Sun Microsystems CEO and President Jonathan Schwartz let the merger cat out of the bag this week. The outspoken chief used his blog as a vehicle to share the news about Sun's plans to combine its server and storage product units into a new division dubbed the "Systems" team. The Systems team will focus on the evolution and convergence of computing, storage, and networking systems.
Schwartz said Sun will be strongly focused on being a multiplatform storage provider, but the company is also going to start talking at a higher level to customers that see more standardization and integration in their future data centers. He said he knows that's not everyone, but it's definitely a trend Sun plans to accelerate.
Why is Schwartz merging the groups? Because it's worked before, in short.
Recipe for Success?
"We combined our high volume x64 server group with our traditionally high scale Sparc server group over a year ago -- leveraging the volume skills of the former with the scaling skills of the latter. What did that collaboration yield? The highest scale x64 systems in the market," he wrote in his blog. "And a refreshed lineup of volume systems powered, interchangeably, by Sparc, Intel, and AMD."
If that's not reason enough, Schwartz offered another. He said he believes the market is heading to a world in which open and general-purpose platforms will be the dominant drivers of growth, for Sun and the industry broadly. The first general-purpose storage system from Sun was Thumper, powered by an open-source OS and file system. Thumper rocketed to a $1 million annual run rate within its first two full quarters of shipment, Schwartz noted.
When these assets are combined with some of Sun's recent innovations, such as the Magnum Infiniband switch and the Crossbow community in Solaris, Schwartz said, the company seems to have all the right ingredients to reinvent the data center.
"I'm expecting our Systems team to be just as focused on standalone storage and networking -- leveraging disk, tape, and all future removable media -- as they are on building great integrated systems," Schwartz said. "I'm expecting to see more innovation, faster time to market, and a breadth of opportunities emerging from serving our current customers better than ever, while inviting new customers with a constant stream of high value innovation."
One Hand to the Other
Gordon Haff, a server analyst at Illuminata, said he has mixed feelings about the internal merger. On one hand, it makes sense to combine the storage and server units in the context of Thumper. On the other hand, he said he is less convinced it make sense in the context of Sun's $4.1 billion acquisition of tape vendor Storage Technology Corp. two years ago.
"You can argue at some level that integration is good because it lets people work better together and lets you take a more holistic view of customer needs and requirements," Haff said. "On the other hand, there are a lot of differences between historical STK business and customers and the rest of Sun."
There is some danger of further eroding STK's base by merging the units, he added, making it a potentially troubling move. Of course, IBM and HP have integrated their storage and server businesses. So the industry track record for integration is positive. The merger could mean STK ends up better integrated with the rest of Sun, Haff concluded, or it could mean it just withers.