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Sun opens up with storage software suite

Sun Microsystems is moving into SAN management software, claiming to be the first to offer support for budding open standards for discovering and managing multi-vendor storage devices.

The new software suite, Sun StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager (ESM), was created by combining existing discrete storage software products with new technology based on evolving storage-specific standards, said James Staten, director of strategy for Sun's Storage division.

These open standards include Common Information Model (CIM), Web-Based Enterprise Management (WEBM), and the Bluefin specification that was recently submitted to the Storage Networking Industry Association under the name Storage Management Initiative (SMI). SNIA says SMI will be formally submitted to a standards body later this year.

The decision to adopt open standards in lieu of exchanging proprietary APIs with competitors and partners was an easy choice, explains Steve Guido, a product line manager for Sun's storage division.

"We think supporting Bluefin and CIM/WBEM is a long-term strategy," said Guido. "The API exchange approach is only a short-term solution." He added that Sun is committed to pursuing open standards.

Guido explained the ESM software suite will feature a way to do topology reporting, device configuration and proactive health diagnostics. He added that future releases would support an "expanding device support list" and automation capabilities via the company's existing StorEdge Utilization Suite & Performance Suite.

Steve Kenniston, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, says the most significant part of Sun's announcement is its decision to pursue open standards.

"Mark Canepa [executive vice-president of Sun's Storage division] has said he wants Sun everywhere," explains Kenniston. "And instead of developing independent relationships with other vendors, Sun has said 'why not use the efforts in pursuing standards?' This is a really good idea."

According to Sun, the company's ESM will also enhance technology developed by it partner Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). Together with HDS, the two companies earlier this year agreed to work together on both software and hardware initiatives and drive industry standards.

Users will have a choice of using HDS' HiCommand or Sun's StoragEdge Configuration services to manage both HDS' and Sun's line of storage systems from a Web-based interface.

"We've agreed to co-operate with HDS when necessary, but also compete when necessary," said Staten. "The collaboration foundation is the same, but we're giving customers a choice of HDS or Sun."

In addition to Sun's work with HDS on the software front, Sun is also a large reseller of HDS' higher-end storage systems - Freedom Storage 9900 product (commonly referred to as Lightning).

"Our customers want simplicity in managing storage, lower cost [total cost of ownership or return on investment] and choice," said Staten.

Kenniston adds that Sun's ESM product has a robust feature set, equal to that of other products on the market, including EMC's software used to manage its own products and third-party vendor Prisa Networks.

"There is no leapfrogging of any technology boundary, but [ESM] is definitely on par with all the other vendors' products," said Kenniston.

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