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Sun reveals networking and storage technology plans

Sun Microsystems is planning to unveil new networking and storage initiatives before the end of the year.

Ed Zander, Sun's president and chief operating officer, revealed that the company had no intention of broadening its network hardware portfolio to compete directly with Cisco Systems. But he acknowledged that some of Sun's new products would overlap with Cisco's.

In an interview with InfoWorld last week, Zander hinted at the possibility of new network-based storage switches catering for data virtualisation needs. Sun already produces some edge devices, firewalls and caching appliances.

Sun believed that some networking technologies that existed in the "cloud" were moving with servers to reflect what Zander called an appliance model. "So we end up maybe overlapping in some areas with Cisco as we see storage and some of the software going in that space," he said.

Zander's projections reflect the rapidly changing storage market and the changing storage infrastructures that the market fuels, said Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

Storage networking is rapidly moving from hardware-based interconnects to more interoperable software-based models driven by technologies like advanced IP standards such as Internet SCSI, Duplessie said. Competition between the two companies would likely come in the form of storage software, said Duplessie.

"Physical storage will exist, but the software and logical management of storage is where the money is going to be," Duplessie said. "Sun is the dominant Unix provider and wants its unfair share of the storage value proposition, and that value is storage software applications, software virtualisation, etc. - it's all about software."

Cisco has been open about its intent to capitalise on the IP storage market as it evolves.

Following Sun's recent acquisitions of storage companies High Ground and LSC, Zander said Sun would announce new products within 60 days. He indicated the products based on Sun's newly acquired virtualisation and next-generation file system technology were equivalent to Sun ONE, Sun's strategy to offer an integrated stack of products and services.

"It's going to be software architecture and products based around running heterogeneous environments using the network," Zander said.

Heterogeneity is the future of storage, Duplessie said. "There's going to be a physical collapsing of separate topologies between networking and storage," he explained. " Sun's strategy is to be in control of the [mixture], utilise all the desperate resources as a universal data network, and provide the data layer based on SRM technologies, which is what LSC really gave them.

"Zander's saying Sun will not compete with Cisco because Sun's not going to build routers, but if storage moves out of the cloud, which it will, then the cloud right now belongs to companies like Cisco and [switch maker] Brocade," Duplessie said.

Zander said he believed the storage market would continue to consolidate, with even products such as EMC's proprietary hardware eventually adopting open standards. "Storage has always been a software play. That software moves to the Net, and virtualisation and storage over IP is the way to go. That's why we picked up High Ground, that's why we picked up LSC," he said.

Zander did not reveal any product names or specific launch dates.

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