Could the storage industry be about to wind back the clock and re-embrace server-attached storage?
That's the vision of the future of storage offered by Dick Kallmeyer, the company's Global Storage Evangelist.
Kallmeyer is not, however, reverting to older ideas about storage.
Instead, he says Sun believes there is a new niche for devices that need both enterprise-class storage and also require the processing-and-application-serving power of a server. Sun has dubbed these hybrid machines 'Storvers' and says that applications for the new machines include data warehousing and serving media.
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Some Sun products are already putting the idea to work.
"The SunFire X4500 demonstrates the concept," Kallmeyer explains. "The device itself contains some of the code from a data warehousing application. That means the storage device no longer has to do all of the I/O between itself and the server. The 'Storvers' do part of the part of the processing which means you get a low cost device taking some load from the application server."
The result, he says, is faster processing and lower costs.
Another example of the idea is Sun's x5800 storage system, which includes embedded Solaris and an API for loading code onto the machines. That API makes it possible to create applications (Which Sun calls 'Storelets') that couple tightly with storage systems so they can become involved in acting upon content instead of just delivering it to a requesting application.
"Driving application code into the storage device lets the user program the storage device," Kallmeyer says. "Users could generate their own 'Storelets' to do things like apply policy to tasks like email storage."
Kallmeyer says that leveraging Sun's company's investment in server technology is one reason the company is pursuing 'Storvers.'
"When David Yen became senior Vice President of storage one of his first questions was: 'Why are you not using Sun IP in your products?'" The storage group heeded that call and Storvers was the result.
The company's other motivation comes from Kallmeyer's belief that by pushing intelligence into storage devices, long-held goals such as information lifecycle management (ILM) will become more achievable on Sun's platforms than using technology from its rivals.
"This is a platform for special-purpose storage appliances," he says. "We're still driving it out into tape drives which can become like widgets attached to the appliance. Once you have technology like this which can interact you can build stacks and get to ILM much faster."