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Sun's Unified Storage Systems

12:05 PM -- Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA) last week announced the availability of its Unified Storage Systems -- the Sun Storage 7000 family, also known as "Amber Road." That is the main event and driver in a discussion about Sun that has to include the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lets start off with the good news.

Sun calls the Storage 7000 family the "world's first Open Storage appliances" and proclaims them to be "the biggest thing to happen to storage in decades." Although that is excessive market hype, putting it mildly, the product is actually quite clever and innovative and a tribute to Sun's technical skills. The Storage 7000 family consists of three appliances (the Sun Storage 7110, 7210, and 7410) ranging in overall capacity from 2 Tbytes to 288 Tbytes. Only the high end 7410 offers a cluster configuration (for higher availability), meaning that it is targeted for enterprise-class configurations, whereas the lower-end products are designed for smaller installations.

Unified storage can run both NAS and SAN solutions, and Sun draws heavily upon its well regarded ZFS (Zettabyte File System) in the Storage 7000 family. EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) (in conjunction with its strong working relationship with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)) are leaders in the unified storage space. However, both those companies tend to focus their solutions into IT environments that have a strong NAS presence but would like to handle SAN as well.

Sun, on the other hand, has focused on enabling the Storage 7000 family to serve general purpose storage requirements. That is despite the fact that the company keeps referring to the Storage 7000 as a line of appliances. Since storage appliances are typically dedicated to specific functions, Sun's use of the term to describe a general purpose solution is both odd and confusing.

A key Sun messaging point for the Storage 7000 is on making life simpler for storage administrators. That starts with ease of installation, which Sun claims takes only minutes, but continues with key processes such as thin provisioning, a function which is implicit in ZFS (as logical storage pools can be grown or shrunk transparently as long as there is enough physical storage to support them). Another Storage 7000 technology that makes everyday administration easier is DTrace, a set of analytics that enables real-time system diagnostics. Sun feels that DTrace can improve storage system troubleshooting to a degree unparalleled in the industry.

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