Senior Research Analyst, Storage Markets, IDC Canada

Sun Microsystems Inc. is shipping three disk storage arrays, supporting up to 192 drives, intended for use with Sun Fire servers.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor also announced the Sun Fire X4540 storage server, dubbed Thumper, which is scheduled to ship this month. The products carry the StorageTek brand, named after the Louisville, Colo.-based vendor Sun acquired three years ago.

Sun officials were not available to comment at press time.

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The three arrays are shipping now. The J4200 can accommodate up to 12 drives per tray, for up to 48 SAS (Serial Attached Small Computer Storage Interface) or SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drives. Its list price is US$3,140.

The J4400, which is listed at US$7,410, has 24 drives per tray and as many as six SATA ports, with a maximum 192 SAS/SATA drives. The third array is the J4500, which also has four racks, 48 drives per tray and as many as four SAS ports, yielding a total of 480 SATA drives. It costs US$32,960.

“They’re really championing the idea of open storage,” said Philip Barnes, senior research analyst for storage markets at IDC Canada. “The J4000 series is really focused on storage expansion in an open infrastructure.”

Sun has built its Open Storage strategy on the free storage software it offers for download, plus the OpenSolaris server operating system.

The vendor claims the products cost as little as one-tenth as much as “traditional arrays.”

“There’s a substantial component of the price savings that based around the fact that it’s built on industry standards hardware and it’s an open source software,” Barnes said. “You’re avoiding licensing charges and so forth by being open source.”

To compare total cost of ownership, Sun compared the price of a J4400 array, including a three-year maintenance plan, to IBM Corp.’s System Storage DS34000 storage system, which is comprised of an enclosure with 12 SASA or SATA 3.5-inch drives.

Sun’s J4400 series work on Version 10 of its own Solaris Unix operating system, plus Windows Server 2003 and both the SUSE and Red Hat versions of Linux. By contrast, IBM’s System Storage DS3400 works on the same versions of Linux, plus both the 2003 and 2008 versions of Windows Server. The IBM box also works on Novell NetWare 6.5 Service Pack 7, plus IBM’s own Unix variant, AIX.

They absorbed some of the disk business but the tape part of the StorageTek acquisition was definitely the key thing and it’s serving them wellPhilip Barnes>Text

Sun is also updating its Sun Fire X4500 hybrid server-storage device, nicknamed “Thumper,” with the X4540. The system includes both server and storage capacity in a single device that takes up just four standard rack units and can hold 48 drives, Sun said.

Powered by two dual-core 2.8-GHz Opteron processors made by Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the Thumper has a total maximum disk capacity of 48 TB and has six 8-port SATA controllers. It has 16 GB of main memory.

Like the X4500, introduced last year, it is designed for sites where space is at a premium.

The X4540 will be available this month, with the X4500 family starting at $22,000.

Sun also introduced the StorageTek SAS RAID HBA (Host Bus Adapter), which lets users attach the J4000 arrays directly to servers running Solaris, Linux or Windows, in OpenStorage and OpenSolaris environments.

With the products announced today, Sun appears to be targeting high-performance computing, business analytics and Web 2.0 applications, Barnes said.

He added that the integration of the StorageTek product line seems to be going well for Sun.

“Any time you have an acquisition it’s always a challenge to incorporate the acquired business into your existing business, but it appears that at this point in time things look pretty good,” Barnes said. “They absorbed some of the disk business but the tape part of the StorageTek acquisition was definitely the key thing and it’s serving them well.”

With files from Stephen Lawson

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