Sun makes a stand as enterprise storage vendor

Sun Microsystems is to simplify its sstorage software and roll out hardware featuring technology licensed from Vicom Systems in a...

Sun Microsystems is to simplify its sstorage software and roll out hardware featuring technology licensed from Vicom Systems in a bid to establish itself as a premier enterprise storage provider.

On the software side, Sun is re-packaging its 70-plus storage software products into four simplified suites, said Mark Canepa, executive vice-president of storage products for Sun.

Sun will now offer four storage software suites: a Resource Management suite, a Utilisation suite, a Performance suite, and an Availability suite, Canepa said.

Two new families of storage sub-systems are also being introduced by Sun, the Sun StorEdge 3900 series and 6900 series.

Designed for high-performance storage environments, the 3900 series is a Fibre Channel product with two direct attach connections that support as much as 11Tbytes of data. The 3900 series comes cluster-ready and offers advanced management features such as phone-home capabilities in the event of a system failure. It supports Sun's Solaris operating environment as well as Microsoft NT, and support for other Unix flavours such as Linux will "follow shortly," Canepa said.

The 6900 series is designed for storage consolidation and offers 11Tbytes of storage capacity as well as up to 512 logical unit numbers (LUNs) and 14 direct attach connections.

Both the 3900 and 6900 series are built upon the foundation of Sun's T-3 storage array and have integrated storage virtualisation technology for allocating and re-assigning storage capacity throughout a Sun storage network. Storage capacity using existing T-3 arrays can be added virtually, using software, or by physically adding T-3s to the hardware devices.

"If customers have T-3s today they can take those T-3s and open up the door of the box, add another T-3, and augment [the new systems] with existing T-3s," Canepa said.

Software technology from storage virtualisation company Vicom has been licensed by Sun to assist in virtualisation as well as expanding previous LUN limitations of the T-3. The Vicom virtualisation technology will control primarily Sun-only storage networks, according to Vicom.

"The T-3 has had serious limitations, particularly when it came to the number of LUNs you could create from it. You could only get two LUNs out of it, for example," said analyst Arun Taneja, of the Enterprise Storage Group. "The virtualisation piece that comes from Vicom essentially gives Sun the ability to create up to 512 LUNs on a T-3, so they are using the Vicom technology as a component to make the T-3 whole."

However officials from Veritas Software believe it is way ahead of Sun in offering storage software tools that can virtualise and control not only T-3s but also third-party systems from other vendors such as IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

Veritas will next week add to its storage software arsenal new Veritas ServPoint Appliance Software, which it will roll out over the course of the next two months. ServPoint software products for both network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs) will let users assign appliance-like storage serving tasks and storage capacity to mixed vendor devices within their choice of storage network, said Roland Schmidt, senior director of products management for Veritas' appliance software division. The Veritas software also works with Sun's T-3.

ServPoint NAS Appliance software for Sun's Solaris operating environment is already available from Veritas. Intel-based and Linux-based versions of the same are due within a few months. ServPoint SAN Appliance software is currently going into the beta testing stage, Schmidt said.

Sun works closely with Veritas and licences many of Veritas' software tools, but for Sun, having a complete in-house storage software stack is vital to building its image as an enterprise storage player.

With its new storage software and hardware strategy, Sun officials are confident that the company is now on a level playing field with storage competitors such as IBM, Compaq and EMC.

Repeated assaults, like that by Veritas, on Sun's potential storage market made the time ripe for Sun to make a stand and defend itself as an enterprise storage vendor, Taneja said.

"Sun is a very strong server player with a very weak storage offering. It has been the least desirable in the market place, which is why EMC, Veritas, and others have had a field day on it," Taneja said. "So Sun is doing the right thing by saying, 'Look, stop, I want my unfair share of the storage part of the business' because up to now [Sun] has not been getting their fair shake."

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