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Sun looks to knit together SAN, NAS

Sun is trying to reappear on the storage radar screen by offering seven new products, most aimed at consolidating management of SAN and NAS systems.

Sun Microsystems Inc. made a bundle of seven storage-related announcements at its quarterly Network Computing product launch and conference this week in New York, the biggest of which is the release of a new NAS gateway that can connect to SAN systems.

According to a press release, the new StorEdge 5310 NAS Appliance Gateway is intended to be part of an effort by Sun to provide "a more comprehensive…network-computing solution that manages and secures disparate data, software, systems and users."

"They're starting to identify which products work well together, and are working with partners to provide complete solutions," said Richard Villars, vice president of storage systems with IDC. "For end customers as well as business partners, Sun is recognizing that those people would like a better integrated package that they can buy and assemble more easily and effectively, instead of having to create their own versions."

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The 5310 has currently been tested with Sun's 6920, 9970 and 9980 storage systems. Testing with the 9990 and 9985 systems will be complete by next quarter. It is available in two versions -- as a single controller unit starting at $54,000 and a cluster beginning at $81,000.

Sun also looks to shore up gaps in low-end tape offerings not filled by products from the newly acquired Storage Technology Corp. through an OEM deal with Quantum Corp. The result is two of what Sun is calling "C-Series" boxes, the C2 autoloader and the C4 tape library.

The C2 is a 2U box with an eight-slot magazine for either LTO or SDLT cartridges with a standard barcode reader, starting at $8,925; a 16-slot version is available starting at $9,695. The C4 is a 4U box available in two versions -- a 32-slot SDLT version and a 38-slot LTO version, and starts at $11,990. In both pricing and specs it is virtually identical to the PX502 library, which Quantum also announced today.

Meanwhile, Sun is also announcing upgrades to its 3000 series arrays that will see an Ultra160/m SCSI interface in the previous version, the 3310, move up to an Ultra320/m SCSI interface in the new 3320, doubling the throughput to disk drive.

"The significance is that the 3000 series is typically sold through the channel and with servers. It will be a platform for storage with the new Opteron products, as well as Sun's Sunfire X4100, X4200 and X2100 new servers that's faster than the previous one we could provide for it," said Randy Kerns, vice president of strategy and planning in Sun's data management group.

Finally, Sun announced three new software products: StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager 4 (ESM 4); StorEdge Data Replicator software; and StorEdge Workload Analysis Tool and Sun StorEdge VD Bench Performance Tool.

ESM 4 is a software portal that will allow users to manage all their storage applications in one GUI. "It's all right in front of you with that portal and you don't have to run other applications or go into the framework and launch other software," Kearns said. "It's a one-point image on what's going on with our storage." The product is free up to 10 terabytes (TB), with a licensing fee list-priced at $1,000 for every 10 TB thereafter, An unlimited site-wide license is also available at a list price of $22,500.

The Data Replicator is a Sun rebranding of software from Engenio Technologies Inc. that will replicate data between 6,130 arrays. The software supports both synchronous and asynchronous replication of two arrays connected via Fibre Channel.There can be up to 32 pairs for replication between units using the software, which is list priced at $25,990 per array.

The analysis tools were developed by Sun, according to Kearns, to be used as part of the Storage Performance Council benchmarking process. They will be available free to Sun users through its channel partners, he said.

Kearns said that the products were "in the pipeline" for Sun before its acquisition of Storage Technology Copr. (StorageTek), and will be branded as StorEdge until it is replaced by the StorageTek name, a transition that is slated to take place beginning this quarter.

Analysts: Sun trying to shed 'non-entity' status

Things with Sun have been touch and go over the last few years, especially in the storage space.

"There is that feeling out there that they're sort of becoming something of a nonentity in storage space," said John Webster, president of the Data Mobility Group. "There's still the old [statement by Sun CEO] Scott McNeely that just doesn't seem to die, which is that storage is just a feature of the server. He hasn't yet been able to live that one down.

"This is probably the most forceful demonstration that Sun has ever made that says that Scott may have been right at one point in time, but definitely isn't right now."

"Scott likes to fire from the hip," Kearns admitted. "Sun's been trying. We just put $4.1 billion where our mouth is. We're focused on it and if you talk to [Sun president] Jonathan [Schwartz] the first thing he will tell you is that storage is critical to this company."

According to Webster, how Sun manages its acquisition of StorageTek will make or break the company's success in storage. "If they can't manage this acquisition, they'll wind up reverting back to the default position, which is, 'Yes, we sell storage but what we really are is another kind of company, and storage just sort of goes along for the ride.' "

"One thing users have been looking for from Sun is a way to tie their storage products together," Villars said. "Part of the issue with the merger is that now you have a host of products that have to be worked out over the next month or two.

"In many ways, Sun has the broadest portfolio of storage behind IBM, and they're really the only company that has products across the mainframe, Unix and low-end markets. Their challenge is not to take their eyes off the strategic customer base that StorageTek brings them."

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