Sun readies dedicated storage management appliance

Following through on its belief that storage management software should reside in a dedicated storage appliance, Sun Microsystems Inc. will begin offering such a device possibly before the end of 2002, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans.

The yet-to-be-named Sun storage appliance should be capable of managing mixed-vendor storage environments from an in-line position within a network’s data path, instead of outside the data path in a storage server or application server, industry sources said.

Engineered to optimize upcoming, high-speed IP standards like iSCSI, the Sun storage appliance will reside on a company’s Ethernet network, allowing administrators to appropriate storage resources faster than traditional “back-room” servers, while controlling multi-vendor products through the common language of the Internet, according to sources.

Sun officials could not comment on unannounced products, but company executives like Mark Canepa, executive vice-president of storage products for Sun, in Burlington, Mass., have been vocal about Sun’s belief that a dedicated storage management appliance is where the software intelligence of a distributed SAN (storage area network) should reside. The Sun appliance will be the hardware extension of a comprehensive suite of standards-based storage management software set to be released in January 2002, other Sun sources have said.

However, Sun’s storage appliance may only be part of the overall storage management puzzle, said Tony Prigmore, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., in Milford, Mass.

“You can’t argue that something like a SAN appliance would work,” Prigmore said. “Up to this point in time, the appliance (model) has been a vehicle for adding value to an infrastructure. But while it’s still early, it is unrealistic to expect that is where all the software will reside.

“Our view is there will be components of the storage management software that will sit in the subsystem, another component in the servers themselves, and another part in the cloud – a switch or a director. Not one or the other, but a combination of all of these,” said Prigmore.

Sun’s Integrated Storage Management suite software, set to ship in January 2002, will include existing Sun software products as well as new technology addressing availability, utilization, performance, and storage resource management, according to sources. Designed to open industry standards, Sun’s Integrated Storage Management products will rival EMC’s AutoIS storage management tools by allowing users to manage third-party storage hardware.

Taking the product’s appeal one step further, Sun’s Integrated Storage Management offering will also enable users to manage other vendor’s storage software, an industry source said.

This aspect of third-party software management from Sun is a logical next step for the company, Prigmore said.

Sun Microsystems of Canada in Markham, Ont., is at

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