Sun Renews Commitment To Tape Storage

Despite the pending acquisition by Oracle, Sun enhances its data center tape systems and announces plans to develop new tape products.

May 20, 2009

4 Min Read
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Sun Microsystems is about to become part of Oracle, a giant enterprise software company, which has raised many questions about the future of Sun's hardware product lines. The company this week made clear that it isn't backing away from the mature tape storage market when it announced several enhancements to its family of tape products and disclosed plans to work with partner Fujifilm to develop a new generation of Sun StorageTek tape drives.

Sun StorageTek Virtual Storage Managers (VSM) has been posting double-digit gains in revenue year over year, the company said, and it expects to see continued growth in that product line despite the poor economy and tight IT budgets. "Sun has the most comprehensive enterprise storage portfolio in the industry, with unmatched virtualization technology that enables our customers to utilize their assets more efficiently, greatly reduce risk and simplify their management processes," Jon Benson, Sun's senior vice-president of Storage, said in a statement.

Sun intends to build on that momentum by developing new tape drive technology with Fujifilm, which will be developing new media for the Sun StorageTek T10000 tape drive. That system already offers tapes with 1 TB of capacity and the company said it intend to launch new systems with greater capacity and performance.

Sun has tripled the capacity of its Sun StorageTek VSM 5 to 90 TB and added the ability to have clustered replication across VSMs to three or more locations, which will help large enterprises with several data centers to replicate to each site for disaster recovery and load balancing. Replication can take place over IP or Ficon. Sun executives said this capability should appeal to financial institutions that want redundancy in DR sites and more flexibility in setting up complex connections using less expensive network infrastructure. The company also introduced the Sun StorageTek VSM 5e, described as a less expensive version of the VSM 5 that's designed for disaster recovery and test sites.

For tape libraries, the new Sun StorageTek SL3000 Access Expansion Module (AEM) comes with redundant and replaceable robotics and enables bulk loading and unloading of tapes. The AEM works with the Sun StorageTekSL3000, the company's mid-range tape library, and aims to cut the amount of time customers spend managing their tapes. "This lets you replace a robot on the fly, non-disruptively," said Tom Wultich, group manager for tape libraries and drives at Sun. "We've also added removable magazines in that module so you can do a mass replace very quickly, a bulk load or off load. It has proved very popular with customers.

Sun also combined a batch of mainframe software products into a single package called Sun StorageTek Enterprise Library software that includes repackaging and rebranding its virtual tape and library software suites.

Sun customers endorsed the new products. Charles Inches, first vice president at Corn??r Banca, a private Swiss bank, said Sun's Virtual Storage Manager took over key disaster recovery and management functions, reducing the workload on other systems. He said in a statement the bank is now "able to handle 30 percent year-over-year data growth without increasing the number of system engineers and storage administrators."

Mark Lemmons, chief technology officer at Thought Equity Motion, which provides online content and other services to the entertainment and corporate production industries, said in a statement the company is using a Sun StorageTek T10000 tape drive to use its library of content as "an online storage resource, delivering thousands of very large files to our customers per month. It gives us the throughput and scalable capacity we need to support our expanding content archive and meet the growing demand for our services."

Sun continues to invest in tape storage technology, even though sales of tape products are flat or declining. Little growth is expected in tape in the future, but it is still a multi-billion dollar market and many enterprises still rely on tape for long-term storage of data and company files. And tape is among the most green and energy efficient storage technologies available. That is not expected to change quickly, so there is money to be made by increasing the capabilities, capacities and features of tape systems.

"We continued to be very bullish of the value of tape as part of a tiered storage architecture," said Alex North, group manager for data protection and archive solutions at Sun.

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