I was surprised and baffled by Sun's decision to buy StorageTek, but that was because I didn't know about project honeycomb.
Here's something Sun's Scott McNealy said about his company's acquisition of Storagetek:
All of a sudden we grow by over an order of magnitude the number of data storage sales specialists we have in the field, plus a couple thousand service folks. Why do people choose EMC over us? They trust EMC. StorageTek has a very outstanding reputation of safeguarding their data asset. StorageTek has 17,000 customers. They archive 36 per cent of the planet's archived data on their tape libraries. All these tape libraries are tied to IBM mainframes. You'll trade out your mainframe before you trade out your tape library.
So is he setting up to ask tape library customers if they'd like some E25Ks with their order? I don't think so, instead I think StorageTek's field force is going to lead Sun's drive to market with a radically simplified storage technology called Honeycomb. Here's the PR "bullet" on Honeycomb from Sun Research:
The Honeycomb Storage System is a radical new approach to managing large collections of reference data. Designed for ultra-low cost, high availability, and simple to install, manage, and grow over time, Honeycomb uses advanced clustering techniques to build large systems from inexpensive components. Even more cost savings are realized with highly automated installation, capacity upgrades, and built-in resource balancing. A "fail-in-place" component strategy allows the system to degrade gracefully until the next periodic refresh occurs.
As storage capacity is added, more Opteron processors join the cluster to work in parallel on search, retrieval, scrubbing, and data rebuild tasks. Parallel processing greatly reduces the "window of vulnerability" and removes the urgency around servicing failed disks. Honeycomb also removes costly object database licenses and dedicated "namespace front-ends" by including an embedded, extensible metadata system that provides flexible, ad hoc search capabilities using RAM-based indexing for high performance retrieval of stored objects.
Since most of StorageTek's customer dollars don't come from Sun customers both sides are likely to benefit from what amounts to a market merger. If things work out Sun will get a marketing channel for Honeycomb that drives the product right into the heart of IBM's most lucrative franchise, and StorageTek will get both a hot new technology to offer their bigger customers and access to lots of small Sun customers for its own, Linux based, compliance oriented storage.