Sun Bangs 'Thumper' Drum

Vendor unveils its next-gen server/storage hybrid and touts more 'open storage'

July 10, 2008

3 Min Read
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Sun ramped up its open storage strategy today, overhauling its "Thumper" server/storage hybrid and unveiling its J4000 line of storage arrays .

It’s a line of JBOD products that allows us to expand the capabilities of an open storage environment,” says Jason Schaffer, Sun’s director of storage product management, explaining that these can be connected to storage arrays and servers running the vendor’s OpenSolaris operating system and its ZFS file system.

The J4200 and the J4440, both launched today, support, respectively, 12 and 24 3.5 inch SAS/SATA drives.

Pricing for the JBODs, which compete with HP’s MSA offerings, starts at $3000. Sun is also planning to launch a high end, 48-drive version, the J4500, later this month, priced from $22,000.

The vendor has also refreshed its X4500 Thumper device, which it launched amidst much fanfare two years ago.The X4540, which will be available later this month, offers a significant performance hike, according to Schaffer, who explains that it can handle data at up to 3 Gbytes per second, 30 to 50 percent faster than the X4500.

”We went to the next-generation Intel processors [and] we have used the latest generation of our Solaris ZFS software,” he explains, adding that the J4000 JBODs can also be connected to the X4540.

Users were unable to add external storage to the original version of Thumper, according to the exec.

”If you wanted to expand, you had to expand horizontally by adding more storage servers with CPU and storage,” he says. “[But] customers can now go up to 480 drives behind a single storage server.”

Sun has also changed its pricing structure for the server/storage hybrid, with X4050 pricing starting at $22,000. “It’s less expensive,” says Schaffer, explaining that the X4500’s average price was somewhere between $28,000 and $32,000.Despite Sun’s renewed focus on its hybrid technology, the vendor, somewhat surprisingly, remains guarded on Thumper’s take-up.

”We don’t give out specifics on unit sales, but the area is experiencing significant growth year-over-year,” says Schaffer, somewhat vaguely.

Sun has named just four customers that are using the J4000 and the Sun Fire x4540: search engine; the Manukau Institute of Technology in New Zealand; German services firm PixelPark AG; and Oregon State University (OSU), which is using the devices to support its seismic research.

”We have had them up and running for three or four weeks,” says Chuck Sears, research computing manager at OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “We have been beating the heck out of them 24 by 7.”

The official explained that his department is using a J4000 and an X4540 to store data from a vast global network of ocean sensors monitoring seismic activity.”We can start a project, and, as our [data] modeling and our sensors ramp up, we can add additional storage on demand, without getting us into a whole convoluted storage solution,” he says. “This is something, with the original Thumper, that you were not able to do.”

The College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, which has generated about a Pbyte of data from its research, is also looking to tap into the X4540’s 10-Gbit/s Ethernet capabilities at some point in the future.

”What we’re looking for is faster pipes to get the data out, so we have been heavily investigating 10-Gig,” he says. “We’re hoping to get more bandwidth coming out of both of those [J4000 and X4540] heads.”

As recently rumored, Sun will now end-of-life the X4500, although Schaffer promised Byte and Switch that this will not be anytime soon. “Of course, every product that will have a successor will be end-of-lifed, but there are no immediate plans to end-of-life the X4500.”

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  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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