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Sun scraps 6920 array, offloads support to HDS

The long-rumored deal that Sun will sell its 6920 virtualization array to HDS is done. But rather than developing the product, HDS will upgrade users to its TagmaStore instead.

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) confirmed that the longstanding OEM contract between the two companies has been updated this week, and that as part of the new agreement, HDS will be taking over support for the 6920 midrange virtualization product. Sun picked up the 6920 through the acquisition of Pirus Networks Inc. in 2002 for $160 million.

The product was a dud almost from the very beginning, according to Sun insiders. "You know how sometimes on the street people are convinced to buy a box thinking there's a cell phone inside, when really there's a rock," said one Sun source speaking on condition of anonymity. "We bought a box we thought had good technology inside it, and really there was just a brick in there. The product is a dog."

Both companies were mum on how many customers there are to be supported by HDS. Another source close to the deal said it's probably not a substantial number. "I think there was one person I heard of who was using it as cheap disk and not even using the virtualization piece," they said.

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According to John Mansfield, vice president of product management for HDS, the company will use support engineers from Sun, although it's not clear whether they will be physically transferred to HDS facilities or remain onsite with Sun. Mansfield said that 6920 customer service would not change.

"If customers called Sun for support today, they can still call in tomorrow," Mansfield said. "The only difference is that the engineers on the back end will be HDS employees."

Mansfield declined to comment on how many personnel are moving. He also declined to comment on whether any money changed hands between the companies as part of the agreement.

Under the terms of the new deal, Sun will resell the HDS TagmaStore products it calls the 9985 and 9990, for another five years, while HDS will support 6920 users.

Sun's planned successor to the 6920, known as the 6940, will also be scrapped, according to Mansfield. Instead, 6920 users who want to upgrade or update the product will be pitched the 9985.

"We will be supporting 6920 customers as long as they feel the product is viable," Mansfield said, indicating that though the agreement was formally signed for five years, the term of support could conceivably be longer or shorter, depending on when customers transition away from the 6920. Ultimately, however, the 6900 line will be completely end-of-lifed.

"We feel this is very good news for Sun customers," Mansfield said. "They can now look beyond the 6920 product line and have a future roadmap to refer to."

Meanwhile, there have been rumors in some parts of the industry that Sun intends to sell its entire storage business to HDS. Might this be the beginning of that process? "I haven't heard those rumors," Mansfield said. Sun did not return requests for comment on this issue as of press time.

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