Sun Microsystems Inc yesterday improved the prospects of an end to its slumping storage sales by launching a raft of new products that included an advanced virtualization system – not based on Hitachi’s technology – and a disk array that Sun said marks a major commitment to NAS.
Alongside those products Sun also launched a pre-packaged disk-based archiving system, updates to its SAM-FS/QFS file system, and an extension of its per-capacity disk pricing into the midrange. Much of this technology was previewed by the company this summer (ComputerWire June 2 2004). Finally, Sun blew the trumpet for its OEM’ed version of the updated Lightning storage array that Hitachi very recently launched.
Sun needs new storage products. Last year the combined market for external and internal disk grew 1% to reach $20bn, according to IDC, while Sun’s revenue fell by 8%, and its market share dropped to just 6% of total.
The NAS box that Sun launched yesterday marks the company’s very late entry into network-attached storage. This is the first NAS box we’re proud of, yes. About two years ago we launched a filer, but that was just a Solaris box that was easy to order, said Chris Wood, chief technologist for Sun’s data management group.
We took our eye off the ball. You must have NAS. We’ve recognized our mistake, and we’ve done what we needed to do to get ourselves seriously into this sector. This is absolutely a major commitment for us, he said.
The new NAS device is called the StorEdge 5210, and consists of NAS file system and operating system technology OEM’ed from Procom, running on Sun’s Intel-Xeon-powered hardware, and integrated with Sun’ storage management software and interfaces. This is attached to a Sun 3000-series disk array OEM’ed from Dothill.
The 5210 scales to 6TB, and will be followed by more devices, some of which will be clustered. Sun will also port the NAS head to AMD’s Opteron processor, but Wood insisted the migration will be seamless for users. We’re not going to port to Solaris anytime within the next 18 months, and if we did that would be seamless too, he said. The first updates bringing in FC and SATA disk options for greater capacity will ship this year, and clustered and iSCSI-supporting variants will ship in the first half of next year, Sun said.
We start at a lower price than NetApp’s FAS 250 but with more horsepower, and even without clustering we can match the power of Netapp’s 270 cluster, Wood claimed, on the basis of SpecFS benchmarks. That’s a benchmark you run to get an idea of performance, and I’ll leave it at that. ComputerWire was not able to contact NetApp for comment before press time.
The mid-range virtualization system launched by Sun yesterday is called the Storedge 6920, and is separate to the newly virtualized Lightning. It is based on an unusual virtualization architecture that Sun gained when it bought Pirus Networks Inc in 2002, and which Sun says offers far more throughput than other mid-range virtualization systems. Reversing Sun’s sometimes parochial attitude to storage, the device will be offered with wide cross-vendor support.
We placed our storage architecture bet heavily on the Pirus technology. Finally we have it, said Chris Wood, If we’d had it last year, our revenue would have been significantly better, he said.
The 6920 consists of a Pirus router attached to Sun’s 6120 mid-range disk array. The 6120 was a successor to Sun’s unpopular T3 arrays, which among other things suffered from an architecture that involved multiple controllers and a resultant heavy management workload. But with the Pirus box virtualizing all the 6120 disk capacity, that problem is solved. The 6120 is all behind the Pirus box, so it looks like a single image, said Evaluator Group analyst Randy Kerns.
But Sun is not wasting Pirus technology simply on propping up its mid-range arrays. As with other virtualization systems one of the most attractive features of the Pirus device is that it allows data replication between different brands of storage array. Sun said that by the end of 1Q05 the 6920 will support EMC Clariion and Hewlett-Packard EVA mid-range disk arrays, as well as the Engenio-made arrays that are OEMed by StorageTek and IBM.
While the OEM’ed Lightning will provide high-end virtualization for Sun’s portfolio, the 6920 will be a mid-range device. Sun’s enlightened cross-vendor attitude was probably encouraged by the fact that without it, the poor mid-range showing of Sun’s hardware would have meant that the Pirus technology would have been very much wasted.
The delay between acquiring Pirus, packaging its technology with the 6120 and promising cross-vendor support has come because the Pirus device is not a simple appliance-based product like other mid-range virtualization systems, according to Woods. Although it too is an in-band device, its software does not run on an Intel server but on a router, and as such does not present the same risk of limited throughput and a network bottleneck.
To get the hundreds of thousands of IOPs people need we built in 16-way parallel processing, and a dual cross-bar backplane, Wood said. He claimed that in SFS benchmark tests the device can virtualize data traffic 50% faster than IBM FastT 900 can deliver unvirtualized data, and beat an HP EVA array by an even greater margin.
This is a full-blown router, not a switch. You can put anything you want on the front -FC, Infiniband, GigE, and put anything at the back. Shove a gigabit Ethernet blade in the front, and the disk array at the back is immediately iSCSI-enabled, while the data handling in the middle is unaffected, Wood said.