Sun Microsystems Inc. claims it is wrapping storage software licensing and maintenance costs into one predictable bill with a new subscription-based licensing model, but watch out for the small print. Pricing for storage software has traditionally been a complex black art in which each software component is priced differently and managed differently, and often feels like the vendor has pulled a number out of the air. Today, users buy software on a capacity basis for the number of servers or clients being supported. Maintenance and support costs are separate, and often inexplicably expensive.
Sun says its annual subscription model will give users a predictable bill for storage software and should also lower their total spending as updates to the product and support costs are built in. "This way costs shouldn't escalate out of control," said Jim Comstock, senior director of software strategy in the storage group at Sun.
Sun has packaged its products into four bundles under the Java StorEdge brand. Consolidation Suite includes ESM Advanced Applications; Continuity Suite includes SE5000 Replication, SE6000 Storage Pool Manager, snapshot, replication and mirroring. Backup will be available in the second release of this suite later in the year. Content Suite includes SAM FS, QFS and Solaris, Linux and QFS clients. And Compliance Suite includes SE5000 compliance archiving software.
Under the new model, Sun will charge $350 per employee per year for all four bundles. Or, users can choose capacity-based pricing that starts at $400,000 per year for 5 terabytes of managed storage. This scales depending on the total number of terabytes managed.
Each suite also has its own similar subscription model that offers users a cost saving of around 30% per bundle in comparison to typical, point-product offerings, Sun said. It did not break out the pricing of each suite.
Experts warn that while a subscription approach might lower costs, it also limits choice. "Users will need to weigh simplicity of purchasing and maintenance with … a single-vendor solution," said Nancy Hurley, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.
Computer Associates International Inc. started bundling its BrightStor products a while back and has had a strong positive response from users to that model, according to Hurley.
Sun also has some experience with this model. Its Java Enterprise System, a subscription-based middleware offering, has been available for nine months and has 425,000 subscribers, according to Comstock.
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