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Sun and NAS to meet again

Sun is taking its third stab at the NAS market, this time via a software licensing deal with Procom.

Sun Microsystems is in the throes of developing a new line of NAS storage based on technology it licensed earlier this month from Procom Technology, an established, if diminished vendor of both midrange and low-end NAS storage.

The company will develop two basic NAS lines, "one in the $25K to $75K range, the other in the $75K to $200K enterprise range," says Fidelma Russo, Sun vice president of quality engineering and file system storage. Russo came to Sun six months ago from EMC by way of Data General, which first developed the Clariion modular SAN array.

Officially, these NAS arrays, tentatively dubbed the 5000 line, will be announced in September, when Sun is slated to do a quarterly product announcement, but actual products will ship sooner.

This won't be Sun's first attempt at developing and selling NAS storage, but with Sun's recently renewed focus on "execution," and profitability, vs. strategy and "the grand vision," Russo has high hopes for this line. In the past, she says, "the belief at Sun was that you could take a Sun server and put some software on it" [a.k.a the 8000 series]. What was missing from Sun's strategy, she says, was "the ease of use" as exemplified by Network Appliance's filers. By licensing Procom technologies such as its GUI as well as its Microsoft CIFS (Common Internet File System) support, that should change.

Procom, Russo admits, has "fallen off the map" as of late, but not because its technology is in any way lacking. Rather, it's their "inability to execute in the midrange and enterprise space" that has hurt them. Randy Kerns, senior partner with the Evaluator Group, concurs. "They are a bit player because of distribution problems, but they have very good products."

Still, Sun has its work cut out for it convincing customers to give it a second chance with NAS. An informal survey of delegates of the Storage Decisions show in New York City yesterday revealed that while about half had had some form of Sun storage in house, that it had either been taken out, or was relegated to a homogeneous Sun environment. "Those Sun guys, they like to do their own thing," one delegate quipped.


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