Sun VP: Our Storage Is Undervalued

Vendor's storage VP advises focus on big picture, not just one or two products

January 8, 2004

2 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- The head of Sun Microsystems Inc.s (Nasdaq: SUNW) Storage Systems Group (SSG) says people should look past his company’s RAID arrays and focus on the totality of its storage offerings.

“It’s not just about the RAID arrays,” Sun’s VP of SSG Rich Napolitano said here today at the RBC Capital MarketsSAN conference. “We sell switches, host bus adapters, tape, third-party software, and software of our own design. We are a storage business within a systems company.”

Sun's storage business actually seems to be hidden in the mother ship. Barely half of the 380 storage buyers surveyed by Heavy Reading in its Fall 2003 Storage Networking Market Perception Study even identified Sun as a storage company. Sun gained little credit as a market leader in price, quality, performance, or support in the survey (see Sun SANs Slapped). Sun also lost market share in its SAN and NAS systems last year, according to IDC (see IDC: SANs Gather Steam).

But Napolitano says Sun’s storage strategy isn't meant to be viewed on its own. Instead, it's just a small part of an overarching network computing strategy. “The key to our position is end-to-end computing,” he says. “The bulk of our revenue is coming from integrated systems.”

Industry sources say Sun gains far more of its storage revenue from server attachments than rivals Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) do. This shows Sun's storage strategy is indeed part of a bigger picture of integrated systems. But it didn't help last quarter, when Sun's total revenue slipped 8 percent.Napolitano says he doesn’t know what percentage of Sun’s revenue is derived from storage, but it makes sense to piggyback on server sales. “We tend to sell storage where our sales guys go, and we know mining our own customer base is low-hanging fruit."

Where Sun is looking to drive storage revenue now is primarily the midrange. “That’s where we’re investing the bulk of our engineering. The strategy is to go up and down the product line over time.”

Napolitano says Sun is also investing in data services, both developing its own and partnering. He makes it clear Sun is looking for partners in most areas of its storage line.

“We are a massive channel for storage products,” he says.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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