Sun Microsystems finds a recession in the United States and an overall rough global economy translated into steadier low-end software and storage sales in its fiscal 2009 second quarter, while numbers for higher-end systems such as those based on the UltraSPARC processor suffered. Sun also recently announced a series of layoffs that began in January. However, last quarter's restructuring announcement may translate into cost savings down the road.
results for the second quarter of fiscal 2009,
announced Jan. 27, show the company taking a beating in many categories, with
revenues decreasing 10.9 percent year over year from 2008.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, customers have reduced spending on proprietary
high-end systems such as servers
based on the company's UltraSPARC processors
to embrace lower-end software
and storage alternatives, such as its Open Storage offerings.
Jonathan Schwartz said in a conference call Jan. 27, "Results for Q2
were in line with what we expected." He cited "double-digit"
revenue increase for Sun's growth categories, including CMT (chip
multithreading technology) and Open
Storage: "Growth categories account for one-third of Sun's product
Billings for the
company's "Niagara" server series rose 30
percent year-over-year, and Sun plans, Schwartz added, "to broaden our Niagara
offerings in both blade and rack forms." Billings
for Open Storage products grew 21 percent.
When asked whether he thought the UltraSPARC business would eventually
revive, despite the economy, Schwartz responded, "It really depends on the
customers." He indicated that cross-selling and support services could
sustain the higher end of the server business despite the recession.
While Sun's revenue in the quarter increased 7.7 percent to $3.2 billion,
net loss (on a GAAP basis) was $209 million, or 28 cents per share.
This includes a $222 million restructuring charge in November 2008, when, on
the heels of a $1.68 billion third-quarter loss (much of it due to a one-time
$1.445 billion impairment expense tied to the $4.1 billion acquisition of
StorageTek in 2005), Sun announced that 18 percent of its global work force
would be laid off.
At the time, the company also announced its reorganization into three divisions-a
move that could potentially save it between $700 and $800 million a year, with
most of the benefit to be realized in fiscal 2010. Sun
began additional layoffs in January 2009, which could cut costs further.
The three new business units would be Systems Platform (encompassing the
open-source Solaris operating system and other management software), Cloud
Computing and Developer Platforms (the new home for Web-based technologies),
and Application Platform Software (MySQL open-source database products and Java
"The meltdown in the banking and financial sectors has really whacked
some of Sun's traditional customer base," Charles King, an analyst with
Pund-IT Research, said in an interview. "When we saw IT vendor revenues
starting to erode last year, Sun was ahead of the curve because their customers
were hitting the wall before anyone else's was. Their Unix-based platforms are
losing market share. At the higher end, part of the problem is that they're
entering the X86-64 market, but they entered in a less cohesive manner."
And when it comes to rebounding in the medium to long term, some analysts
say Sun may have to alter not only its corporate structure, but also its
"Over the past few years, Sun has become more reactive: They jumped
into the X86 market behind Dell; they launched emerging markets way behind IBM
and HP," said Josh Farina, an analyst with Technology Business Research, who
cites Sun as still "reliable" in the hardware category.
"They need to become a leader in their core
strengths," Farina said.