The Friday Interview: Tom Houston, Sun Microsystems

11 Aug 2006

This week’s interview is with Tom Houston (pictured), head of the storage business in Ireland for Sun Microsystems.

What is Sun’s US$4.1bn acquisition of StorageTek going to mean for Irish customers?
There’s a phrase we used in StorageTek: “We would turn up at the dinner party for dessert.” Sun was always at the pre-dinner reception. The architecture and design for an IT project had already been set [before we arrived] but now we have the products and capabilities so that we can get involved at an early stage. Rather than storage being tied on at the end it’s an integral part of the project. There’s a better total cost of ownership for customers.

People are now buying more storage than ever. What’s driving those purchasing decisions?
People want to do more with less. Storage seems to be going this way and one of the things that’s driving this is regulatory compliance. People are much less inclined to get rid of information: they’re trying to hoard it as much as possible.

Irish businesses have traditionally spent more on hardware than on software and services but the data storage market is going in the opposite direction. Why?
For a while customers were throwing hardware at the problem and storage is no different to that: you can go out and buy shed-loads of disk and tape capacity relatively cheaply. But then what do you do with it?

What implications does this have for the market here?
People have all this capacity and don’t know what they’ve got. That’s why there’s going to be a drive to software; as people have bought all this hardware, they need management tools to get the most out of it.

What trends have you noticed in the way businesses are spending their IT money?
Big tape libraries are still being used and in some cases they’re 10 years old. That’s where software is becoming more useful. At StorageTek we’ve seen record numbers in Ireland. We’re still shifting a lot of hardware but the percentage of our software sales is going up. People do still need capacity as a natural consequence of the business growing but the challenge IT managers face is justifying that. Software’s really where the smarts are; that’s where the investment is going.

By Gordon Smith

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