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Sun Signals Say 'Storage'

The upcoming quarterly product launch from Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) is likely to feature some long-anticipated storage gear.

Sun's July 11 event is already looking more promising than the company's disappointing roundup in early May. (See Sun Ships Little, Talks Big.) For one thing, it's the first launch presided over by new CEO Jonathan Schwartz, who took over last month. (See Schwartz Shakes Up Sun and Sun Takes Action Amidst Concerns.) At the launch presentation, scheduled to take place at San Francisco's ritzy Palace Hotel in San Francisco, Schwartz, along with EVP of new systems John Fowler, is set to help "showcase new Sun x64 enterprise systems that are modular in design and will set a new level in industry standard technology."

While nothing is set in stone, Sun watchers are hoping that Sun will release at least one of the following long-awaited products:

  • Thumper. This is rumored to be a large NAS filer based on a 2- to 4-unit-high rackount series of Sun Fire servers equipped with Opteron processors. It will run under the Solaris operating system featuring the ZFS file system, which Sun claims combines filing with volume management. Sun is already boasting about Thumper's performance on its Website. Word on the street has it Thumper will support up to 48 SATA drives and several Gigabit Ethernet ports.
  • Honeycomb. This product, demonstrated at the May launch event, is an archiving system that Sun claims performs a number of processes independently of attached servers, including "extensible metadata, SQL query, and the ability to actually execute code inside the storage system." (All this from Sun's literature.) A Sun spokesperson says this system is already shipping to a range of selected customers, even though no GA date's been set. Sun's Website indicates that early adopters will include users of "large data-repository applications used by healthcare, scientific, and educational communities."

    Sun hasn't let on yet who any of the early adopters are, but it has published customers in the areas it's targeting for Honeycomb. These include the Virginia Department of Health, the University of Delaware, and the Research Foundation of the State University of New York. None of these outfits returned calls for comment on their possible knowledge of Sun's Honeycomb at press time.

  • Sun Fire X4600. This is an 8-socket server based on Opteron processors, which apparently has been shipping to selected customers in much the same fashion that Honeycomb has. One of the Galaxy line of Opteron-based servers (the X4600) could also presage the release of 4- and 8-socket blade servers from Sun, which are also on the horizon. (See Sun Glints Off Blades.)
  • Kealia technology. When Sun bought startup Kealia in 2004 and brought its founder Andreas "Andy" Bechtolsheim back into Sun's fold, it was hoped the startup's technology -- said to be a high-end server for digital content, including video -- would show up in Sun's products. (See Sun to Acquire Kealia and Sun Deals for Handy Andy.) This may finally happen if Sun releases new "Galaxy" systems in July. The X4600 is reportedly one of those systems. Sun has confirmed that the Galaxy line is where Kealia's technology is most likely to surface.

While it's not clear if any of this will materialize, according to many industry observers, Sun needs to announce new products in order to regain consistent earnings and solidify the changes Schwartz hopes to make. While there's some indication that Sun is on a more positive footing in the market, the general thinking is it can't stay that way without living up to what it's been hinting at for months. (See Sun Glints Off Blades.)

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