Sun SANs Slapped

Heavy Reading survey shows Sun is setting fast in the SAN and NAS markets

December 16, 2003

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) isn't shining in the networked storage universe, according to a recently published survey from Heavy Reading, the market research division of Light Reading Inc., Byte and Switch's parent company.

According to Heavy Reading's Fall 2003 Storage Networking Market Perception Study, in which 380 buyers and users of storage area network products rated 135 different vendors on key market perception criteria, Sun's brand is recognized by 53.7 percent of would-be storage equipment buyers. But less than 5 percent of respondents named Sun as a market leader for price, product performance, quality and reliability, or service and support.

Of the 15 vendors that offer products in three or more storage networking categories covered by the Heavy Reading survey, Sun ranked only 13th overall. Only 4.1 percent of those surveyed thought Sun a leader in price, 4.7 percent in product performance, 4.1 percent in product quality and reliability, and 3.7 percent in service and support.

Figure 1: Source: Heavy Reading

What gives? Sun has storage networking products galore, including Fibre Channel SAN and NAS hardware as well as SAN and storage resource management software. It has customers (see Sun Ballyhoos Storage Customers) and touts the performance of its gear (see Sun Eclipses IBM on SPC Test).Sun's results in the survey indicate prospective buyers know Sun does a lot of things, but they don't seem to think it stands out in any single area. In Fibre Channel SANs, for instance, respondents tied Sun with Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) in fifth place for name recognition. Despite this nod to market leadership in FC SANs, though, Sun received relatively little support across the other four categories. Its worst score came in service and support, where Sun managed a meager 2.5 percent leadership grade.

In fairness, Sun had plenty of company. Overall, prospective buyers were tough on the vendors of FC SANs. Still, Sun placed nowhere near its top competitors in the survey ranking for the category, a list that includes EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM). The other four scored in double figures in at least two other leadership categories besides name recognition. Suns highest score outside of recognition was 5.4 percent for quality and reliability leadership.

In the NAS category, Sun's scores tied those of startup Snap Appliance Inc. for sixth in the overall ratings, even though most customers didn't even know Snap. Sun got minimal scores for leadership in the categories of price (1.8 percent), product performance (5.9 percent), quality and reliability (2.7 percent), and service and support (3.9 percent).

Sun appears to have lower name recognition in software than in hardware. Fifty-two percent of the respondents recognized Sun as a supplier of SAN management software, and fewer than half (45.3 percent) saw it as a leader in storage resource management.

Sun's software scores were less than stellar: Its 2.3 percent rating for product performance in SAN management software points to a real problem for the company. Indeed, Sun was eclipsed in this category by a smaller player, CreekPath Systems Inc.. Sun’s other scores in SRM were actually higher than it received in other product categories, but it failed to achieve double digits in any area.The Heavy Reading survey comes just as Sun might be strengthening its partnership with Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS), which develops SAN software and had the best results in the survey (see A Moment of Veritas). According to financial analysts with RBC Capital Markets, Sun will soon announce it has re-signed its reseller agreement with Veritas and will extend it to the upcoming 64-bit Sun Fire systems. The Sun/Veritas relationship has been a bit rocky, operating on a month-to-month basis, sources say. So far, neither company has announced any new developments.

What’s it all mean for Sun? Before it can rise to take advantage of a market most analysts expect to grow significantly in the near future, Sun has a lot more work to do to win over customers than most of its major competitors -- and even more work than a few of the little guys.

Sun declined to comment for this article.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

The Heavy Reading Fall 2003 Storage Networking Market Perception Study is available for $2,950. You may view an executive summary of the report here

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights