Sun is re-integrating its storage and systems businesses. The aim is to generate more innovation, more products and get them to market faster.
Currently, Sun has divided its storage product activities. Broadly speaking there is a storage systems set of products, such as the X4500 'Thumper' inside executive VP John Fowler's System business unit. Then there is a storage-as-peripheral unit, looking after the tape libraries and drive arrays, under senior VP Jon Benson.
In effect Benson runs the now separate StorageTek products unit and Fowler the internally generated systems storage products which have nothing or little to do with the storage products gained through the StorageTek acquisition.
The StorageTek operation has been through some leadership and senior executive changes, culminating in David Yen's move to head a new Sun Microelectronics business. At that time it was thought that the operation was in a stable organisational footing.
But Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz decided otherwise.
The distinctions between servers, storage and networking are becoming harder to see and so the two separate storage activities will now be combined inside John Fowler's Systems business unit, with Jon Benson reporting to John Fowler and no longer directly to Schwartz.
Nigel Dessau, who did storage marketing, has that role subsumed into the enlarged Systems Group marketing and he has a new job looking after the partner strategy group. This looks at relationships with Microsoft, AMD, Intel and others.
The new enlarged Systems team will work on the evolution and convergence of computing, storage and networking systems. It means that the huge rump StorageTek business is going to get rays of sunshine poking into every product corner. The expectation is that the overall storage business will be energised.
Existing product roadmaps remain unchanged. The Hitachi Data Systems and LSI relationships remain unchanged.
Customers will also see no change as customer-facing organisations: sales, services, and the channel people retain their existing server and storage flavours. It is only the 'back-end' storage and systems organisations that are now combined - engineering and marketing.
Benson said it should help across the entire storage portfolio, from primary disk to archive.
At the event conference call, John Fowler talked of the combination of separate networking efforts: Fibre Channel and SAS from the storage group; and Infiniband and 10GigE from the systems group. Now all the switched networking work is combined inside the new Systems Group.
Much was made of the X4500 as an exemplar product representing the intersection of servers and storage with Sun software IP. The storage group's software efforts largely get transferred to Rich Green's software group in Sun, except for specialised things like mainframe tape virtualisation.
It was emphasised that this organisational change was not about announcing new product directions. Although Schwartz' blog talked of future removable media, there was no information about what that might be. There was no commitment, for example, to optical media which, historically StorageTek had not never been keen on. Benson said that Sun had a big spot in the archival space and intended to leverage its software IP there.
There will be no headcount or staff relocation changes dependent upon this organisational change.
Why is Schwartz doing this? He provides several reasons in his blog.
Firstly, customers, according to Sun, want this to happen.
Secondly, it has worked very well for Sun in the recent past. The combination of the high volume x64 server group with SPARC server group yielded the highest scale x64 systems in the market. There was also a new line of volume server products powered interchangeably by SPARC, Intel and AMD.
For Sun, the intersection of servers, storage and networking provides a lot of opportunity for the future, and Schwartz is responding to the unspoken idea that the Storage unit was in its own corral. Benson said the there had been a lot of cross-pollination between the Storage group and the servers, networking and software organisations in Sun and this is the next logical progression.
However, external observers may see it as a diminuition of importance of Storage as a reporting business entity inside Sun. Schwartz emphasises that he expects the Systems people to be just as focused on standalone storage as they will be on integrated storage such as the X4500.
The big hope is that the tape business in Sun will get energised. Schwartz says in his blog that "tape (and in the future, other forms of removable media) are a core part of Sun's archive plans."
He thinks that an overall systems approach will combining IP from networking, virtualisation and file systems should generate excite new products in this area. Tape and tape libraries are vital but they will not remain the last word in best value archive systems for ever. Somehow the installed base has to be protected and nurtured, and also offered better products as data demands grow more and more.
The hope is that with Solaris servers inside the libraries, 10GigE and Infiniband added to Fibre Channel networking, and a parallelised ZFS - think Lustre - then archive product functionality can be extended in currently unknown ways, both for high-end customers with peta-scale demands and also for others.
Schwartz is dramatically, in his words, increasing the focus on storage and putting all the wood behind one arrow. The great hope is that, as with servers and networking, such an organisational integration provides many more arrows to put in Sun's product quiver and many more bows to fire them from.