StorageTek Users Voice Support Fears

Product support issues were top of mind at StorageTek's annual customer bash

November 3, 2005

3 Min Read
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With the dust still settling on Suns StorageTek acquisition, customers here at the storage vendor’s annual Forum user event voiced their concerns about support and future product roadmaps. (See Sun Closes on StorageTek .)

One IT manager from the auto insurance sector, who asked not to be named, admitted that he was “a little shocked and surprised” when Sun stumped up $4.1 billion for StorageTek earlier this year. But shock has given way to trepidation. “My main concern is support,” he said. “It’s what the partnership is like when you have a problem that’s important to me.”

Other users echoed these sentiments. “The biggest concern,” said one, “would be that the consistency we had with the StorageTek people would not be there in the future.”

At least one customer wants to maintain the status quo with both suppliers. “We have a strong relationship with our StorageTek team and we have a strong relationship with our Sun team,” said an IS architect at a U.S. candy company, who asked not to be named. “As long as we can keep these relationships almost autonomously, we will be happy.”

In an interview with Byte and Switch after his keynote speech this morning, Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun’s data management group, a new division formed out of StorageTek and Sun’s storage business, acknowledged users’ concerns. “There are fears,” he said. “It’s natural when a big event like this happens.”But the exec promised that users do not have to worry about the support side of the merger. “Customers will be able to see the same support person and the same sales person,” he said. “We’re going to let them see the same person that they have come to trust and know.”

But Canepa acknowledges that product development issues need to be addressed. In his keynote talk, he said certain important technologies have been “on the drawing board for longer than we wanted." Users, for example, are still waiting to get their hands on VSM Open, a tape management product for open systems that StorageTek has been working on for over two years.

“I have already instructed the product development teams to add significantly more effort as we move forward,” said Canepa. Sun is now planning to ship the first VSM Open units early in 2006, with volume shipments slated for the second half of next year.

The nudge is overdue, as far as some customers are concerned. “I have been looking for them to bring their open systems virtual tape library to market,” moaned another IT manager from the insurance sector, after the talk. “We have applications for it that are sort of waiting.”

At least users can now get their hands on another long-awaited product, the high-density enterprise T10000 tape drive, code-named Titanium. This product finally made its debut today after a long development cycle. (See Sun Fills in Storage Crypto Details and Sun Gets Secretive on Storage.)But it remains a question whether Sun will actually improve the momentum of StorageTek development. Canepa told Byte & Switch that it is still “too early to tell” what the R&D budget of Sun’s data management group will be as it moves forward. The exec promised, nonetheless, a renewed focus on StorageTek’s core competencies, such as mainframe and virtual tape drive technologies.

Users are hoping that StorageTek’s $200 million R&D budget will get a boost from Sun’s coffers. “I think that there’s now a bigger corporation altogether, which means that StorageTek is not so sensitive to the trouble of developing something,” said one attendee. “They have essentially a bigger-pocketed partner that can fund longer projects.”

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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