New Sun storage appliances take advantage of solid state drives

Solid state flash drives are the latest rage in storage, with virtually every storage company either rolling out products or about to in the coming months.

The latest is Sun Microsystems, which on Monday said it is coming out with a new line of storage appliance that include two models with so-called hybrid systems that allow the use of high capacity, low speed SATA drives with fast solid state read and write drives (SDDs).

The Sun Storage 7000 series also features a complete software stack running Sun’s Open Solaris operating system and the ZFS file and management system with a wide range of capabilities including clustering, replication, analysis, antivirus, and alerts.

There’s no extra features, said Philip Kaszuba, vice-president of Sun Microsystems Canada’s storage practice. “We know that can incrementally increase the cost by up to 50 per cent depending on which product you’re talking about.”

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The 7000 series is “designed for performance, its designed for simplicity, and it takes away all of the complexity and extra costs that our customers are seeing in other products in the marketplace,” he said.

Sun will continue selling its J-series storage systems as well. Intially there will be three models in the 7000 line, all of which are powered by AMD Opteron four-core 2.3 GHz CPUs:

-the 7100, aimed at small businesses and remote offices, will come only with 2TB of storage in 16 146Gb 2.5-inch SAS drives and 8Gb of memory. (Coming versions will take SATA drives). This model won’t have solid state drives;

-the 7210 comes in either 500Gb (48 50GB SATA drives) or 48 TB (46 1TB SATA drives) with 32 or 64 GB of memory and up to two 18Gb solid state write-based drives.

This model is aimed at high performance computing environments or data centres using database or server virtualization;

-the 7410 with space for up to 288 1TB SATA drives now, and early next year up to 576 drives. It will be sold with memory in 16, 64 or 128Gb configurations. In addition it can be bought with up to a dozen 18GB write based SSDs and 6x100GB read-based SSDs. There’s also a choice of two or four four-core Opteron CPUs.

The idea of separate read and write SSDs is to accelerate the systems to compensate for the slowe SATA drives. SATA drives run at 4,600 revolutions per minute, while the more expensive SAS drives run at 10,000 RMP. The read SSDs are used in combination with main memory for frequently accessed data; similarly, ZFS uses the write SSDs to write data.

The hardware of all three models is based on industry standards, Kaszuba stressed. There are no proprietary controllers or other parts, which allows Sun to offer good-price performance.

Exactly what that is isn’t clear. Kaszuba said early customers reported “breakthrough” performance and cited figures with faster read-writes than traditional systems with only a small price premium. However, he acknowledged that users could see different results with different applications and networks.

Kaszuba said network managers will also appreciate the new management dashboard that has been created to run these appliances, giving the ability to set thresholds for CPU, memory and other components.

In addition, the manager gives a graphic image of the top, bottom and back of each appliance so managers can not only “see” what’s inside but also check on each component’s health.

The Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System, which is available today, begins at US$10,000 for the model 7110, while the 7210 starts at US$34,995. The 7410 starts at US$57,490 for a single node version (12 TB) and US$89,490 for a clustered 12TB configuration.

The 7000 line offers more software than anything Sun has previously done in open storage, noted Illuminata annalyst John Webster in an e-mail interview. He belives the onboard software and storage tiering will help users push utilization rates to 60 per cent. The price, he added. says that Sun wants to buy market share.

“At the moment, Sun owns the open storage movent,” he also wrote, “but I expect some other vendors will join next year.”