For Sun, meeting its corporate customers' increasing demand for data storage capacity has been a core part of the company's business. What's driving the storage market for you at present?
There's some real interest in new technology we announced in November [called the Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage Systems] where we are providing a storage appliance based around open-source software and commodity hardware that can bring the cost of storage down up to 90 per cent. That is getting tremendous interest not just here but across the globe.
What's the appeal of an open-source approach to storage?
We see that as a really strong area and one that in some ways will speed up as a result of the economy. As the economy slows down people are going to be looking at how they can save money, how they can get more value.
Our view is that open storage - and open source in general - will probably accelerate during this slowdown. If you think back to the dot-com boom and the subsequent slowdown, it was then that Linux and other open-source software really started to get hold.
So we're really bullish on some of our open-source strategies actually accelerating during the slowdown. Open storage is one. The other is MySQL, the open-source database acquisition we made back in January last year.
Sun raised eyebrows when it paid US$1 billion ($1.8 billion) for MySQL last year. How is that side of the business?
It's the fastest-growing part of our business. What we're seeing is that for people who are developing new applications, especially
web-facing applications, MySQL is becoming very much a considered option.
If it's good enough for Facebook and it's good enough for Google, maybe it's good enough for the corporates. Of the MIS Top 100 in Australia [the 100 organisations spending the most on IT], 18 have stated they're using MySQL. They don't need to sign up for support with Sun, but we're finding increasingly they are. We see that transition being quite exciting.
The economic crisis seems to have led companies to halt spending
in a number of areas, including IT. Has that been your experience?
A little bit. What we're seeing [on both sides of the Tasman] is a real focus on "non-discretionary" IT projects. Anything that is seen as a discretionary cost is being cut. For a lot of our customers IT is critical to the running their business, so what we're seeing is that where these are critical projects to the organisation, then the IT spend continues.
The global crisis has also hit Sun directly with the company saying in November it would cut between 5000 and 6000 jobs or about 15 to 18 per cent of its global workforce. What will that mean for the New Zealand and Australian side of the business?
There's nothing I can say at this stage. I just don't have the information at a local level yet to be able to talk about it.
What other IT trends do you see emerging this year?
We'll continue to see a strong trend around consolidation and virtualisation, and that in many ways plays nicely into Sun's server strengths. We also see a lot of interest - including in New Zealand - and a lot of activity around identity management: the ability to identify who your customers are whichever medium they are dealing with you through. That's certainly a technology and an area where we see a lot of activity.
Australian Duncan Bennet studied computer science at Massey University and began his IT career working in New Zealand before returning to the other side of the Tasman where he now heads server, storage and software company Sun Microsystems' Australasian business.