predicted in the September edition of Squeak, which was published before
September 19, 2000 announcement that it was acquiring Cobalt Networks there
were more storage acquisitions still needed to flesh out Sun's storage menu. The
software gap has been partly filled with 2 later acquisitions. |
4, 2000- Sun Microsystems, Inc. and HighGround Systems, Inc.,
today announced that Sun will acquire HighGround Systems..
2, 2001 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced that it has signed an
agreement to acquire LSC, Inc., a privately held company based in Eagan,
This shows that some of the weaknesses identified in
these articles were understood by Sun, and they have taken steps to correct
them. However, the biggest hurdle to Sun's success in storage still remains:-
weaknesses in marketing and promotion. You'll need to read the rest of this
article to see what I mean.
(Feb. 3, 2000)
VA Linux Systems demonstrated that one way to solve this problem is to buy
the biggest media in your target market, when it acquired Andover.Net. Sun, is
the biggest publisher in its own backyard in the Solaris and SPARC systems
market, and has left it too late to grow its own in-house storage portal.
However, there are many storage
portals listed on this site and it's possible that one or more may become a
takeover target by an oem such as Sun during the next year.
Methods for Cleaning Up Hard Disk Drives - article by Intelligent Computer
Removing the data on old unwanted disk drives has
become a concern for all users.
Pointsec found that
they were able to read 7 out of 10 hard-drives bought over the Internet
at auctions such as eBay, for less than the cost of a McDonald's meal, all of
which had "supposedly" been "wiped-clean" or "re-formatted".
This article reviews the various methods available to sanitize hard disks along
with the advantages and disadvantages in each case....read the article,
|War of the
Disks: Hard Disk Drives vs. Flash Solid State Disks - Despatches from the
Magneto / Flash Wars - article by BiTMICRO|
BiTMICRO is the
#1 best recognised brand of SSDs (source
Survey) and they have published a lot of
articles to help
customers understand the benefits of their products. When I first saw the
submission for this article I was pleased to see that it quoted extracts from
and linked to several other articles that I myself had written or edited - so
that gave me a warm glow.
After years of analyzing this market SSD
vendors and analysts are starting to see some clear patterns emerging. Although
opinions still differ on some subjects, and vendors are prone to pitch their own
solutions as best, this article is a useful synthesis of current industry
thinking by one of the leading flash SSD module manufacturers. ...read the article,
profile, Solid State Disks,
Hard disk drives
of Compliance on Archival Storage Strategies - article by Plasmon |
difficult enough protecting and archiving your data so that it's available to
the right people at the right time (and cost). But now that's only part of the
problem. With so many new rules and regulations which prescribe how you should
destroy data records at the appropriate time - how do you guarantee that they
Archiving data on the wrong kind of media could mean you
run the risk of breaking the law. Advances in the
industry, and the future cohabitation of storage search-engines both mean that
Compliance Officers have to pay much more attention to the ways in which data is
dispersed and disposed of in different types of media.
summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of currently available market
read the article,
Animal Brands and Metaphors in the Storage Market|
marketing metaphors are popular in service industries, but you'd be surprised
how many companies have used animals in their marketing of data storage
products and services.
The storage market was worth over $150 billion
in 2005, and as it gets bigger - more companies will turn to animal brands to
help differentiate their otherwise bland products and lend them artificial
(or deserving) characters and virtues.
The idea behind this type of
marketing is to suggest positive connotations so it's unlikely that anyone will
choose to associate their products with gremlins. But you may be surprised by
the population of the storage ark.
This reference articles lists all
known companies who have furry marketing brands, and also includes some which
are slimy, scaly and scary too. ...read the article,
Mice in storage
first part of this
article I stated that I didn't think that Sun is credible when it asserts that
it is (or aims to be) one of the leading suppliers of enterprise storage
systems. I also said that, in my view Sun is starting this race from a
long way behind. In the second part of this discussion, below, I put
forward some of my reasons for thinking this, and also predict that unless
Sun makes very substantial changes in its interactions with this market, it's
going to fall even further behind in the race for enterprise storage market
share. Here are some of the factors I looked at in coming to these
Measuring the behaviour of our readers when they see storage news headlines
which include Sun Microsystems...
