Sun, Hitachi Refresh Storage Ties

Sun Microsystems Monday announced 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 N1 platform.

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 to 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 focuses chiefly on the Sun StorEdge 9900 series of systems (9900B, 9970, and 9980), which is based on the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 V Series platform.

Sun also has its 6,000 series and low-end 3,000 series StorEdge products as options for working with Hitachi infrastructure products like Hitachi’s 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. Hitachi currently leads the pack with more than 40 percent of the enterprise market, while Sun sits at a paltry 10 percent. Yet Sun execs say that its market share is quite an improvement considering the company had zero share 18 months ago.

Sun reports 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, and Sun says 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 last September of Pirus Networks. N1 is Sun’s push towards letting system administrators manage several banks of servers and storage devices. The company says 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, meanwhile, 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 HP partnership is more of an OEM relationship than its deal with Sun.

This story originally appeared on

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