Sun Adds Solid State Drive Management to ZFS

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Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) has added the solid state drive (SSD) management technology from its popular “Amber Road” data storage systems to the latest release of the open source ZFS file system.

OpenSolaris 2009.06, to be released today, includes a number of updates to the ZFS file system, including technology that automatically places certain workloads on flash, such as random writes and reads, that can benefit from the higher performance of SSDs. The fully integrated flash support in ZFS can optimize large-scale pools of high-performance storage by designating flash devices as write or read accelerators. The pools are then automatically managed by ZFS to achieve high performance across many workloads, eliminating the need for small caches on RAID controllers.

SSDs have been one of the hottest data storage technologies in the last year, as users have been willing to pay up for much greater performance even in a down economy. But to take full advantage of SSD technology, users need management software to fine-tune performance (see IBM Adds Solid State to High-End Storage). Sun is breaking new ground by offering that capability for free.

“Sun is taking a very aggressive position here,” said Objective Analysis analyst Jim Handy. “SSDs are nice, but without proper software support, they really don’t do much to help the system out. That’s why SSDs’ penetration in the PC is still significantly below 1 percent. There is a lot of value in the kind of SSD support software that ZFS includes.

“Interestingly enough,” added Handy, “when a data center uses a system like OpenSolaris with ZFS, the addition of a pricey SSD will actually help data center managers reduce their storage costs, since they can avoid wasting precious budget dollars on a bunch of slower enterprise HDDs.”

Solaris Gets CIFS, Block Storage Support

Native support for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CIFS has also been added — in addition to NFS — as a high-performance kernel with integrated features and support for Microsoft Windows semantics for security, naming and access rights, making for transparent use and sharing of files across Windows, Linux and Solaris environments. More on information on CIFS support can be found here.

Sun has also added new support for iSCSI and Fibre Channel block protocols into the Solaris kernel, so systems running OpenSolaris can now serve as both a client and a target under just about any storage topology.

COMSTAR, the Common Multiprotocol SCSI Target, can turn any OpenSolaris host into a SCSItarget that can be accessed over the network by initiator hosts. COMSTAR breaks down the task of handling a SCSI target subsystem, such as disk or tape, into independent functional modules, which are then glued together by the SCSI Target Mode Framework (STMF). The initiator hosts can be any platform, such as Solaris 10, Windows, Linux, or VMware (NYSE: VMW) ESX.

The Best Open Source Storage?

All the storage features are integrated into the Solaris Platform to take advantage of its core functionality, such as fault management, networking, multi-threaded scaling, performance, security and resource management.

That integration, said Margaret Hamburger, Sun’s product line manager for storage software, gives ZFS an advantage over other open source file systems like BTRFS and ext4.

“I don’t see the same capability wrapped around an enterprise-level operating system like Solaris,” she said.

Hamburger said ZFS and OpenSolaris “make it easy to turn any server into a storage server. Everything you need is in the operating system.”

The ZFS file system is at the heart of Sun’s Open Storage efforts, the company’s fastest-growing product line in recent months.

Illuminata analyst John Webster said he’s not aware of another open source storage project that can compete with Sun’s Open Storage efforts, but he added that “there is a move by some storage vendors to establish an open standard hardware/software model along the lines of Amber Road.”

That effort, which hasn’t been announced, is being headed by Sun and LSI (NYSE: LSI), Webster said.

Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), which is acquiring Sun, has said it plans to keep Sun’s hardware business, including its storage business.

New Networking, Virtualization Features

OpenSolaris 2009.06 also includes new networking and virtualization features.

Project Crossbow, Sun says, is a “complete re-architecture of the network stack” that “becomes the new standard for how networking at the operating system level is done.” The project provides networking capability designed for virtualization in combination with multi-core, multithreaded processors connected with high-speed network interfaces.

Project Crossbow’s virtual network interfaces offer full resource management to simplify complex deployments of multi-tiered applications on a single machine or across an entire data center. Users can scale the workload of single or multiple network interfaces across multiple core and processor systems “up to the largest systems available in the world today,” and increase network efficiency and performance. Sun called the new features “major milestones for an enterprise operating system.”

The OpenSolaris platform also offers server virtualization technologies in the form of Solaris Containers, Logical Domains (LDoms) for Sun CMT systems and the Xen-based hypervisor “to give users a complete virtualization platform built directly into the OpenSolaris OS.” Solaris Containers can be used to create virtual servers for consolidating hundreds of enterprise-class workloads onto a single system.

To download OpenSolaris, visit Sun will have more details on the launch at the CommunityOne developer conference today.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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