Oracle Corp. executives met with some of its largest enterprise tape library customers this week, trying to convince them of their commitment to the product portfolio by laying out a roadmap that one customer said "dropped a lot of jaws in the audience."
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The Large Tape Users Group (LTUG) has been meeting since 1988, but this week's three-day session at Broomfield, CO was the first since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion in January. Oracle's commitment to the tape business was a big issue for customers, most of who originally purchased their tape libraries from StorageTek before Sun gobbled that company in 2005.
Oracle VP of customer services Steve Pinedo and representatives of the tape group addressed the LTUG, which consists of customers who own or manage at least 10,000 slots in Sun StorageTek tape libraries or have 1 PB of data residing on the libraries.
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has said he expects to grow market share in the tape business for data archiving, but the customers wanted to hear it for themselves after watching the product line get acquired for the second time in less than five years.
LTUG president Geoff Cleary, a computer specialist who runs a data archive at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says the mood at the end of the conference was "cautious optimism. We came not knowing what to expect, and left with the feeling that not only did Oracle take notice, but they went out of their way to let us know tape will be a big part of their business.
"That was one of the main things we wanted to hear about," Cleary said. "They put forth a good story about how they're committed to tape storage in the enterprise. They said they're new to it, but that doesn't scare them and they say they're ready to innovate."
Oracle VP of tape development Jim Cates, who joined StorageTek in 1993, said a big goal of the conference for Oracle was to convince customers that the software giant is serious about tape.
"And that turned out to be a short conversation because Oracle is very committed, and Larry Ellison has made those public comments," Cates said.
The users signed NDAs forbidding them to talk about product specifics Oracle revealed at the conference, but Cleary said he was impressed by the tape roadmap.
"There was talk about some products that I think dropped a lot of jaws in the audience and were really out in the forefront," he said. "They're pushing innovation."
Oracle's Cates said the roadmap over the next 12 months calls for new product releases for tape libraries, tape drives and virtual tape for mainframe systems. He said one of priorities is to increase capacity to meet growing archive demands.
Cleary said he's looking forward to larger capacities and speeds. He said Livermore has 25 tape libraries and about 16 PB of data on tape, and its archives for scientific data doubles in capacity every year.
"The amount of data we take in will keep growing and come in larger amounts each day," he said. "I'm looking forward to an increase in tape capacity. As fast as that curve can rise, we'll take it. That also goes for the speed that data can be laid down on tape. We need to push it out as fast as possible."
Cleary says he sensed a different atmosphere this week than when Sun acquired StorageTek. A lot of people in the industry say Sun's commitment to tape didn't match that of StorageTek. That $4.1 billion acquisition was followed by constant reorganizations and financial losses, so Cleary says he was happy to hear Oracle's pledge to expand its tape portfolio teams.
"There was a level of enthusiasm with Sun/Oracle employees that I didn't see during the transition from StorageTek to Sun," Cleary said. "The folks directly involved with engineering of products remained passionate at Sun, but they got lost in the product sea in the larger company, so they had a hard time sticking out and getting funding and resources."