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Sun server/storage exec: Virtualization has customers confused

Sun hardware guru previews storage, server plans for 2008

By , Network World
December 17, 2007 02:58 PM ET

Network World - Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz declared in October that he was "radically increasing Sun's focus on storage," (compare products) partly by combining the company's server and storage product teams into one group. Leading the effort is John Fowler, a 17-year veteran of Sun. Fowler previously was head of servers and now oversees both servers and storage in the combined group simply called "Systems," reporting directly to Schwartz. Network World reporter Jon Brodkin recently sat down with Fowler at Sun's offices in Burlington, Mass., to discuss Sun's attempt to reverse declining disk revenues, energy efficiency, and the future of storage and server technology.

What are your customers' biggest concerns?

Energy efficiency is absolutely number one. Every customer wants to talk to us about what can we do to get more performance per watt. They're either consolidating data centers or they're trying to build new services but they don't want to have a linear increase in power consumption with all the new services they add.

Everyone wants to talk about virtualization. You have to have some plan for virtualization even if you don’t know what it is.

They're very confused by virtualization. How do I do it, what does it do for me … what are the real values, how much cost does it add or subtract to my infrastructure? People are all over the place on that.

Do you think virtualization is being overhyped?

I don't think its being overhyped. It's a little surprising when you think about what's happening. Unix systems and mainframes have actually had virtualization for a long time. This isn't new to a big chunk of the market. All of us and people over at IBM are probably kind of puzzled too, because actually IBM invented virtualization in the mainframes in the '60s.

What's happened is it's come to the x86 market. That's why it's suddenly a part of the popular press because you never could virtualize Windows before. The second thing is the sudden emphasis on energy efficiency and people see it as a way to solve that problem as well.

How much of the efficiency problem can virtualization solve?

It's one piece of it. You can take things where you're just being wasteful and you can put them together and be less wasteful.

The other thing that's an interesting topic is 10 Gigabit Ethernet. People are starting to ask about how do I implement it, when is the cost going to come down, how will it change my data center? We're working very hard with virtualization technologies for 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

You attack the problem piecemeal. We have a good computing solution, and then we improve the networking solution and the storage solution, and with all three of those you can get to really high levels of energy efficiency.

Your disk storage revenue has gone down the past few years, right?

Absolutely.

Is the reorganization designed to address that cash problem?

It's going to help. First of all, disk revenue stabilized and went up a bit last quarter, which was the third quarter of the calendar year. We're actually back on an uptick. What we'’re working on is a whole set of new products related to disk that will be coming out over the next year.

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