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What Sun Could Have Bought Instead

So Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) buys Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) for $4.1 billion much of it cash. Nearly overnight, Sun will get thousands more feet on the street to peddle its storage gear, with tag-along sales opportunities for lots of other Sun products and services.

So how come nobody's clapping?

We're not suggesting this shouldn't have happened. There are plenty of solid business reasons why Sun's move could be a good one. We just think $4.1 billion could have bought them something more, well, interesting than the problematic hunk of installed base and trundling potential that's StorageTek.

Come to think of it, Sun could have bought some very interesting stuff for its money. After all, funding for IT and storage startups is at its first new high in several years. There's an astonishing amount of alternative technology afoot, and while some may prove a wash, some appears to have actual watershed potential.

So with all respect due Sun's due diligence team, we present the following sampling of what might have been, purely as a point of speculation:

  • Azul Systems Inc.
    How could Sun overlook this one? Founded two years ago and backed by a fleet of high-faluting VCs, Azul offers something called a network-attached processing appliance (see Azul Unveils Compute Appliances and Azul to Launch Virtual Java Box). It plugs into a Gigabit Ethernet LAN, offloading the heavy lifting of applications written in Java and other "virtual machine" codes – processing that otherwise would require significant outlays for more servers and storage. There's no modification required for any applications that use this device. Talk about instant grid! As a founding Java developer, it's astounding that Sun wouldn't be interested in the possibilities of this technology.
  • Acopia Networks Inc.
    This startup's Adaptive Resource Switch (ARX) extends a virtual file system with global namespace across multiple data storage platforms, including NAS (see Acopia Wins Leading Lights Award and Acopia Ships Its Switch). The company just released a mini-version of its platform to give prospects a way of trying it out on the cheap (relatively speaking). (See Acopia Goes Remote.) We think this could be a nice gain for Sun, since global namespace and virtual file systems will be de rigeur for all kinds of data center computing and storage.
  • Onaro Inc.
    Why wouldn't Sun consider this company, whose SANscreen software discovers devices and all their connections on a SAN, simulates planned changes to predict their impact, and logs and monitors changes after they’re made? It’s the first product of its kind, and won Onaro close to 20 customers and development partnerships with major storage vendors in its first six months of shipping product (see Onaro Eyes Data Centers). Onaro's also moving its wares into products for other data center wares besides storage.
  • Troika Networks Inc.
    This vendor's multiport appliance, Accelera Network Storage Services Platform (NSS), speeds up the performance of storage applications, while its SAN Volume Suite adds volume management, snapshots, and mirroring. Troika's an OEM play, as shown by a unique package it worked up with StoreAge Networking Technologies Ltd. and VMware Inc. last year (see Troika Turns a Corner). We think this would make an interesting addition to Sun's camp.
  • AppIQ Inc.
    This company's StorageAuthority Suite of storage resource management apps is already part of Sun's OEM'd repertoire. And AppIQ appears to be chugging along quite nicely (see AppIQ Closes Strong Q1). Why wouldn't Sun jump at the chance to own its own SRM?
  • BlueArc Corp.
    Say what you will about struggling startups, BlueArc is still a real NAS player, not an aspiring one (see BlueArc Branches Out). BlueArc’s latest Titan includes virtual servers, policy-based data migration, iSCSI support, remote volume mirroring, and WORM file system support. So we ask: What's with the Procom Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: PRCME) obsession?
  • EqualLogic Inc.
    May we suggest that Sun adopt a going iSCSI concern? EqualLogic appears to qualify (see Don Bulens, President & CEO, EqualLogic). Sure, buying a company this size at this particular stage in its lifecycle could be pricey, but Sun's got the bucks. And hey, it could be more expensive in the long run to play catchup in a market Sun could have owned. Capice?
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