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Delivery issues push Sun storage user toward IBM

A user with 30 TB of Sun-StorageTek disk and two tape libraries says he is considering alternatives after late and disorganized deliveries last year.

A once content StorageTek user told he is considering jumping ship to IBM after experiencing problems with purchases since the company's takeover by Sun Microsystems Inc. in 2005.

Tory Skyers, network administrator for Fox & Roach Realtors, a division of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates Inc., is currently managing a 30 terabyte (TB) storage area network (SAN) made up of StorageTek's FlexLine 240 arrays, as well as L40 and SL500 tape libraries for backup. Fox & Roach is also running Sun's Business Analytics software for data management, and has been a StorageTek shop since early 2005.

That could change, Skyers said, since his company's account was moved to a different sales division as part of a salesforce reorganization within Sun last fall. Shortly after the reorganization, according to Skyers, the sales representative he had been working with since his first StorageTek purchase, left the company. It was a situation identified as the worst-case scenario by StorageTek users post acquisition.

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Skyers said that with his trusted contact gone and Sun's logistics in transition, doing business with the company soon became a nightmare.

In late November, Skyers said he ordered 2 TB of disk from Sun in order to support his company's Web site during a data center move. The order did not arrive until Jan. 12, weeks after it was supposed to be delivered.

Skyers said he scrambled to fill the gap with an AX150 from EMC Corp., which he said turned out not to be up to the task. "I bought the AX150 because it was cheap and available," he said, "but in hindsight, it wasn't really suited to the purpose." Skyers said the chief problem with the AX150 was its performance, particularly when his company tried to add new pictures to its real estate listings online. "We couldn't get it to go above 1,200 IOPs without it slowing down to nothing," Skyers said. "We lost business because of this."

Skyers said that it appears a miscommunication between Sun and a hardware supplier meant his order had to be resubmitted, which meant it went "to the bottom of their pile, and they either couldn't or wouldn't move it."

The botched delivery was not the first time there had been issues with getting products from Sun. Earlier in 2006, an order containing around 10 TB of disk and the SL500 tape library had arrived piecemeal and jumbled. "Just the other day I found a redundant power supply to one of the arrays stuck in a closet," Skyers said. "By the time it got here, a month or so after the rest of the stuff arrived, nobody knew what it was for."

Skyers said he had never had problems getting deliveries on time or onsite support from StorageTek. Since Sun took over, however, "these problems have been embarrassing to me -- I have to answer for them, and I take it personally," Skyers said. Right now he's looking into switching to IBM, since the FlexLine 240, the hardware underlying its midrange arrays, comes from LSI Logic Inc.

"These devices are a commodity item," Skyers said. "What matters to me is the service I get from the vendor."

Fox & Roach also uses IBM blades and rack servers. In general the company tries to stick with one vendor and right now appears to be slipping out of Sun's hands and into IBM's.

If more users find themselves in Skyers' situation, Sun could find itself in trouble, warned Andrew Reichman, analyst with Forrester Research Inc. "Sun's sales groups will be in better alignment if they can pull [the reorganization] off, but execution is key, especially when it comes to retention of employees and customers," he said. "People were a key part of the StorageTek acquisition, and if they lose too many of those people, Sun will lose credibility in storage."

Reached for comment, Sun spokesperson Michelle Parkinson wrote in an email to SearchStorage, "Sun values its customers and has made every effort to maintain the level of service and attention that StorageTek customers came to know and enjoy. On the whole, customer satisfaction remains high -- 98.4% according to our latest Recommend Sun Index results -- but we do take these issues seriously and will investigate with the customer."

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