Wait! Don't Throw Out Those Sun STK Libraries Yet . . . Oracle Lays Out Their Tape Roadmap

It's been a little over a year now since it was announced that Oracle would buy Sun, and in the intervening time, there has been a great deal of speculation over what would happen to Sun's storage division. I know I've been waiting with bated breath (ok, that might be a BIT strong) to find out what the future of Sun storage would be, and now we have at least a small nugget of information (Oracle has been frustratingly mum on the topic since the acquisition). As you might have guessed, there is good news and there is bad news for Sun storage customers:

  • The good news: Sun storage lives! Oracle met with some of their largest customers (1 PB+ of data in STK libraries) last week to discuss the future roadmap for enterprise tape libraries. We don't have any details yet, but we do know that in the next 12 months we can expect to see new product releases for tape libraries, tape drives, and virtual tape libraries for mainframe. The only major omission from this list is the open systems VTL offering, StorageTek Virtual Tape Library Prime, which doesn't surprise me much considering that traditional open systems VTLs seem to be phasing out and being replaced by backup to disk appliances (basically a VTL without tape emulation).
  • The bad news: It's going to be more expensive and less flexible. Are you really all that surprised? Oracle hardware support policies that went up on the website in mid-March state that support must be purchased on each piece of hardware and is not allowed to lapse (or else pay 150% of the last support bill to be compliant), AND the support clock will begin ticking the minute the gear is shipped to the customer (rather than when it is deployed in the customer's environment). Oh, and not to mention that support costs have also doubled.

The net-net? Oracle/Sun is definitely in the storage market for the forseeable future; however, the resemblance to the Sun StorageTek you remember is dwindling. It will remain to be seen if Oracle can stop the bleeding and earn back their storage customers' trust.

We've had a lot of client inquiries recently about migrating off of Sun storage in the backup environment. I'm curious: what are all of you out there thinking?


Storage and Tiered Data Management

Seems that much of Oracle's approach is evolutionary vs. revolutionary when it comes to handling the Storage question of former Sun Microsystems. Even before the final acquisition Oracle was actively trying to reverse the loss/dismissal of the Sun Open Systems (Unix) storage sales teams, and since the acquisition completion they have been actively hiring Storage sales/SEs back.

But aside from the ongoing drum-beating about the 7xxx series appliances, there's not been much coming out for the other, arguably more valuable long term, components of the Storage group. Oracle has spoken of "STK" tape systems being bracketed into a Mainframe-centric thing and presumably moving away from Open Systems tape subsystems. The revitalization of the "M-series"/SPARC lines of servers would similarly seem to reflect a need for complimentary high-performance disk subsystems that we're not hearing anything new about (and having already canceled the long-term lucrative arrangement with Hitachi Data Systems). And the perennially much overlooked tiered data management software that makes all these (and everybody else's) storage technologies (7xxx, tape, disk, SSD) work together as a unified virtualized file system is all but ignored (that software being SAM-FS / SAM-QFS used for data archival, backup, sharing, and a variety of other Solutions).

So, whether Oracle is really interested in being a main player in the Storage arena or is satisfied to have Storage as just a supporting player to their database-driven vision remains to be seen. If they don't do something soon to reverse the solidifying perception, the lion share of All Things Storage will go to the other 600-pound gorillas in the market space.