- Do you remember those tests in school where you know the right answer, but
still can't figure out how to get there from the original question? My own
starting point for this analysis was the surprising and compelling evidence that
all is not well with Sun and storage...
If you look at the design of
the computer web sites which I edit you'll notice that nearly every single page
on these sites carries an image with some text. Take a look at the top left
hand corner of this page to see an example. These are
editorial banner ads
which we use, mainly to alert readers to new articles on the web site, new
subject indexes and a selection from the news headlines which we're running on
that day in our news pages. These editorial banners use banner ad
technology to inform readers about what they can see on other parts of the web
site. Looking at the click rates enables us to measure in real-time,
usually within a couple of hours, how much reader interest there is in a new
subject featured in the editorial banner. On any particular business day we'll
be running somewhere between about 4 to 15 editorial banners which include a
pool of long term banners, and new ones which are created daily.
comparative click rates as a guide tells me which subjects are more popular than
others. The simple consistent format provides a much more reliable indicator
than if we used different graphic designs. It also helps me see if we've run a
new article on the wrong site.
Unlike a focus group which asks a very
small number of users what they think about about a subject, editorial banner
ads provide a comparative measure of the behaviour of hundreds of thousands of
readers. What they have been telling me, is that news headlines which
include stories about Sun Microsystems and storage get consistently lower click
rates than almost any other type of news headline which we run on
STORAGEsearch. We get similar
results on our SPARC site,
but I interpret that differently, because most readers on our SPARC site are
other types of
products, not necessarily storage. It's the overwhelming disinterest shown
by our storage readers to Sun storage announcements that's significant. This is
the market which Sun (and everyone else) has to focus on to be successful in
enterprise storage. We've run more than 550 different designs of editorial
banners so it's statistically significant.
- As a sanity check on this we are also able to measure the strength of a
company's brand in a market by comparing the pageviews for their company profile
with other similar companies. This rating is capable of being increased on a
particular site when a company is an advertiser - which can result in more
readers visiting their profile. On STORAGEsearch, the Sun Microsystems
profile ranks 29th in the list of company profiles.
On our SPARC
site, where incidentally Sun is not an advertiser, their profile ranks #1. This
shows that, as you would expect, Sun has the strongest brand of any SPARC
product supplier even taking into account the local boosting factor of
advertisers which compete with Sun. But for storage seekers, Sun is a relatively
Sun's image in storage:- the positioning problem when you're not #1,
or #2, or even close in one segment, but you are #1 somewhere else...
- The root cause of this problem may be due to the difficulty that Sun
marketers themselves have when they try to portray an image of themselves as a
storage company. This is not a new phenomenom. It's why AT&T never became a
successful computer company, despite inventing Unix and the ubiquitous C
programming language. It's why the Ford Motor Company bought Jaguar instead of
developing its own luxury car brand, and it's why IBM's OS/2 operating system
lost out to Microsoft Windows as the operating system of choice on most desktop
It's difficult for customers to hold more than one mental image
of the same company. Sun has successfully built an image of itself as the
leading multiprocessor server company. It's done this with clever marketing and
its own brands of technology (SPARC microprocessors and the Solaris operating
system.) Along the way, to get this message across, it has been helpful to throw
out simple messages, which I paraphrase thus:- PC's are bad, Microsoft software
isn't as good as ours, Compaq, IBM, HP, Dell etc are the enemy. Those are the
kind of messages which you need to give to your sales people and channel
partners, in order to become, in people's minds, the #1 supplier of enterprise
servers. That's the message which the market remembers.
It's easy for
Sun server marketers nowadays...
For example:- earlier this year
(2000) the average PC portable on the kitchen table at home had a faster
(Pentium) processor than the most expensive (SPARC based) Sun mainframe. Was
there any threat to Sun's position? Not a whisper. The reason? Was it because
Sun could put more processors in a box? No, it doesn't any more, and it
doesn't really matter. It wasn't a threat to Sun's dominance of the
enterprise server market because most of the applications users want to run
were originally developed to run on the Sun box, and work better there, so the
market was willing to wait, and Sun still reported record sales of its slow
clock speed servers along the way. Yes folks, it's very easy doing the marketing
when you're #1 in your niche. It's also easy recruiting people...
consider the problems of the poor old storage marketers within Sun. All
the significant technologies in this market were developed by other companies so
you don't have a technical edge. You do have a big enough development budget to
design pretty looking boxes which you can sell at a high price to your dedicated
fans (that works for Apple too). But your business unit would probably struggle
to fit into the bottom end of the top 10 storage companies measured by revenue,
and everyone else wants to eat your lunch and target your own server customers
with their storage products.
