Sun Opens Tape Again

Unveils open tape strategy in Vegas - months after ditching StorageTek's Open VSM

October 12, 2006

3 Min Read
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Sun today unveiled the long-awaited replacement for the Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) Open tape management technology it ditched earlier this year, as it attempts to tie up the loose ends from its StorageTek acquisition. (See Sun, FalconStor Develop VTL and Sun Shuts Door on VSM Open.)

The vendor used its Forum user conference in Last Vegas to release its heterogeneous tape roadmap, detailing plans for Virtual Tape Library (VTL) appliances based on the Solaris 10 operating system and software from FalconStor.

StorageTek spent more than two years developing VSM Open, only for Sun to can the technology earlier this year, before the first units were even launched. Last year, Sun admitted that it was struggling with VSM Open, prompting frustration from StorageTek users waiting on the technology. (See StorageTek Users Voice Support Fears and Sun Closes on StorageTek .)

Today, however, Sun announced its own tape management plans. A low end appliance, VTL Plus, will be available this quarter, according to Jon Benson, Sun's vice president of tape storage, and a high end offering, VTL Enterprise, will be on the market sometime next year.

"It will be completely heterogeneous," adds Benson. "Regardless of OS, it will work with any environment." The exec, however, would not reveal pricing for the devices.FalconStor's specific involvement in this effort, though boasted by Sun, is unclear, although Benson told Byte and Switch that Sun is getting its paws on some "exclusive" VTL software. The appliances will also offer enhancements in areas such as disaster recovery, back-end tape integration, and management.

Originally, StorageTek had planned to use Linux as the core operating system behind the VSM Open platform, although Sun ditched this effort in favor of its own Solaris 10. "It didn't make sense to take the path that we were taking," says Benson, explaining that the Sun saved on R&D by using its own operating system."I can take that money and spend it on virtualization [features]," he adds.

Well, maybe. Sun may now have a mountain to climb after its VSM Open delay. Although StorageTek had a VSM product for mainframes since 1998, it fell behind EMC and NetApp, rival tape vendors ADIC and Quantum, and startup Sepaton, in offering a virtual tape product for open systems. (See StorageTek Flexes Disk.)

"They lost a lot of credibility with their customers [and] they allowed EMC to get more and more of that business," says Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "I spoke to one StorageTek customer that got rid of a bunch of StorageTek libraries and replaced them with EMC libraries."

Sun also took the wraps off a new storage partner strategy today, announcing interoperability efforts with a slew of partners, including BakBone, Brocade, Dot Hill, EMC, Hitachi, and McData.Despite this flurry of activity, Sun is still playing its cards close to its chest on its "Honeycomb," product, a form of storage device that can execute application code. (See Sun Signals Say 'Storage' and Sun's Storage Rebounds.)

Currently, around 10 software vendors are working with Sun on the Honeycomb project, according to Gastao de Figuredo, the vendor's director of market development & new business ventures. "In the next 12 months, our [Honeycomb] activities are really focused around ISVs and OEMs," he says, adding that the technology will be available to users sometime next year.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • BakBone Software Inc.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • The Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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