[W]hat happens when we can make anything ten times better for one hundredth the cost? How will that affect our society? Eric Drexler, as quoted by Tom Foremski in Silicon Valley Watcher.

Eric Drexler, one of the fathers of nanotechnology, gets to think really big thoughts. For storage, I’d be very pleased when storage is 10x better – reduced management and operating costs, greater reliability, smaller footprint, larger capacity (all very doable) – and 1/10th the cost – also very doable. I mention this because Silicon Valley Watcher’s posts on “bad competitors” reminded me just how few bad competitors we have in the storage industry.

Sun Microsystems, when it started out, was a bad competitor. When everyone else (i.e. IBM, DEC, HP, DG, Wang, Prime and more) were totally vertical building processors, OSs, applications, databases, networks and charging – as they had to – enormous prices, Sun came along and blew that business model sky high. Using commodity microprocessors, a free OS, a newly minted network and free development tools, Sun assembled what others developed and drove revenue per employee to levels that eviscerated the competition. And they focused on markets where the traditional hand-holding wasn’t required.

Storage is ripe for that kind of innovation, yet despite the billions poured into storage in the bubble, it hasn’t happened. Lest we forget, VCs funded over 120 storage startups in the boom years. Surely ONE of them could have adopted the Sun model.

The pieces are there for a bad storage competitor to emerge. I’ll be writing about some of them this week.