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Sun recharges its storage line

Among Sun's swath of server and software news, there's a smattering of storage updates –- notably the 6920 Pirus box.

During its quarterly product refresh event to be held in Shanghai this week, Sun Microsystems Inc. will unveil a handful of new storage products, including a low-end Fibre Channel Serial ATA (SATA) array, a NAS device, a new pay-as-you-go purchasing scheme, software enhancements to its SAN file system and archive manager and its long-awaited Data Services Platform, the StorEdge 6920.

The 6920 belongs in Sun's mid-range 6000 series and is the product the company picked up 18 months ago when it shelled out $160 million to acquire Pirus Networks Inc. The 6920, available in July, is an appliance that sits on the network and provides smart storage applications like snapshot and virtualization.

Right now, the 6920 can only virtualize the storage capacity of other 6000 series Sun boxes but, by the end of the year, the company promises to support other Sun storage arrays and select third-party products, a company spokesman said. Sun is also working on an iSCSI blade for the 6920, which will ship in early 2005.

Randy Kerns, senior partner at the Evaluator Group, expressed concern at Sun's sloth-like approach to supporting heterogeneous storage. "This is so important, it's probably a matter of testing, but the sooner they do it the better," he said. Kearns added that offering services like point-in-time-copy and virtualization from the network is great for end users, as it frees them from being locked in with a single vendor.

Other notable new functions for the 6000 series include a suite of 16 application profiles, available now, that automatically configure the storage on the back end to work in tune with whichever application is in use. "An online transaction processing (OLTP) workload is very different to a data warehousing workload in terms of configuring the disks for access patterns. … We have pre-caned these configurations to save the administrator this time," the Sun spokesman said. Sun has profiles for Oracle Corp., Sybase Inc., SAP AG and most of the other major electronic resource planning (ERP) applications. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Inc. is another advocate of this application-centric approach to storage management.

Other announcements from Sun this week appear to be designed to cash in on the buzz around Information Lifecycle Management (ILM), regulatory compliance and low-cost storage.

Sun sheds light on SATA

The company introduced a low-end Serial ATA (SATA) Fibre Channel array, dubbed the 3511, which it will sell through an OEM deal with Dot Hill Systems Corp.

Part of Sun's 3000 entry level series, the 3511 allows users to mix FC and SATA drives in the same subsystem. Following in its ILM competitors footsteps, Sun said this enables users to store their more critical data on reliable Fibre Channel disks, while simultaneously moving less important data to less robust SATA drives.

A Sun spokesman cautioned, "Users need to be cognizant about how they use SATA. You are giving up performance and availability, but gaining density and price."

Sun follows a long list of companies already shipping SATA products, including EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Digi-Data Corp., Engenio Information Technologies Inc. (formally LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc.), which IBM Corp. is reselling, and Ario Data Networks Inc.

The 3511 will be available at the end of June priced from $15,995 for five drives with no controllers to $47,995 for 12 drives with two controllers. Sun also announced the 3120, a 1U SCSI device that acts as a universal boot device for all Sun servers. Until this product, each brand of Sun server required its own boot device.


In an effort to revive the utility purchasing model for storage, Sun announced a new spin on this concept, which it said will really save end users money. "When you lease storage today, you get a box of fixed size, which usually means leasing more than you need," the Sun spokesman said. Under its new approach, Sun takes care of the entire capital equipment cost and the user pays only for what they actually use. Fremont, Calif.-based startup 3Par offers a similar model.

Sun's new scheme is only available for the 9000 series today, which includes the high-end boxes that Sun resells from HDS, but if it's successful, the company said it will extend the offering to the 6000 series. Pricing starts at $1.95/GB/month (or $.02/MB/year) for 146 GB drives and $2.49/GB/month for 73 GB drives. The service includes installation, preventive services engagement (two hours/month/TB) and software maintenance.

Optional subscriptions include $2.00/GB/month for business continuity (shadow image/true copy) and $1.50/GB/month for enhanced management services like performance monitoring and cruise control.

Kerns said that paying millions of dollars off the bat for high-end gear is impractical for some users. "This way, Sun sucks up the huge upfront cost and rather than just giving you storage capacity, it offers the complete administration of the product. This could make a big difference to a user environment in terms of scheduling of costs," he said.

Sun has also extended the model to its channel, enabling resellers of its products to pay only for what they sell, removing their upfront costs in a similar fashion.

Sun sells NAS -- it's official

Sun's NAS partner, Procom, let the cat out of the bag weeks ago, but it's finally official. The first of the 5000 NAS series, dubbed the 5210, is available now. Under the covers of the 5210 is a Sun 3000 series array loaded with NAS software licensed from Procom. Third time lucky, perhaps, for Sun's efforts in the NAS market.

Rounding off the news, Sun announced the next version of its file system, QFS 4.1, which increases the file system size from 250 TB to a petabyte, and SAM FS 4.1, its archive manager, which now offers continuous backup to cut down on the problem of scheduling backups.

The latest enhancements to SAM FS and QFS will form the basis of a compliance offering the company plans to make available in the summer. There will be two flavors, designed to compete with EMC's Centera product. The first will be a large fixed content storage array, available in July, and the second, a compliance edition that will meet all the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations, in the fall.

For more information:

Sun and NAS to meet again

Sun steps up blade strategy

Dig Deeper on NAS devices

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