While everyone else was watching the Apple iPad intro I was watching Oracle’s John Fowler talk about their systems and storage strategy. I like the iPad, but the O+S strategy could reshape the storage industry.

More details will emerge and many decisions still remain but the basic elements are clear:

  • Focus on direct sales. In the mid-1990s, when I joined Sun, the tenacity and aggressiveness of their direct sales force was a welcome change. Direct sales forces are expensive, but losing touch with your customers is even costlier. The combo’s unique value propositions can’t be sold by channels today. In 5 years – maybe.
  • A dedicated storage sales force. Generalist salespeople with millimeter deep storage product and application knowledge can’t compete with EMC and NetApp. Storage specialists aren’t easy to develop, so they’ll hire them – and they promise top commissions.
  • Deep integration of ZFS into storage systems. A software company should like a software solution to many of the biggest storage problems? Putting real muscle behind ZFS will help thousands of enterprise customers to rethink their high-performance data protection strategies.
  • Flash everywhere. Sun has done some creative things with flash already, such as Logzilla, and Oracle sees that much more can be done.

Not mentioned – not that it should have been – is the fate of ZFS on Mac OS X. That would be a boost for all concerned.

The StorageMojo take
Sun’s primary storage business has been a black smoking crater of disaster for over a decade. And it didn’t help StorageTek to have them answer to know-nothings.

Despite that Sun engineers outside the storage group developed innovative and game-changing technologies that the company couldn’t capitalize on. With Oracle’s investment now they can.

No database/systems company can be successful without a healthy and very competitive storage team — and the high gross margins don’t hurt. With a hard-nosed focus on application performance, marketing competence and continued innovation, the O+S storage group could be a fun place to work. They are hiring!

It will take Oracle 12 to 18 months to develop the kind of customer traction that will make other storage vendors set up and take notice. But Larry Ellison isn’t planning to lose and there is no reason he should.

Storage competition in the enterprise is about to get cranked up several notches. And that is a good thing for all customers.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.