Sun Microsystems has unveiled several storage products, including its first network-attached storage (Nas) box and a midrange disc array which uses virtualisation technology to pool storage capacity from its products and rival offerings.
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Sun - which Gartner rates as a "promising" supplier in the storage hardware market - is trying to fill gaps in its product line and catch up to storage leaders such as EMC and IBM.
The foray into the Nas market is a big departure for Sun, which previously dismissed the technology but found itself losing sales to suppliers such as Network Appliance, said Michael Peterson, an analyst at Strategic Research.
"That's like a religious epiphany" for Sun, he said. "They fought against Nas for a long time."
Mark Canepa, executive vice-president of network storage at Sun, disclosed some details about the products in an interview last week, but pricing was not available.
The entry-level StorEdge 5210 Nas device, which scales to 5TBytes of capacity, allows Sun to dip its toes into a growing market.
Nas sales grew 15.2% from the second quarter of 2003 to the same quarter this year, according to IDC. The market is led by NetApp, with a 37.2% revenue share, followed by EMC, with 35.2%, IDC reported earlier this month.
Chuck Sears, manager of research computing at Oregon State University's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, was among the first to beta-test a StorEdge 5210 Nas, with a 1.5TBytes capacity. Sears added it integrated well with his other Sun hardware and management software.
"We took that thing out of the box, and without going through documentation . . . we just rolled up our sleeves and were up and running in 15 minutes," he said. "It fit the existing management framework we've had for years."
Sears added that he likes the built-in support for the Network File System and Common Internet File System, which allows him to see all of his high-end Unix and low-end Windows servers under one view.
Sun will also announce its latest midrange storage array, the StorEdge 6920, which comes with high-end features such as the ability to plug in third-party arrays and create a pool of storage that can be carved into 1,024 separate volumes, each capable of serving a host system. The box comes with up to 60TBytes of storage capacity, plus the ability to partition the array into 14 domains.
James Dobson, a systems architect at a US college, has been beta-testing the array for the past six months. Dobson said he likes the flexibility of the system but wants Sun to certify Linux and other server operating systems to run on it.
"It's important for us to have a mix of operating systems work on it," Dobson said. "We want to be able to pool resources and connect everything in the datacentre to one source. Otherwise, you start creating islands of storage."
It is easy to create new volumes on the StorEdge 6920 or change the size of existing ones on the fly, through either a web or command-line interface, he noted.
Dobson added that the ability to attach third-party arrays - and manage it all through a single interface - means he can take advantage of less-expensive ATA disc drives.
Lucas Mearian writes for Computerworld