Sun Microsystems this week unveiled its first JBOD storage appliances, calling them an expansion of its Open Storage initiative.
Solution providers, however, provided mixed reactions to the new products, saying the potential to earn money with them is uncertain.
Sun's Open Storage initiative, introduced last month, calls for the increased use of industry-standard components to enable customers to be able to quickly expand storage capacity at a low cost.
The new Sun Storage J4000 product line of JBOD (just a bunch of disks, or non-RAID storage) appliances compete is a greenfield opportunity for Sun, which has never had a stand-alone JBOD offering, said Ray Austin, group manager of storage product management for the vendor.
Rather than working with OEM storage producers such as Xyratex or LSI, Sun used industry-standard components combined with its own intellectual property, Austin said.
"These products take advantage of our combined approach for the merger of our storage and systems groups," he said. "This one of those products that came from the merger."
Having a JBOD appliance is good for Sun, but it is hard to see how solution providers might benefit, said Hope Hayes, president of Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider and Sun partner.
"There are 50 vendors out there with JBODS," Hayes said. "Will we use Sun? It depends on the price."
Hayes said that if a client is buying a bunch of other Sun products and is looking for JBODs, solution providers might sell the Sun product. "But on, say, a $10,000 product, we may make only $1,000," she said. "But our sales rep makes how much? They'll have to go back and forth for $100 to $200."
Customers who need a JBOD could just search Yahoo for "$10,000 JBOD" and come back to the solution provider's sales rep and tell the rep what other companies are offering, Hayes said.
"The rep then has to spend as much time selling a JBOD as he or she does a more expensive product," she said. "Now in the case of a Sun deal worth, for example, $400,000, the JBOD might just be given to them just to keep someone else out of the account."
John Murphy, executive vice president at Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based Sun partner, agreed that there's a danger in selling a commodity product like a JBOD.
"We'd better not be making a living on this," Murphy said. "But it may be good for promotions. Sun is trying to find any market share they can."
Sun has come up with some pretty interesting low-cost storage alternatives, Murphy said. "This can be a pretty good play for them," he said. "We can go in at a lower cost with good quality, and let it be the tail that wags the dog. It can lead to new business for other Sun solutions."
Sun introduced three new products in its Sun Storage J4000 family.
The Sun Storage J4400 comes in a 4U chassis, each of which has up to 24 SAS and SATA drives per tray for a maximum of 192 drives per system.
The Sun Storage J4500 is a 4U appliance for large high-growth enterprises and ISPs, Austin said. It allows up to 48 drives per tray and up to 480 drives behind a single SAS HBA, he said.
Sun also filled another hole in its storage portfolio with the introduction of its first SAS RAID HBA, Austin said. It is based on Intel RAID technology, he said.
Also new from Sun is the Sun Fire x4540 Server, the latest model in its Thumper family. It is a hybrid server/storage appliance with up to 48 hard drives in a single enclosure. The x4540 uses quad-core AMD processors for twice the performance of the previous model, which used dual-core processors, and includes twice the memory capacity of the previous model, Austin said.
All the new products are currently available. The J4200 with two SAS and two SATA hard drives starts at a list price of about $3,000.