Sun fleshes out new storage strategy

Declining sales in the sector will be addressed by new prodcuts

Sun has announced a four-part strategy for data management that focuses on identity management, virtualisation, security and hardware/software integration.

In its annoucement, Sun backed its vision with product announcements and plans, including some that involve technologies acquired via Sun’s US$4.1 billion (NZ$6.4 billion) purchase of StorageTek last year.

For example, Sun has integrated the identity-management capabilities, obtained via its acquisition of Waveset, with its StorageTek Enterprise Storage Manager software, allowing customers to discover, monitor, report and charge-back users for storage use. The company is also adding encryption to StorageTek storage devices and providing centralised key management for data and tapes, via Waveset’s technology.

“Identity is the most critical component of a secure [information life-cycle management] architecture,” former Sun chief executive Scott McNealy says.

Analysts say Sun’s focus areas could translate into stronger hardware sales if customers buy into the connection between identity management and storage.

“The new strategy repositions Sun storage software to the forefront,” says William Hurley, senior analyst for the Data Mobility Group. “Every dollar spent on software drags in $10 in hardware sales.”

Sun’s position in storage has declined in recent years, according to IDC. Sun had only 4.6% of the worldwide revenue share of disk storage in the fourth quarter of 2005, and that was down slightly from the quarter a year earlier, IDC says.

Sun’s plans show it isn’t standing still in the face of these numbers. Among other new products touted was its StorageTek 5320 NAS Appliance, a network-attached storage device that supports Fibre Channel and Serial Advanced Technology Attachment drives.

The 5320 is 55% faster than Sun’s previous NAS appliance, the company says. It scales from 2T to 179TB, supports iSCSI and can act as a gateway to the Sun StorEdge 6130 and 6920 systems, as well as to the StorEdge 9970, 9980, 9985, 9990 systems and Sun FlexLine storage systems. It also features antivirus support and, optionally, includes archiving software for compliance issues. The company says it provides authenticity, integrity, access and security, to meet regulations. The StorageTek 5320 NAS appliance starts at US$50,000 for a 2TB system.

Sun also refreshed its Sun StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM), a virtual tape appliance for mainframe environments. VSM 5 and VSM 4e maximise tape cartridge use, save on datacentre floor space and optimise batch processing, the company says. The new models support double the capacity and performance of previous VSM appliances. The VSM 4e and 5 systems are expected to be available by the end of July.

On the service side, Sun introduced its Managed Operations for Storage, which is designed to lower IT staffing costs and decrease the number of licenses needed for software that manages storage. It boosts database performance via reporting, and improves storage provisioning and allocation under service-level agreements, Sun says.

Sun also previewed Projects Honeycomb and Thumper. Honeycomb is Sun’s content-addressable storage array, consisting of processors that can be scaled horizontally to create a low-cost clustered architecture that supports self-healing and load-balancing. Honeycomb supports the Network File System and is expected to support Microsoft’s Common Internet File System soon, sources say.

Project Thumper, an Opteron server with lots of storage capacity, will let customers store and archive data that is not critical to business.

Both Honeycomb and Thumper are in beta tests. Thumper is expected to ship this month.