Sun To Use Software To Beef Up Storage

"We don't think of us as a storage company owned by a computer company," Canepa said. "We think of ourselves as an end-to-end storage vendor."

Canepa, in an interview with CRN, said that Sun is already a provider of storage hardware and software serving entry-level to enterprise data center clients.

However, the company's acquisition last year of Pirus, a developer of storage virtualization software, will help push Sun even farther into heterogeneous storage networking and storage consolidation, Canepa said.

Pirus has given Sun the ability to deliver advanced data services that Sun can deliver over time in a more cost-effective way than traditional mainframe-like boxes, said Canepa.

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Some of those services will be related to Sun's N1 architecture, which allows the company to virtualize hardware resources and then deliver them to clients transparently on an as needed basis, said Canepa.

"The good news about that technology is that it is pretty multi-faceted," he said. "Pirus has filled in a number of strategic areas for Sun. . . . Storage systems, through the Pirus software, offer a nice, simple, organized look at disks, LUNs, and storage volumes. It hides a lot of complexity. If this technology is utilized with a number of storage arrays behind it, they can be organized into a single system which provides a lot of data center-class features."

With Pirus Sun has the capability to run a whole gamut of simple data snap copies to very sophisticated point-in-time copy services, said Canepa. He expects the company to start integrating some of those capabilities from Pirus during the first half of the year.

Rich Napolitano, vice president of Sun's Data Services Platform Group and former CEO of Pirus, said that the integration of Pirus technology into Sun storage products will start in coming versions of midrange to high-end RAID subsystems.

Over time, as the integration moves forward, Sun's entire range of storage systems will gain such capabilities as storage resource virtualization, dynamic multi-pathing, synchronous and asynchronous replication, Microsoft CIFS (Common Internet File System) and Sun NFS (Network File System) protocol support, and others.

"I just laid out for you a five-year mission," Napolitano said. "That's a lot of technology to get involved."

Sun is also making other moves aimed at ensuring software is a strategic element of the company's storage business, Canepa said.

For instance, Sun is investing heavily in high-performance, scalable file capabilities with very sophisticated hierarchical storage management (HSM) capabilities. The company will also continue to build on its Storage Diagnostics Expert tools for increasing the fault tolerance of storage networks with such features as multi-pathing. The company is additionally committed to making its software compliant with new industry standards called the Common Information Model (CIM) that allows multi-vendor storage hardware and software interoperability, he said.

On the hardware side, Sun will continue to resell the StorEdge 9900 series of products manufactured by Hitachi Data Systems, said Canepa. He said the two vendors have an excellent joint selling relationship where Hitachi sales reps get what he called a "positive compensation model" whenever a Sun-branded 9900 is sold.

The two have also put in place a joint escalation center to offer mutual product support to ensure issues get resolved quickly, Canepa said.

Sun currently has no plan to develop its own enterprise-class servers, preferring instead to focus its engineering dollars on its midrange modular product line, said Canepa. Such features, which Sun plans to roll into its modular line over this year and next, include data center-class services such as storage virtualization and such data continuance capabilities as snap copies and various data replication technologies.

"Over time, more and more data center features will get introduced into more modular midrange products, which will allow them to compete further up into the data center," he said. "But we fully expect a lot of customers to still require data center-class mainframe storage."

Canepa estimates average storage sales of its elite storage partners rose last year about 120 percent compared to the year before, and the ratio of business that comes from storage has risen 42 percent since they joined the program. However, Canepa said he was unable to provide specific storage sales numbers because Sun does not formally break out its channel sales figures.

Sun is committed to increasing the number of solution providers selling its storage this year, especially in the entry-level space, said Canepa. However, the growth in the number of partners will not be focused on just increasing that number, but on working with the right partners, he said.

"We will also be introducing new products for the entry-level market designed for the channel," he said. "At last year's MOCA event, we introduced the StorEdge 3310, a volume, scalable SCSI array. You can expect a follow up soon. And the vast majority of these will go through the channel."