Sun and Hitachi extend storage relationship

Two years after signing the original deal, Sun Microsystems Inc., Hitachi Ltd. and its wholly-owned subsidiary Hitachi Data Systems announced on Monday that they have decided to extend their global distributor agreement, a decision made to give customers more choices.

The agreement, which was originally set for renewal in August 2004, has now been extended through 2006. According to the companies, the global distributor and related collaborative agreements have enabled the companies to offer customers end-to-end data centre solutions.

When the agreement was first crafted two years ago, it was built upon where the companies were at that point in time, said Doug Murray, group manager for data centre products at Sun. After working together for the past 24 months, Murray said it was important to extend the agreement for two reasons. The companies wanted customers to know, as far in advance as possible, not only that the alliance between the companies was successful but that the companies were going to continue to sell the products.

“We didn’t want customers, two months before a potential renewal, calling up asking, ‘Well, I’m about to buy the product, should I be buying the product, should I not be buying the product?'” Murray said. “We want to do away (with) any concern they would have and reaffirm our commitment to the existing products [the companies] already have as well as future products we will be deploying together.”

Going into the original agreement, Sun had a specific need to attack the high-end storage market, according to Murray. He added that this need was filled in 2001 after the companies formed a partnership.

The agreement has benefited both Hitachi and Sun, according to Alan Freedman, research manager of infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada in Toronto. Freedman said the partnership gave Hitachi some much needed support in the marketplace while giving Sun a very highly regarded solution to go along with the rest of its infrastructure products.

“Sun was losing a lot of business because they didn’t have the variety or the broad scope of storage products in the marketplace…they addressed those needs when they signed that agreement with Hitachi,” Freedman said.

Freedman added that another key point making the extension of the partnership advantageous to both companies is giving the customers what they want: minimal vendors.

“Sun is a major player of mid high-end systems in the marketplace [with] a tremendous install base where they have a lot of opportunity to sell enterprise storage and they were missing out on that opportunity,” Freedman said. “Customers will be more than happy to go along with one vendor or to limit the number of vendors they have to deal with if they can get the right products.”

Since the agreement’s inception in 2001, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun has supplied 90,000 drives of Sun StorEdge 9900 series systems, which is based on the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightening 9900 V Series platform.

According to the companies, under the terms of the agreement they will continue to collaborate on areas including marketing, sales support, services and joint customer support centres.

“We do a lot of work in software collaboration as well as bringing each other’s products to market. We work extensively with them on the product requirement side as well as implementation of what the customers need on the product side,” Sun’s Murray said. “We co-synchronously release every product that Hitachi brings to market for their Lightening family.”

It has been a busy month at Sun Microsystems starting with the company’s announcement at the beginning of August that it had entered into a global alliance with SuSE Linux. Sun also announced last week that it has completed its acquisition of Redwood City, Calif.-based software company CenterRun Inc.

Additional information about Tokyo, Japan-based Hitachi can be found online at Hitachi Data Systems, base in Palo Alto, Calif. can be found online at Sun Microsystems Canada can be found on the Web at