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Sun slots slumping storage unit into server group

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Sun Microsystems will fold its long-wobbling storage unit into its server unit, forming a single entity dedicated to building hardware that benefits man - or at least Sun's bottom line.

Current server chief John Fowler will lead the combined unit, Sun said today. This seems to indicate that CEO Jonathan Schwartz has an awful lot of faith in "The Fowl," as he's to be known now that he has the storage business albatross hanging around his neck.

Sun has tried for years to inject life into the storage group, appointing various heads of the organization and forming reseller partnerships with the likes of Hitachi and LSI. And then there was the mega-buy of tape giant StorageTek.

Despite Sun's best efforts, storage sales have never been the company's strong suit. But Sun hopes to change that by adding some revitalized R&D work to the storage kit. According to Sun, the R&D infusion will occur best by having the server and storage employees working as one.

"What we are after here is taking a lot of the expertise of the systems group and applying that more directly to the storage products and portfolio," Folwer said, during a press call.

Last week, Sun officially laid off a number of employees, as it acted on an earlier headcount reduction promise. We understand from sources that members of the server and storage teams were affected. Fowler, however, told us the hardware cuts were in keeping with the broader layoffs and that neither group will suffer from a major reorganization under the new single unit scheme.

In addition, Sun does not plan to alter its sales or channel strategy that has been in place with the storage folks.

Sun has been pushing the idea that server and storage gear is merging and often points to its storage-heavy X4500 server - Thumper - as evidence of this trend.

Will this unit shifting exercise really bolster Sun's storage sales? Well, as always, that's anyone's guess. ®

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