Sun Sheds Light on New Strategies

Storage Market and Linux get a boost

At its annual analyst conference this week in San Francisco, Sun Microsystems, Inc. announced new strategies in the storage market and Linux.

Today, Sun announced a wide-ranging Linux strategy that encompasses its server, software, and storage lines. Most notably, Sun announced it would develop and ship its own Linux distribution, as well as a new line of Intel-based Linux servers.

Sun already offers a line of low-end Linux file-and-print servers through its Cobalt line of appliance servers, which it acquired with its purchase of Cobalt Networks, Inc. in September, 2000. Now it plans to move beyond the appliances into full-fledged uniprocessor and 2-way Linux servers.

With the announcement of its Linux distribution, Sun has made an about-face from its position on Linux two years ago. When Sun launched Solaris 8 in early 2000, it began offering a no-cost version for Intel servers, in part to draw users away from Linux and to a “real” enterprise operating system.

Today, it appears Sun has decided to stop fighting the tide and exploit the similarities between Linux and its Solaris Unix flavor. Sun is working to improve the affinity between Solaris and Linux.

It also announced today Solaris 9 would use many of the standard Linux compilers, runtimes, and utilities. It also announced a Linux Compatibility Tool, LinCAT, which enables developers to create applications to run on both Linux and Solaris.

Any Java developer knows Sun is more than a server company, and it is also supporting Linux for a variety of its software packages. Its forthcoming Sun ONE (Open Network Environment) software suite will ship for Linux. SunONE is its attempt to counter Microsoft Corp’s .NET strategy for deploying Web Services on its platform.

Linux support is nothing new for Sun software. Its StarOffice productivity suite is becoming a standard desktop application for Linux users and its Forte for Java IDE is optimized for Linux. Conversely, Sun has committed to making the Solaris user experience similar to Linux. The Gnome desktop environment, which was developed for Linux, is available for Solaris, and Sun has said it would use Gnome 2.0 as its standard desktop on Solaris 9. 

Yesterday, Sun unveiled a new storage strategy that includes new software and hardware offerings and a roadmap for a future storage platform. According to John Maxwell, vice president of marketing, network storage at Sun, Sun hopes to capitalize on a rapidly growing segment of the industry. “Sun realizes 50 to 70 cents of every IT dollar is going to be spent on storage going forward,” he says.

On the software side, Sun unveiled its new storage software initiative, Storage ONE, made up of software products that reach from the filesystem to management frameworks.

Storage ONE consists of three layers, Data Access, which includes filesystems and basic sharing protocols; Data Continuance, backup and availability software; and Storage Resource Management, tools for using storage effectively.

 “There’s not a lot of discipline in the area of storage management,” Maxwell says. He cites numbers that indicate only 20-40% of storage in Windows environments and 30-50% of storage in Unix environments is properly used. Sun hopes to help enterprises use 70-80% of available storage with its Storage ONE products. “You’re not going to hear that from EMC,” Maxwell says, suggesting EMC is more interested in shipping disk drives than helping its customers.

Storage ONE software works with most storage systems, including systems from rivals EMC and IBM. While the low-level products like filesystems will not work with other operating systems, the larger frameworks are compatible with nearly all Unices and Windows. “With Storage Resource Management, we can go out there and view AIX systems,” Maxwell says.

Maxwell contrasts this interoperability with framework products from EMC, which only work with EMC and Compaq products.

To complement its StorEdge 9900 enterprise storage array, Sun rolled out two midrange offerings, the StorEdge 3900 and StorEdge 6900.  Sun positions its new storage offerings against EMC Corp.’s low-end Clariion storage units.

An entry-level StorEdge 3900 ships with 655GB of raw capacity and costs about $78,000. A top-of-the-line model can support up to 11.8TB with an expansion cabinet. The systems support both NT and Solaris servers.

The StorEdge 6900 is a step up from the entry-level product with advanced management features with support for virtualization, a greater number of hosts, and load balancing.

Sun also announced enhancements to its StorEdge 9900 enterprise storage line, which it announced last fall. The arrays now support director-level SAN controllers and have a complementary tape library, the L6000.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.