Meanwhile most of the companies which you
would like to sell storage products to (if you were a standalone business) are
probably competitors which your parent server company has been trying to grind
into the dust for as long as you remember. Even if you did develop a great
product, they wouldn't want to buy it. If you bypass the server principals and
try to target the resellers of IBM, Compaq etc you're starting with a track
record of having ignored over 95% of VARS ever since Sun was founded, because
Sun doesn't make PC's or printers or other peripherals that these VARS would
want to buy, so there was never a need to talk to them before... Sun might say
at this point - what about Java? They communicated with a lot of
people with that idea... True but, on that basis they might as well roll over
and let Microsoft take over the storage market, because more real people work
with their software products. I don't know of a reliable formula which
would convert millions of people who know about a low level programming language
into enthusiastic buyers of storage systems.
It's hard to come out of a
big successful company and launch into a very competitive market when, frankly,
you're starting from a long way behind and even your own sales people are going
to see that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. These kinds of problems are
not insurmountable, for example IBM became a born again Unix company with its
AIX operating system. and a lot of people do buy it (but it took 10 years of
hard work). Sun's storage marketers start with the advantage that Sun is a
profitable company can afford to outspend many of the companies it competes
with. But if Microsoft suddenly declared it wanted to become the leading Linux
company it wouldn't necessarily be successful, even though you know they employ
lots of programmers and have lots of money.
To sum up, in my view,
Sun's storage marketers will do very well if they can slow down the
penetration of other storage companies into the Sun server base. The idea
that users of other servers made by Dell, IBM, Compaq etc will seriously think
that Sun is the best place they can buy their storage systems, which is a
necessity if Sun is to be successful in the enterprise storage market, is
something which doesn't seem credible today, or even next year.
What do other storage marketers do which Sun doesn't or can't...
- It's instructive to see what other wannabe enterprise storage companies are
doing, and compare this to what Sun is apparently doing. This is easy because
part of the process involves "being visible" in the form of PR and
advertising. That's how a lot of companies communicate with their markets.
example in the process of scrutinising thousands of press releases this year put
out by storage companies, I got the distinct impression that many storage
companies think it's quite useful to do some of the following...
your software drivers onto Microsoft's operating system CD's. Even little
companies manage to do this - because they think it's important.
with lots of other storage organizations, and
put out a press release
every time your product is validated to work with another company's product.
is good at partnering, but it's used to being the center of gravity in these
parterning arrangements, and not a mere planet or a satellite. This is where
Sun's positioning as a server company could get in the way of their success in
storage. After all, Sun has their own operating system (Solaris)! Who needs
anything else? Actually they did mention in a press release that their new
storage systems can also work with Linux, although I can't see them investing
in trying to get Red Hat Ready certification, or validation by VA Linux. The
problem is that Sun runs many of their own compatibility branding schemes,
which include Solaris Ready, so
they have to cross a wide mental barrier before investing marketing and
technical effort to say that their storage systems have been validated by Dell
as being PowerVault compatible (or whatever). Hey, those guys are
competitors to our (Sun's) OS and servers! Why should Sun seek their
approval in a press release?
Advertising:- in October 2000 I analysed
how many web based storage publications Sun was advertising on. I included only
vendor independent sites which included enterprise storage products within their
content. I included ads, membership listings and sponsorships as "advertising",
because all these activities require payment for visibility. Sun was advertising
storage products on 27% of applicable storage sites. In comparison IBM storage
systems were being advertised on 45% of applicable storage sites, and EMC on
18%. So Sun is about average in this area compared to companies it would
perceive as significant competitors. That's hardly a strategy compatible with
increasing market share.
My analysis of how Sun compares to some other companies who are
aiming for the storage crown...
There will be more detailed
analysis of these companies (and others) in future editions of Squeak! But if
we disregard pure storage companies like EMC, for the present discussion and
just take a superficial look at the storage street cred of some of Sun's server
competitors, we can extract some pointers which may be useful.
