Sun: We Still Love Hitachi, Too!

Extends deal to resell Hitachi Lightning through 2006, two weeks after HP renews its own pact

August 25, 2003

3 Min Read
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Not looking to be left out of the hottest three-way in the enterprise storage business, Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) has extended its deal to resell the Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA) Lightning high-end storage array through the end of 2006 -- just two weeks after Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) announced it was re-upping its own agreement with Hitachi for the same system (see Sun, Hitachi Extend OEM Deal and HP, Hitachi Renew Vows).

The original agreement between Sun and Hitachi, signed in August 2001, was set to expire next year. Sun claims that in the past two years, it has sold 5 petabytes worth of the Lightning systems, representing a total of about 90,000 drives.

Under the terms of the extended agreement, Sun, Hitachi, and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Hitachi's worldwide enterprise storage sales arm, will continue to collaborate on marketing, sales support, services, and joint customer support centers related to the Lightning array.

"Having the [Lightning] 9900 in our product line has helped Sun grow its market share from almost nowhere two years ago to being one of the leading providers of high-end arrays in the market," says Mark Canepa, EVP of Sun's network storage group.

Well, not exactly. Sun still hold less than 10 percent share of the segment, according to IDC. And a factor limiting Sun's ability to differentiate itself at the high end is that two other big players sell exactly the same hardware: HDS and HP, which earlier this month said it will continue to resell the Lightning as the StorageWorks XP line through 2008.The two other major vendors in the market are EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), which launched the latest generation of its Symmetrix system, the DMX, in February; and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), whose offering in this space is the Enterprise Storage Server (a.k.a. Shark).

In any event, Sun customers who have bought the Hitachi array are pleased the companies are sticking together for at least four more years.

"It certainly gives us the comfort level that the support will remain the same," says Michael Bembenek, director of IT for systems engineering at Sybase Inc. In mid-2002, Sybase installed a Sun-branded Lightning 9960 in its Boulder, Colo., facility to host copies of its critical business information, replicated asynchronously using Sybase Replication Server from its primary Hitachi systems located at its main data center in Dublin, Calif.

Meanwhile, Canepa says Sun's product development strategy will center on its midrange StorEdge 6000 family (see Sun Thickens Up in the Middle). "We're focusing our engineering and intellectual property in the midtier, not on the design of monolithic storage arrays," he says. "We believe the right answer for that [high-end market] is partnership."

In addition to licensing Hitachi's Lightning on the high end, Sun sells a rebranded version of Dot Hill Systems Corp.'s (Nasdaq: HILL) SANnet II family of entry-level storage arrays (see Sun Thinks Small on Storage and Dot Hill: Not Ill Anymore).Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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