Sun provides universal storage framework

Sun Microsystems Corp. is backing a new architecture designed to control storage resources across the enterprise in order to address problems caused by proprietary and incompatible storage applications and hardware.

According to Jeff Allen, vice-president of marketing for Sun’s network storage division in Newark, Calif., the challenge faced by many vendors today is that applications are being built independent of each other.

“And if you think about where these applications live…each one of these boxes has its own unique environment, and they have their own management interface,” he said. “You have no idea how to allocate resources to one application or the other. In many cases, you don’t even know how much performance you are going to need, or how much storage is going to be needed when a request comes in.”

The Sun-backed initiative, code-named Project StoreX, will help with overall storage management by making individual applications “more aware of each other,” Allen said.

StoreX is a Java-based, network storage management standard that would link storage products from vendors such as Oracle, Veritas, Legato, Seagate Technology, Quantum, and StorageTek and allow developers and OEMs to build management objects that are connected to any of these applications.

Both management services and data services will benefit from the Project StoreX framework, Allen said. Initially, management services will include SNMP connectivity, distributed management capabilities and platform independence through Java technology. Data services include platform-specific storage software with dedicated functions, well-defined APIs that specify how components interact with each other and integration with operating system components such as drivers.

“Now anybody in the industry can start building applications and can plug-and-play with the different environments out there. You no longer have to have 11 different interfaces for each platform. So, as a developer, you only have to write something once,” Allen said.

John Sawler, solutions marketing manager for Oracle Corporation Canada Inc., in Mississauga, Ont., said it is important to make storage accessible to every device on the network.

“But to do that, you have to have some sort of standard. With StoreX, the storage applications are aware of each other, are less likely to compete for the same resources and thus are less likely to fail,” he said.

“Oracle has always placed a lot of emphasis on open systems. We’ve been pitching this concept of network computing, which is basically all about lowering your management cost. StoreX fits very well in that strategy because it allows you to build an architecture to consolidate and network your data, and allows users wider access to data.”

According to Sawler, Oracle is planning to release products featuring the StoreX architecture about mid-year.

Jon Oltsik, a senior analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said now that so many users are accessing the Internet, and using things like video content, multimedia and 3D graphics, the need for storage and storage allocation has increased dramatically. With that development, having a storage standard becomes necessary.

“When you’ve got a storage box attached to a server, intelligence is relatively localized. If it’s proprietary, who cares? But when it’s out on the network, it has the potential to impact a lot of different resources — both hardware and software. You really want some standards in place, otherwise it becomes a huge pissing contest between everyone’s own proprietary stuff, and ultimately that really hurts users,” he said.

But whether or not StoreX becomes a defacto network storage standard depends largely on industry support, Oltsik continued.

“Sun has momentum on its side. The key is which dominoes fall next. If [Sun] can get in bed with IBM and Compaq, for instance, then the chance of success is very high,” he said.

“If, however, IBM goes off and does its own thing and Compaq teams up with CA and they do their own thing, then it becomes another standards battle. And when there is a standards battle, the people who win are the ones with the best proprietary solutions.”

The Project StoreX developer kit is available from tom.awe@sun.com. Starting Q2, StoreX will be available in a runtime version.

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