By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2005-07-18 Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems Inc.s Content Infrastructure System, a turnkey archive solution for storing digital content, provides a simple solution to a difficult problem.

In our exclusive tests at Suns Executive Briefing Center in Menlo Park, Calif., we were impressed with CIS functionality and simplicity. The appliance is Suns first attempt at a complete bundled solution, and it contains all the hardware and software necessary for midsize companies to efficiently store reference data.

In the emerging market of ILM (information lifecycle management) solutions, the CIS could be classified as the first plug-and-play, multitiered storage appliance, and we hope other vendors emulate its simplicity.

Sun offers the CIS, which became generally available in May, in small, medium and large sizes, all of which scale up commensurately. Purchase prices range from $90,000 for the entry-level model to $700,000 for the top-of-the-line unit. Leases are also available.

Click here to read about how a Swedish television network is using Suns CIS to store its digital content. The entry-level CIS (which we tested) can accommodate 5TB to 10TB of storage capacity, using a dual-processor Sun Fire server and SATA (Serial ATA) and tapes. The midsize CIS can scale from 10TB to 30TB and includes a Fibre Channel array cache and a second two-processor server. The largest CIS unit, which fills two racks, features dual four-way Sun Fire servers and can scale from 30TB to 60TB.

All CIS models are accessible using NTFS (NT File System) or CIFS (Common Internet File System) file-sharing protocols, to provide as much as 800MB-per-second peak performance (in a high-end unit).

The entire CIS unit registers as a single line item on a purchase order, which makes the process of purchasing a CIS unit quick and painless. Suns Configurator spreadsheet allows prospective customers to easily specify how much storage capacity they need, and it gives them the necessary information for their prospective CIS unit. In addition to pricing, the spreadsheet indicates how much heat a unit generates (in Btu), the weight of the unit (in kilograms) and how much power it consumes (in watts).

The unit arrives racked, wired, configured and ready to store data. Sun includes all cables, racks, hard drive arrays and tape libraries, and Sun engineers configure and test the unit before sending it to the customer.

Its possible for companies to build an archive appliance in-house using a SAN (storage area network) file system from IBM or Advanced Digital Information Corp. and any tape library, hard drive array and switches. However, the planning and setup of a homemade solution demand huge investments of time and effort.

The software side

The software cornerstones of the CIS are Suns QFS (Quick File System)/SAN FS (SAN File System), which allows multiple initiators to access the same data concurrently, and a SAM (Storage Archive Manager) policy-based file system.

These components let the CIS identify old, rarely needed data and move it to less expensive storage. CIS software is highly tunable, and even in the default configuration, QFS and SAM work in tandem to smoothly transfer older content to tape.

Even more important than CIS ease of use are the best-practices policies in the default configuration. For example, when data is moved to tape, the CIS makes sure that a duplicate tape is made.

In tests, it was easy to make policies for automating data movement. We could also use the policies to restore data to disks.

Given its impressive size and performance capabilities, the CIS can be used to store a wide variety of data, including broadcast video , electronic documents and medical images, which makes it suitable for most midsize and large businesses.

However, although tests show the CIS is a good platform for storing reference data, it should not in its current form be implemented as a compliance solution because it lacks WORM storage. (WORM tapes are available for the CIS for off-site storage.) Sun will add a WORM file system and encryption to future CIS editions, officials said, and this will make it a solid compliance archive.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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