Sun's New Storage Offerings: Too Little Too Late?

At least one solution provider, however, called the vendor's efforts too little too late.

The company introduced a new 16-port, 2-Gbps Fibre Channel switch built by QLogic but sold with the Sun brand. Sun also unveiled support for 16-port switches and 64-port core switches from Brocade, and for McData's Intrepid 6064 director switch. Sun is also selling new single-port and dual-port 2-Gbps host bus adapters from QLogic.

On the software side, Sun unveiled a new version of its StorEdge Resource Management Suite with the ability to centrally manage all leading open systems environments and heterogeneous SAN solutions, including Linux, Windows NT and 2000, HP-UX and AIX.

The new products provide an open SAN architecture to simplify and lower the cost of SAN deployments, said Kathleen Holmgren, senior vice president of Sun's Network Storage Solutions Group.

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Version 6.0 of the StorEdge Resource Management Suite offers predictive trending, which warns when a user might run out of capacity based on what that user is doing with storage, as well as fully scriptable agents for automatically updating storage capacities as arrays fill up or other events happen, said Holmgren.

Sun also introduced its new Sun StorEdge Diagnostic Expert software, which allows realtime monitoring and alerts across the SAN, Holmgren said. "It not only diagnoses the problem, but suggests what changes are required," she said.

Because it is rare to see anything but heterogeneous environments today, Sun's moves make sense, said Kevin Reith, manager of strategic technology at Info Systems, a Wilmington, Del.-based Sun solution provider.

"But they're too late to the market," said Reith. "If you are not first or second to market, you have to play catch-up. It's tough for Sun at this time. Yet it's critical for them to offer heterogeneous SAN support. But in the short term, they have too many other big issues to contend with."

Holmgren admitted that Sun has been playing catch-up in terms of 2-Gbps and heterogeneous support. "But we've been making progress in offering a single scenario for SANs throughout the enterprise, from the workgroup to the data center," she said.

Another solution provider said Sun's biggest challenge has been the lack of a storage array that can natively connect to a SAN.

Sun may be on the way to meeting this challenge as well. Three weeks ago, the vendor entered into an agreement with Dot Hill Systems, a manufacturer of Fibre Channel and other storage arrays, to purchase some of those arrays on a private-label basis. Sun also has the option to take an equity stake of up to 5 percent in Dot Hill.