Sun Pushes Open Source Storage

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Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) has unveiled a new tool that lets developers build an OpenSolaris storage server in 10 minutes, part of its three-year-old open source storage community effort.

The vendor contends that open source technology provides cheaper, more cost-effective storage infrastructures, just as open source efforts in the past led to cheaper server environments.

“We’re going to see very different economics in storage over the next year, as profit pools change due to open source technology,” said Graham Lovell, Sun’s product director of storage services.

“The OpenSolaris effort has a lot of momentum, as the community recognizes this can grow into a business model,” he added, noting that 3,000 community members are involved and more than 30 projects are in process.

Experts aren’t confident Sun’s open source contentions will pan out, however. Some describe the vendor’s open source strategy as marketing to bring in more business. Others claim it would require significant economic need for enterprises to turn to open source for storage.

“There is not a lot of open source, as storage buyers are conservative,” said Forrester Research analyst Andrew Reichman. “Big players like EMC will continue to win even as their products get long in the tooth.”

Why? Storage decisions have a huge impact on business, and housing and protecting data is more critical than ever, experts said. And storage management can take considerable skill even with the best proprietary tools.

“No one has gone down this path besides Sun because customers are quite willing to still play for a ‘done’ solution,” Reichman explained. “A storage choice lasts forever, and as long as customers are willing to pay a premium, the jury is out on whether open source will take root.”

Yet Sun’s Lovell believes his company is at the forefront of knocking down what he calls the “last bastion” of proprietary technology in today’s data centers.

“Yes, it’s going to take a while as there is skepticism, but the profit pool will change and what we’re doing is rebasing the economic model,” he said, adding that adoption of open source will be spurred by startups using the technology and customers becoming more comfortable with open source environments.

A major point of contention in the storage-open source debate is the decision Sun made when initiating its strategy. OpenSolaris is currently under the CDDL license. Industry reaction may very well be different if Solaris was under the GNU license, which demands greater openness as all code improvements are shared.

“A bigger issue is that Sun has, for years, been a supporter and promoter of Linux but then took Solaris to open source,” said Pund-IT analyst Charles King.

Noting that other vendors like IBM and HP support Linux but have no storage revenue streams tied to the technology, King compared open source as “Amish barn raising” work within IT development.

“It’s not a business model. It’s a tough way to make a living,” he said.

Included in Sun’s latest offerings are a how-to guide for building NAS with OpenSolaris and a tool for helping developers gain familiarity with Solaris data management tasks, including Sun’s open source ZFS file system, Network File System (NFS), Common Internet File System (CIFS), and Common Multiprotocol SCSI Target.

In late February Sun donated the source code for the Sun StorageTek 5800 System to the OpenSolaris storage and communities in its quest to spur more cost-effective technologies and help solve digital archive and preservation challenges facing enterprises, and the company open sourced ZFS code a year ago.

Sun’s latest tools are simply another push to foster more development activity and entice energetic developers, King said.

“Sun’s aim is to produce tools that make OpenSolaris development as easy as possible. The goal is to keep developers happy and interested.”

Article courtesy of

Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl is an experienced technology journalist who has served as a senior editor, reporter, writer, and blogger for InformationWeek, Investors Business Daily, CNET, and Information Security Magazine, as well as other media outlets.

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