By William Fellows Sun Microsystems Inc says it’s not so much replacing its storage line with the modular ‘brick’ technology from Maxstrat Corp as introducing a product that users will be able scale to serve all of their storage requirements. It’s like an operating system to which you can add functionality, Janpieter Scheerder president of […]
By William Fellows
Sun Microsystems Inc says it’s not so much replacing its storage line with the modular ‘brick’ technology from Maxstrat Corp as introducing a product that users will be able scale to serve all of their storage requirements. It’s like an operating system to which you can add functionality, Janpieter Scheerder president of Sun’s Network Storage division told ComputerWire, and like some users will be happy to stay with the Solaris 7 operating system, others will want to move on to new versions as they are released.
Scheerder points to EMC Corp’s ‘big box’ strategy of packing rows and rows of disks and controllers in one unit, suggesting it allows users little leeway to add, adapt or change storage capacity as required. Boxed services, says Sun, are fixed function, closed architectures, tied to the box and offer no way to innovate. Even Data General Corp’s Clariion storage systems are still disks behind a server, it says.
Scheerder, who has been reinventing Sun’s storage strategy on the back of Maxstrat, says the key thing that Sun has learned is that there is no perfect product. Things will always go wrong. However the skill set it has on tap with the Maxstrat team offers a radically different approach to problem solving than the traditional systems market which is obsessed with creating standalone products that never break down.
The Maxtrat-informed approach that Scheerder favors will be implicit in the new StorEdge product lines going forward, drawing on the telecom industry’s network principles. When something on a telco network goes wrong, a router, switch or circuit malfunctions, engineers will typically not try to fix the offending device. Instead they will use the network to work around and isolate the offending part and then take it out.
Moreover, it is these skills and the ability to make Sun’s collection of storage software work across storage networks that is Scheerder’s value proposition. The modular storage ‘brick’ itself is less important, although there are important algorithms and patents it has acquired with Maxstrat which will enable Sun to implement this vision.
Unlike IBM Corp and other storage vendors, Scheerder believes that storage technology itself is not rocket science. What’s key is understanding the changing storage requirements which need to be met. The majority of data, Scheerder believes, is not text but made up by more bulky voice, graphics and other multimedia files. Just look on your own desktop, he says. This means the equations that define the relationship between the compute performance necessary to process an organization’s data are changing radically. Operating a network of modular, scalable storage devices enables users to keep pace with these changing demands and workloads, Scheerder claims.
Scheerder is at pains to distinguish storage area networks (SAN) from traditional network environments such as LANs, which have nothing to do with SANs. Deploying storage on a SANs is analogous to the way systems can be clustered together to form a larger ‘virtual’ processing resource.
Point products such as storage appliances created for use in specific application environments such as filing, caching and other tasks are short term solutions according to Scheerder. As a user’s storage requirements grow, these ring-fenced solutions will be terribly difficult to upgrade or migrate from, he believes.
Scheerder says he honestly does not know what percentage of a system sale price is storage. Sun says storage accounts for 22 cents of every dollar of revenue. Some estimates suggest storage spending could be more than 50% of the costs of a system sale in some cases. Scheereder says that whatever actual figure spending on storage is much more than people think, he says.