to differentiate yourselves. I’ve always been impressed by your software. It’s good you’re doing more to leverage it. Good strategy!

  6. UX-admin

    @PRP – ZFS inherently supports deduplicaton. Hello NetApp, and game over.
    @Angelo Hongens – this product is already open source – go to and have a look at the source code for yourself. The 7000 is just hardware bundled really nicely with (Open)Solaris open source software.

  7. I would really like to see these kind of SOLUTIONS coming out of SUN.
    What about a complete Web Solution – (Cheap) Commodity hardware + OpenSolaris + MySql + Java + Glassfish + Add Ons and really really cool web interface through which you can alleviate all the pains of administering a web stack.
    Making it painless to add clusters and load balancers. Really simple to add security, identity feature and everything in.
    And above all making it cheap, with everything coming pre-built( made to order) or with open spec, and open source software who any body can them self assemble and support or / and get support from sun.

  8. Christopher Murdock

    Openoffice is nice but only a me-too approach. What we would need on the software side when it comes to Java are killer-application which really give you people a day-to-day benefit.
    There are just a few tiny examples for Java and so many for Flash. Still there is hope, being one I found yesterday. Still this little gems are lost since promotion is nowadays 90% of success. Sun has great products but they always failed selling them better.

  9. Jim McCollom

    This is excellent news. Will Sun be bundling ‘MSN Toolbar, powered by Microsoft Live Search’ with its 7000 Series too ??

  10. anon

    @UX-admin The 7000 series is not simply OpenSolaris on top of new hardware. While much of the low level technology (ZFS, DTrace, SMF, etc) are present in OpenSolaris, there is an entirely new management stack not present in OpenSolaris, not to mention a host of other pieces, such as clustering, UI, hardware management integration, just to name a few. While it is true that Solaris is at the heart of the 7000 series software, it is just the beginning.

  11. Marco Milo

    This wonderful system is another tool we add to our already vast portfolio of products we can try to sell to customers. But I still believe a customer would better buy not only (our) wonderful products. Products themselves may be not enough: they could be the best of the best the market can offer at that moment in time, but sooner or later there will always be a competitor that will come out with a better idea.
    The difference could be providing the customer with a whole solution, a bottom-up service. Sun should not only provide the bricks (hardware) but also expertise, guidance and services to build Customer’s infrastructure…
    I don’t wanna be only "another brick in the wall".
    I would like Customers that before making their own decisions ask Sun for ideas, because they trust us as people and as technological partners.

  12. Steve Dallmer

    Nice to know that you’re distributing the ‘Silverlight’ powered MSN toolbar with Java. Great way to promote JavaFX’s competitor.

  13. "Dave"

    I work closely with Sun and how Sun does affects me, so I want Sun to do well. That is why I am taking the time to write this. I like you and I want Sun and you to be successful. After learning a lot about Sun since I have been in a new position that deals with Sun equipment and software I believe that bar non Sun has the BEST products available! Yet Sun is not getting the piece of the pie Sun deserves. So what is the problem??
    I’ll tell you, not that many people know about them, obviously not enough anyway. It is like if you want to know more about Sun or what Sun does YOU have to SEARCH to find out about it. I talk with people and a lot of them do not even know half of everything that Sun does! I was talking the other day with someone who works with servers and he had not even ever heard of Solaris, like I said it is like YOU have to go in search of Solaris if you ever want to know about it.
    Here is the Solution: Advertisement!
    Sun has the BEST products available and has a solution for just about every problem out there, period. So here is the advertising slogan:
    Need better equipment, we have a solution for that. We have a FULL range of hardware solutions
    Vista is garbage and costs $200 +. We have the FREE OpenSolaris Operating system!
    Your storage needs are growing, We have MANY solutions for that.
    You need to reduce power consumption. We have CoolThreads Technology that saves you power and money!
    With other operating systems you have to worry about viruses, malware etc. With OpenSolaris you get military grade security, no viruses for 20 years!
    And on and on, you are the CEO I know you could come up with some more great things to say about Sun’s products. Here is the bottom line: WE HAVE A SOLUTION FOR ANY PROBLEM
    Sun spends about $2,000,000,000 (2 Billion dollars) on Research and Development every year and Sun can’t spend $100 million or even $50 million on advertisement?! McDonald’s advertises and I can guarantee they do not spend $2 Billion a year like Sun in R&D trying to discover a new special combination of ingredients for a sandwich or special sauce. LOL. Even if they did, they still ADVERTISE, so does Microsoft, Macintosh, HP, Dell, et cetera.
    Sun has the best products out there and the best operating system, let’s get the word out there Jonathan! We need to increase our user base and sell more products. I can’t think of a better way to do that than with advertisement.

  14. Sun VAR

    I read the latest issue of VAR BUSINESS. Sun scored the LOWEST out of all major vendors. Your channel problems are many and that’s why you can’t grow the business or be consistently profitable.
    Sun has little to no channel support. I’m not sure how you plan to sell a product. What’s also scary, the product quality was listed as below HP.

  15. Matt Bryant

    I agree with Dave above – the common theme which seems to me to keep recurring is not any question of the technology, which just keeps getting better and better, but one of exposure, the right marketing, and the right advertising.

