Sun Offers Free Downloads Of OpenSolaris For Storage

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Sun on Tuesday said it is offering developer tools and professional services capabilities that will allow developers to build on its OpenSolaris platform and even turn industry-standard servers into low-cost storage appliances, said Graham Lovell, senior director for storage servers and appliances at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

Sun has optimized OpenSolaris specifically for use as part of a storage server similar to how Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., modified its Windows operating system to produce the Windows Storage Server operating system found on many low-cost storage appliances.

As a result, Lovell said, solution providers or their customers can download a copy of the storage version of the OpenSolaris operating system and install it on any server and have a NAS appliance within 10 minutes.

"There's zero cost for the software," he said. "Hopefully they'll buy Sun x86 servers, but maybe they'll just use an older server. They can download the software and look at our 'recipe.' For NAS, for instance, they can be up and running in 10 minutes. That's not a big leap for people to go from proprietary to open storage."

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Moving away from proprietary storage technology to open source storage technology in the same way that server technology is moving more and more to open source is an important step in helping companies grow storage capacity quickly and at a reasonable cost, Lovell said.

"Storage today is the last bastion of proprietary technology," he said. "Customers buy their hardware, software, and services from a particular vendor. And if they want additional services, they have to go back to that vendor. But hardware is starting to standardize."

Typical storage vendors, such as EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass, and NetApp, Sunnyvale, Calif., base their storage appliances on x86 server hardware in the same way white box vendors do, Lovell said.

"But if you look at what customers pay for it, it's significantly higher than the white box servers," he said. "The hardware components are all standard. But you have to pay a lot to acquire it."

This becomes an issue as data centers start to scale out instead of scaling up, Lovell said. "Today, storage costs $3 to $5 per Gbyte," he said. "But customers are buying storage by the Tbytes. If they can get it for below $2 per Gbyte, or even $1 per Gbyte, they will see significant savings. With industry -- standard components and open source software, they may see savings of up to 90 percent."

For open source application developers, Sun is now offering tools to allow their applications to interface directly with OpenSolaris storage commands to do a full range of data tasks including ZFS (Sun's open source file system), NFS (Network File System), CIFS (Common Internet File System), and COMSTAR (Common Multiprotocol SCSI Target), Lovell said. "We provide the tools to help take open source technology and turn it into real products, such as a NAS-based server out of OpenSolaris," he said.

Sun is also providing services for companies looking to adopt OpenSolaris into their existing storage infrastructure as a way of taking advantage of open source technology, he said.

For Sun's solution providers, the tools offer an opportunity to help their customers break free of proprietary storage, Lovell said. "They can add additional software and services such as management, administration, and MySQL," he said. "There's a lot of software they can sell from a variety of third-party vendors."

Open source storage will catch on because it is a new economic model for storage compared to what customers have been using, Lovell said. "If the business economics makes it one-tenth the cost of proprietary storage, people will start to notice," he said.

Sun's strategy is already seeing some success as smaller vendors like enterprise storage management software vendor Nexenta Systems, of Palo Alto, Calif., and security software vendor DigiTar, Boise, Idaho., have already implemented parts of Sun's open source storage offerings, Lovell said.