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Sun, Hitachi make deal official

Sun and Hitachi Data Systems have finalized a distribution and development deal that puts Sun in the high-end storage game and could give EMC a run for its money.

Sun Microsystems Inc., and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) turned months of rumor into reality yesterday by signing a wide-reaching partnership that could give them each a leg up in the storage market.

The deal, which analysts say is a clear move against market leader EMC, calls for Sun, Palo Alto, Calif., to distribute high-end HDS products, specifically the HDS Lightning 9900 storage system. Sun and HDS, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., will also cross-license, distribute and collaborate on developing storage software, and expand their joint-supplier relationship worldwide.

As a result of the deal, Sun now has the missing piece to its storage puzzle, a high-end storage system to complement its midrange T3 array.

Sun is now selling the StorEdge 9900, which is based on Hitachi's Lightning 9900 storage system. The boxes are the same internally, but the Sun box is topped with a layer of Sun's software, including the Storage Resource Management (SRM) product that it gained as part of its acquisition of HighGround Systems.

So what's in it for HDS? "The fundamental thing is HDS has access to Sun's worldwide sales channel to sell its [9900]," said Michael Karp, senior analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, a Boulder, Colo.-based analyst firm. "HDS gets a lot more feet on the street," he said.

Sun said it opted to deal with HDS instead of developing its own high-end storage system because time-to-market was an issue.

"Two or three months ago I would have said a deal like this was impossible," said Ed Zander, Sun's president and chief operating officer, in a conference call yesterday. "But the rumors were so good that we decided to go ahead and do this deal," he joked.

Storage rival EMC was quick to respond to the news, branding it as one more in a string of unsuccessful anti-EMC alliances. "This results in nothing new for customers beyond an entirely new level of confusion," said Dave Farmer, public relations manager for EMC.

But analysts, like Karp, said the deal is win-win for HDS and Sun.

"Those are the ground rules of doing business in storage ? do it fast and do it well. Whether you buy it or build it makes no difference," said Karp.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor


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