  16. john

    I’m going to have to agree with Dave and others.
    Compared to other folks out there, Sun has the better technology. The problem is that the marketing and sales departments suck.
    Dell has servers that take up 2x the space, ship with the same processors and cost the same if not a bit more. Why are they doing so well? For starters, they have brand name recognition outside of fortune 500 companies. They already have sales folks contacting all of those customers. I have never seen a commercial for any of sun’s products. I see them all the time for Dell, HP and even Oracle! (and they dont sell anything to ‘consumers’)
    The next thing is customization. Lets say I want a x4440 w/ 64GB of ram but using the 4GB dimms so I can grow it to 128GB in the future. Guess what, i have to do an x-option game and put the parts together myself. In theory this is what a VAR can do for me, but they dont seem to be doing the job very well. So now I have a choice, order a bunch of parts from Sun (assuming I can figure it out), order a ‘pre-configured system’ and hope that it meets my needs (they never do) or go get a Dell that has exactly what I want.
    So, what is sun going to do to go after the NetApp customers? They are not going to come to you. How is sun going to go after the Dell server customers? Again, they like the ease of ordering what they want directly from the company (bypassing that VAR that is often lacking on the ‘V’)
    The products are top notch, the tech is solid. But you are at the point where word of mouth is not going to cut it anymore.

  17. As a SAAS based startup owner, I completely agree with Dave’s and John’s comment, You guys have the best breed of products, but why its not monetizing. I never saw any ads from Sun, There is always an Dell ad, An HP ad. But what about Sun.
    As John mentioned, As a startup, I had a tough time having a Sun box. Why its not simplified like Dell over the internet. I want to use Sun, but there are several roadblocks I see.
    I want Sun also to provide me the SERVICES(Software, hardware), I am very keen in getting the SERVICES. Like the first poster mentioned.
    When IBM approaches for a deal, They suggest their services.
    Sun should be thinking in that direction. I want Sun to succed.
    b.t.w my SAAS based shop runs on Sun Open source technologies.

  18. Any ETA on when the trials for these will be available in Canada? The timing of this announcement couldn’t be any better for us, and we would LOVE to get our hands on one but can’t wait forever.
    We were just about to go the NetApp route. Then, all of a sudden you announce this: an extremely appealing product which – on paper – fits our needs almost exactly.
    Please extend the trials of this hardware into Canada sooner rather than later! I’d hate to have to let NetApp win by default just because we can’t test to see how well the 7000 series works for us.
    When your x64 servers came out we tried a couple out and you’ve since won our business for all new server purchases. Here’s hoping you can do the same for us on the storage side of the equation.

  19. Bill W

    Jon,here is one more i would like for you to answer. TIA.
    The balance sheet is certainly strong enough to get Sun through some hard times, with $2.7 billion in cash and only $1.3 billion of long-term debt. Back out the $1.4 billion net cash balance, and Sun is trading at just around 4 times trailing free cash flows. Unless this week’s report shows a total meltdown, which I find highly unlikely, this could be a totally awesome time to buy Sun.

  20. Ars

    This new MySQL optimized systems is great. I’ve been MySQL user for years and this will surely get many people that are preforming and creating web sites, back to MySQL because this new features (sure, with some evaluations in future) will gain much progress in all aspects of this issue.

  21. Ash

    Did I get it right? 5 Minutes of total setup required? Well that is amazing. Sun Storage 7000, will surely make impact on the current market when one is considering ZFS a hell of learning.
    I came across one of post regarding Sun not monetizing. I thing SUN is earning enough from server sales, JAVA is there and very big deals. However it can be added huge value with just some percentage of increased monetization.
    I am following SUN and I believe its products are great. But what about spreading the word. Currently that is limited to Sun Documentation and Sun Blogs.

  22. We run MYSQL here as well, but it seems to hit its boarders. On what is the ‘triple your application performance’ – statement based? What crucial factors are there to convince the costumers to use SUN products? A 60-day try&buy isn’t appropriate, because the costumers have to decide beforehand what they want to work with.

  23. I agree with Dave above – the common theme which seems to me to keep recurring is not any question of the technology, which just keeps getting better and better, but one of exposure, the right marketing, and the right advertising.

  24. Roiterman

    I have to agree with the train of thought around advertising, I work for Sun and have done now for nearly 10 years and its never ceased to amaze me as to how little we do in fact to sell ourselves. Whenever I meet someone and the ask me who I work for and I say Sun Microsystems 9 times out of 10 there’s always a blank look on their face and this really hacks me off …. We’ve had and we’ve still got some brilliant products and technologies and we should be shouting these from the rooftops ! We expect our sales force to get out there and do the business yet from a corporate point of view we don’t make their lives any the easier. What is wrong with spending money on advertising ? Everyone else does it and is doing it ! We are in danger of slowly slipping away and personally I think we should now start fighting … So come on start spending some of those billions of dollars putting us out there, start putting your money where your mouth is, if we don’t believe in ourselves then how can we expect to grow in a climate where 90% of the population doesn’t even know who Sun Microsystems are ? A nice snappy advertising campaign, nothing dull and boring, something people will remember and more importantly understand

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