Sun executives were not available for interviews at the time of the announcement, but did email SearchStorage.com some statements regarding the new deal. Sun officials said the Diligent relationship does not change the company's commitment to FalconStor as the basis for Sun's branded VTLs. As for the deduplication issue, Sun said the difference is that FalconStor's software is integrated more deeply with Sun's appliances and Solaris operating system, thus requiring more kinks to be worked out in adding data deduplication.
Some analysts said that at face value, Sun's signing of a competitor as a channel partner isn't helping FalconStor's cause. "I'll tell you one thing it doesn't say -- it doesn't say, 'we love these guys [FalconStor], and we'd never use anybody else'," said an analyst who asked not to be identified.
"I would say that it spells trouble," said John Webster, principal IT analyst with Illuminata Inc. "Their three major OEMs are showing signs of at least being on the fence, which I don't think is a good sign."
However, other analysts pointed out that Sun has been trying to expand its VTL portfolio in general over the last two years and has made a number of changes and revisions to its VTL product line toward that goal. Sun also resells BakBone Software Inc.'s VTL software for the lower end of the market, and several industry watchers felt that the Diligent signing could be a result of wanting to offer a higher end VTL, rather than any statement about data deduplication.
"Diligent's initial focus has been the enterprise, and its ProtecTier solution is field proven to scale in these environments," wrote Heidi Biggar, analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) to SearchStorage.com in an email. "That's not to say that FalconStor's [Single Instance Repository] SIR … can't … scale. Diligent simply has more proof points of its success in these types of environments." Sun also has a pre-existing relationship with Diligent OEM partner Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), and Diligent's CEO Doron Kempel said the two companies already have some large joint customers without a formal agreement in place.
However, not every analyst felt that bringing Diligent on board is necessarily the recipe for a successful product strategy. "I think FalconStor's major OEMs will eventually certify the deduplication. Plus, for the OEMs that are interested in truly integrating disk and tape, FalconStor wins there," said Stephanie Balaouras, senior analyst with Forrester Research Inc. But the Diligent deal, independent of the data deduplication issue, "is going to create a lot of challenging positioning for Sun, and to have [four] VTL platforms, one mainframe and [three] open systems based on different technologies, is not advantageous for customers."
Reached for comment, FalconStor officials declined to issue a statement, saying through a spokesperson in an email that the company "doesn't comment on OEM partners, so we can't respond to these specific questions [about data deduplication]."