Sun, Hitachi Refresh Storage Ties

Sun Microsystems Monday said it has renewed its storage partnership with Hitachi’s Data System subsidiary in an attempt to grow Sun’s market share and its computing-on-demand platform — N1.

The deal means the original agreement, signed in August 2001 by the two companies, is now extended through 2006. The partnership is a dig at offerings from Sun and Hitachi rivals IBM, HP, EMC, Dell, CA and VERITAS.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun and Tokyo-based Hitachi say they will continue cooperate with each other’s worldwide distribution, marketing, sales support, services and joint customer support centers in the areas of business continuance and storage management. Though other products are available to customers, the revised collaboration now focuses chiefly on Sun StorEdge 9900 series systems (9900B, 9970, 9980), based on the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 V Series platform.

Sun also said it also has its 6,000 series and low-end 3,000 series StorEdge products as options to work with Hitachi infrastructure products like its Thunder series. But the idea is to promote the high-end compatible systems and stand together as a unified front.

“We walk in together to address the customer’s needs,” Sun Storage VP Marketing Kathleen Holmgren told “What we are focused on is the enterprise data center. As back line support, we’ll have Hitachi and Sun engineers looking at the whole stack even through the application.”

When asked if the unified front contradicted Sun CEO Scott McNealy’s philosophy of “one throat to choke” should the customer need to follow up, Holmgren said, “from a customer’s perspective they would contact us first and our partners would stand behind us.”

The deal is infinitely more crucial to Sun than it is to Hitachi based on market share percentages alone. Currently, Hitachi leads the pack with more than 40 percent of the enterprise market. Sun sits at a paltry 10 percent. Yet, Sun execs say that is quite an improvement considering the company had zero market share 18 months ago.

Sun said it already has two major customers using the Sun/Hitachi storage tools. Dow Corning has decided to upgrade and consolidate its data storage environment into two Sun StorEdge 9980s. Sun also said longtime joint customer Sybase is now adding a platform based on Sun’s 9900 products.

The partnership is also beneficial to Sun’s N1 platform via its acquisition of Pirus acquisition. N1 is Sun’s push towards letting system administrators manage several banks of servers and storage devices. The company said the Pirus offerings are being groomed to handle Hitachi’s Thunder and Lightning platforms.

“What we are looking for is a broader reach of support,” Holmgren said. “For example, a third of the 9900s we sell are not just attaching to Solaris servers, they also attach to IBM and HP systems as well.”

Hitachi, meantime, can sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Earlier this month, the company renewed its contract with HP. Hitachi Data Systems senior director Karen Sigman told the partnership is more of a OEM relationship than it’s deal with Sun

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