StorageTek Targets Mainframe Disk

With new parent Sun looking to vault into mainframe space, StorageTek beefs up enterprise disk

August 23, 2005

3 Min Read
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With its acquisition by Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) drawing near, Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) today announced a larger disk system for mainframes -- a market that especially piqued Suns interest in the company (see Sun to Acquire StorageTek for $4.1B).

Facing an anticipated September closing of the deal, StorageTek upgraded its FlexLine V-Series Shared Virtual Array (SVA) line of disk storage systems, StorageTek’s highest-end disk storage system. The V-Series is one of two disk storage platforms -- the FlexLIne 600 is the other -- that StorageTek manufactures in house. StorageTek gets its other disk systems through an OEM deal with Engenio Information Technologies Inc. (see StorageTek Flexes Disk).

The new system, the V2X4f, is a native Fibre Connectivity (Ficon) speeds-and-feeds enhancement over its V2Xf system. StorageTek doubled capacity from the V2XF system to 11.5 Tbytes to 23 Tbytes, and claims a 40 percent performance boost from new processor cards.

Like any product StorageTek rolls out these days, the V2X4f comes with a caveat: There’s no guarantee Sun will keep it after the sale closes. By law, the two companies must transact business as usual until Sun takes ownership. That means there’s no collaboration on StorageTek’s product line from Sun execs, and the new products don’t necessarily have Sun’s blessing.

V-Series marketing manager John Szlendak says he thinks the line will survive because Sun executives emphasized StorageTek’s mainframe presence when it announced the deal in June. Analysts also pointed out how Sun is weak in the mainframe environment and could use StorageTek to pump up sales there.“[Sun CEO] Scott McNealy indicated Sun values StorageTek and its mainframe presence,” Szlendak says.

Sun president Jonathan Schwarz did likewise on the conference call to announce the planned acquisition. Schwartz pointed out that StorageTek is “highly attached to the mainframe,” adding that it provides Sun a chance to grow “in environments we otherwise may not have had access to.”

Still, there’s no assurance that the new system will survive. StorageTek’s mainframe strength is with tape libraries, not disk. StorageTek’s SVA has little market presence in a space dominated by EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM).

“There’s a lot of leap-frogging in this space, with EMC, Hitachi, and IBM taking turns becoming top dog when they come out with new systems,” says analyst Dianne McAdam of Data Mobility Group. “But StorageTek has never been top dog in this space.”

The latest version won’t make StorageTek top dog either. Its upgrade to 23 Tbytes is a far cry from EMC, Hitachi, and IBM’s capacities that range into the hundreds of Tbytes. And unlike its competitors that support Ficon and Enterprise System Connectivity (Escon) on the same system, StorageTek’s new system only supports Ficon. Szlendak says Escon support is planned for next year. “I don’t know why we did it that way,” Szlendak admits. “Maybe time to market.”Time to market appears important to StorageTek as the acquisition looms. In less than three months since Sun announced its plans, StorageTek has launched a Content Addressed Storage (CAS) archiving system and a new chip from Aristos Logic

in its FlexLine 600 disk system. And it has partnered with Arsenal Digital Solutions Worldwide Inc. on a service to backup remote sites (see StorageTek Offers Arsenal, StorageTek Rolls Its Own CAS, and Aristos Ships to StorageTek).

“It seems like there’s a sense of urgency to get some of the things they’re working on completed,” McAdam says. “They’re getting everything cleaned up for the sale.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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