Sun Bangs OpenSolaris Drum... Again

Sun reveals the state of its open storage nation, touts growing customer base

August 20, 2008

3 Min Read
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Paul Korzeniowski, August 20, 2008, 11:50 AM

The ability to seize early momentum can be the difference between success and failure. So less than four months after its announcement, Sun Microsystems is trying to drum up more support for its OpenSolaris Storage initiative, touting its growing membership, rising customer base, and increasing number of community projects.

During the last few years, Sun has been moving down the open storage path. In 2007, for example, the company published the source code on a number of its NAS technologies, including the ZFS file system and parallel NFS. In April 2008, Sun formally announced its OpenSolaris Storage initiative, opening up Solaris code related to iSCSI device drivers, QLogic Fibre Channel HBA drivers, and Java implementations of the RPC and NFS protocols, so third parties could enhance its solutions. In addition, new developer tools and expanded professional services were designed to make it simpler for third parties to deliver OpenSolaris Storage solutions.

The moves signaled a couple of changes for the vendor. Sun has been caught in the user movement away from proprietary products to open source solutions. Hardware had been commoditized, software had been commoditized, and we knew that storage would be next,” says Bob Porras, vice president, Solaris Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC Platforms at Sun.

Another change is that the new products have a decidedly small and medium-sized business focus. “If OpenSolaris is successful, it will not be Sun’s traditional enterprise customers who will drive that movement,” explains Stephanie Balaouras, a research analyst at Forrester Research.Typically being conservative, these companies have been leery of embracing open source solutions. Small and medium businesses, as well as departments in large enterprises have been more attracted to the low prices and easy installation that open source products often promise. Sun's new tools are designed to enable customers to deploy OpenSolaris storage servers in as little as 10 minutes.

To change its marketing approach successfully, Sun will have to make its plans clear to end users. “Potential customers will have to understand that Sun’s movement to open source is not just a concept; the technology will be incorporated into various Sun products,” said Forrester’s Balaouras. The vendor has tried to do that with recent announcements of the Sun Fire X4500 family of hybrid server/storage systems and its J4000 line of storage arrays.

The result is increased interest in Sun’s storage products. Membership in the OpenSolaris Storage community has grown more than 20 percent in the past three months, and there are now more than 40 projects (twice as many as the company had anticipated) that community members have undertaken. Project Celeste, which is designed to support a peer-to-peer and fault-tolerant distributed storage system, and Project Common Array Manager (CAM), which is geared to making Sun’s disk storage device management software simpler to administer, are two recent additions to that list. Customers, such as Digitar and OurStage, and storage vendors, such as Brocade and Hitachi, have endorsed Sun’s open source movement.

The support comes at a key time for the vendor. Sun’s storage business (as well as its business overall) has stagnated in recent years, with revenue slightly rising or dipping quarter to quarter. The vendor hopes that coupling its servers and storage systems will spur sales of both of its cornerstone products. The initial results have been encouraging but more time is needed before it will become clear whether or not Sun will attract sufficient support to make OpenSolaris Storage a success.

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  • Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT)

  • Forrester Research Inc.

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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