Sun Combines Server Groups

The company, in its continuing executive shuffle, also names new a storage head.

Sun Microsystems is merging its SPARC and x86 server groups and is naming a new head of its storage business, the latest in a series of moves that included the naming of Jonathan Schwartz as CEO.

John Fowler, who had been executive vice president of Suns Network Systems Group—its family of servers powered by Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chip—was named May 15 as executive vice president of the Santa Clara, Calif., companys Systems Group.

David Yen, formerly executive vice president of Suns SPARC-based Scalable Systems Group, will head the companys storage business as executive vice president of Suns newly named Storage Group.

Mark Canepa, who had headed Suns Data Management Group—which included its storage projects—has left the company.

"Amplifying the outstanding performance of our UltraSPARC and x64 systems and the growing momentum behind Suns storage offerings, nows the time to accelerate growth and leverage efficiencies," Schwartz said in a prepared statement.

Among those efficiencies is the ability to better streamline the companys supply chain, he said.

The moves come after a series of hires designed to revamp Suns leadership.

Along with co-founder Scott McNealy stepping aside as CEO for Schwartz, the company also promoted Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos to executive vice president of research and development and named ex-Sun executive Rich Greene executive vice president of software.

In talking with reporters and analysts following his appointment as CEO on April 24, Schwartz said he was undertaking a 90-day review of Suns operations to see how they could be made more efficient.

The ongoing reorganization comes at a time when Sun is pushing to return to profitability.

The company April 24 reported that in the previous fiscal quarter it had lost $217 million, but had seen revenues grow 21 percent.

The company also announced more layoffs April 7, this time about 7 percent of the Scalable Systems Groups workforce.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read more about the layoffs, click here.

Sun is aggressively expanding its server and storage lines. It has adopted AMDs Opteron chip as the key to gaining traction in the competitive x86 field against such rivals as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, and while unit growth has been high, those systems still account for a small percentage of Suns overall server business.

At the same time, the company in last winter launched its UltraSPARC T1 processor, a multicore, energy-efficient chip designed for Web-based transaction workloads.

The company already is working on two follow-ons to the chip, as well as another SPARC chip with fewer cores code-named "Rock."

Sun also is teaming with Fujitsu on a line of more traditional SPARC systems, named the Advanced Product Line, due this year and powered by Fujitsus upcoming dual-core SPARC64 chip.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said the move to combine the server groups makes sense for Sun, which just now is getting into the x86 space.

Its better to have a single sales force that can explain the benefits of both server lines, rather than two separate sales groups probably competing for the same business.

It becomes more important as x86 systems continue finding traction in market segments historically served by higher-end systems, said King, in Hayward, Calif.

"Five years ago, the use cases and market for x86 [servers] were well-defined," he said.

"Today, x86 is being used for the traditional edge-of-network cases as well as high-performance and supercomputing in clusters, and theyre being used in data centers. Its gotten to be a solution with much broader application than it used to have."

The storage business is an area where Sun needs some help, King said. They still use products from Hitachi in the high-end, and have yet to convince many of its server customers to adopt Sun storage.

Yens appointment indicates that Schwartz believes Yen can help invigorate the storage line in the same way he rejuvenated the SPARC business.

"Theyre hoping Yen can get the storage group kick-started," King said. "That groups seen a lot of turnover, and theyve seen very little success."

Sun on May 2 rolled out a host of new hardware and software offerings, hoping to build on its $4.1 billion acquisition of StorageTek, including a new network-attached storage device and a try-and-buy program for its storage products.

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