- has a lot of credibility when it comes to storage. Apart from having more
revenue in the storage services market than all its main rivals combined, IBM
did invent the winchester
disk, and it did invent RAID
and it's one of the world leaders in
tape drive technology
which it supplies to lots of other manufacturers.
HP - had a
short fling in the winchester market, which most manufacturers found tough
going. It's a major supplier of low end storage products such as
optical drives and tape
drives, and it's these kinds of low cost storage products which get your company
into the recognition of the average computer buyer. However, while I still think
of HP mainly as a printer company, having used their printers for nearly 20
years, in the storage area my guess would be that their main strategic asset is
HP OpenView software which at the time
of writing is being used in more than 120,000 multivendor distributed computing
environments worldwide. Even storage leader EMC considered it worthwhile
issuing a press
release about this recently.
Compaq - is one of the world's
biggest computer companies and in StorageWorks they have a strong brand of RAID
systems which to my knowledge has been successfully sold into Sun's installed
server base for many years. This year (2000) Compaq has been partnering with
other storage companies at a furious pace as if it were involved in a race
(which it is) for mind share. In one of these announcements:- on July 6, 2000
- Compaq Computer Corporation and IBM announced a strategic agreement to
accelerate customer acceptance of open storage networking solutions. Both
companies are committed to interoperability of each company's storage hardware
and software, and will also sell significant products from each other's storage
portfolios. The total of investments currently planned by the companies could
exceed $1 billion.
Dell - strange as it may seem, when we
started STORAGEsearch in 1998, I specifically cited Dell as an example of the
type of company which wouldn't be included in this directory, because at
the time I thought they were a PC company, and not a serious contender in
storage. Well... 2 years in internet time is a long time, and you will see if
you check our search-engine that Dell does in fact make an appearance in our
directory and news pages because on
5, 2000 - Dell announced a SAN appliance. Since then Michael Dell has
been quoted as commenting on Sun's storage pricing, and saying that Dell will
commoditise high-end storage systems and offer them at substantially lower
prices than Sun. Actually the amount of data which an organization can generate
is not necessarily related that closely to the price it paid for its servers,
but it's more closely conencted to the number of users on its networks. So it
looks like Dell Computer looked at its crystal ball a few years ago, decided
that its own captive storage business might be threatened, and is getting its
retaliation in first with some aggressive product strategies. I'm prepared to
believe that Dell could become a bigger factor in enterprise storage than Sun,
not just because they have a bigger base of installed servers and more to lose,
but because they are better at marketing...
What does Sun have to do to improve its image as a potential
You may have noticed that in most of the cases
above I've proposed that Sun's main storage problems are rooted in marketing
rather than technology. Sun's current weaknesses are due to a historic lack of
sufficient marketing investment which it can't do anything about. But there are
also positioning problems which may prevent Sun from executing the correct
marketing strategies now, even though it realises that success in storage is
important (as it is to every large computer company). The current problems are
exacerbated because Sun is so successful in another area (enterprise
servers). It's difficult for companies to focus successfully on different
product areas, because the factors which make them successful in one area may
alienate potential partners in another, or create confusion in the minds of
potential customers. I don't think that technology is an important issue,
because technologies can be bought in or licensed as required, and with the
exception of SAN software (which is more of a partnering issue and therefore
marketing driven) there is no technical impediment which would slow Sun down. I
don't do consulting, but if I were asked what would change my prognosis to one
which was more upbeat for Sun in storage, I would suggest the following (not all
of which are possible).
- find a wormhole, go back in time, and invest more in promoting Sun's
storage products to 3rd parties
- spin off Sun's storage business as an independent company with a different
name and a mandate to achieve significant market share in the non-captive server
- make friends with Microsoft so they offer Sun's storage products at the top
of their menus for web storage and network storage
- communicate more with the storage market about why they should be
interested in your products, via articles, press releases, advertising and
As soon as we get it, we'll include Sun's response
to this article... (we never got anything publishable).
In next month's Squeak!
100 RAID Manufacturers on
STORAGEsearch... Which Ones will Survive?
You are not alone... We're all confused! I
don't know all the answers. Even Spellabyte's crystal ball goes cloudy on these
questions. We'll just have to wait and see, and in the meantime... Be careful