Sun’s Data Storage ‘Startup’

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It’s just a tiny part of a $13 billion company, but Sun Microsystems’ (NASDAQ: JAVA) Open Storage program exemplifies everything the company had hoped to achieve in its turnaround efforts.

Built on intelligent storage controllers, industry standard hardware and open source software, the program achieved 63 percent year-over-year growth in billings in one of the worst markets in memory for data storage spending.

What’s more, the program has been able to convert users who download Sun’s open source software into paying customers, realizing a central vision of CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

“We’re able to monetize a lot of these open source opportunities,” said Graham Lovell, director of Sun’s Open Storage efforts. “We’re the poster child for the success of Jonathan’s strategy.”

With $127 million in billings in the last four quarters, just a small part of Sun’s $2 billion data storage business, the Open Storage program might not be big enough to have much of an effect on Sun’s overall business, but Lovell said he and other members of the team have joked about what a good startup the program would make.

“If this was a startup, we’d be having celebrations in the street,” he said.

But the timing of the program — coming as Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) prepares to acquire the company — makes its success more a symbol of what might have been.

Lovell’s remarks coincided with the release of upgrades to the Sun Storage 7000 Systems, which Lovell called “the fastest-ramping storage product in Sun’s history” — and Illuminata analyst John Webster calls “the best thing Sun ever did in storage.”

Sun said it has added more than 15 new features to its Sun Storage 7000 Software, including new analytics capabilities and Windows integration. The company also doubled the capacity of the Sun Storage 7110 system to four terabytes, and tripled the capacity of the Sun Storage 7210 system to 142 terabytes. The 7210 also offers flash-based solid state drives (SSD).

Sun also offers an Open Archive solution that pairs the Sun Storage 7110 and 7210 Unified Storage Systems and Sun Fire X4140 and Sun Fire X4240 servers with Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) Enterprise Vault 8 software.

Based on OpenSolaris, ZFS, Solaris Dynamic Tracing (DTrace) and independent software vendors (ISVs), Sun claims its 7000 series storage systems can be up and running in five minutes and can be managed just as easily — while costing a whole lot less than traditional storage offerings.

Sun said more than 800 customers have adopted its unified storage products in less than five months, deploying more than 17 petabytes of data storage across environments ranging from VMware (NYSE: VMW) installations, Web MySQL database, rich media and media/entertainment environments, and high-performance computing, education, government, healthcare and telecommunications users. Photo, video, music and social networking Web sites have also switched to the Sun Storage 7000 platform to cope with booming data demands, Sun said, and the systems have also been useful for Solaris, Windows and Linux consolidation projects.

Sun cited EasySpeedy, Media Temple, Motionbox, Monash University, Canada’s TV5 and the University of South Florida as customers.

Chris Brown, vice president of engineering at Motionbox, said the Sun Storage 7410 “was the best deal on high-capacity storage that we’d ever seen,” and was “equally adept at serving both high-traffic videos and the ‘long tail’ of user-generated content — all on a single unit.”

Asked if he was comfortable in the future of the Open Storage product line, Brown said, “I think we are very comfortable. Our belief is that Sun’s storage line is one of the strongest elements of their product portfolio, so it should remain very valuable and interesting to Oracle’s business and Sun’s partner base.

“In any event, our past experience with Sun hardware and other Sun
storage solutions is that the products are all very solid — Sun
hardware-related issues have been very rare in our production
environment. So this is great because it has allowed us to focus
strongly on our own code and application stack.”

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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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