Sun Makes New Move into Mainframe Storage

Sun Microsystems is boosting performance to existing mainframe virtualization software.

SAN FRANCISCO-Sun Microsystems, known within the storage industry for its industrial-strength rack-mount servers and digital tape machines, is embarking on a major new initiative aimed at boosting the company's market share in the mainframe tape storage business.

Sun, through its 2005 acquisition of StorageTek, has been running a fair-sized mainframe storage business for Fortune 200-scale companies through its enterprise tape hardware and software catalog.

Director of Mainframe Storage Marketing Jay Wallace, a former longtime IBM mainframe staffer, revealed to eWEEK Dec. 3 that Sun is investing a substantial amount of time and money in the next-generation mainframe storage sector and will be coming out with a number of new products in that genre over the next several months to augment the older StorageTek catalog.

The mainframe news comes on the heels of the Nov. 28 announcement that IBM and Sun are in the final stages of an 18-month long project to adapt the OpenSolaris operating system to run optimally on IBM's System z mainframes.

"The mainframe storage business has a huge upside at the high end," Wallace said. "A lot of companies who invested a lot of time and money in rack-mount servers are revisiting the idea of mainframes, largely because the new ones are much more energy-efficient and easier to deploy than the older ones."


Click here to read more about Sun's decision to merge its server and storage divisions.

On Dec. 4 at the Storage Decisions conference here at the San Francisco Hilton, Sun announced a performance enhancement to its StorageTek VSM (Virtual Storage Manager) 5 that adds 53 percent more throughput from the initial VSM 5 release in mid-2006, Wallace said.

Wallace said that Sun StorageTek engineers have enhanced the VSM 5 to improve its performance capabilities to 613 megabytes per second-more than 50 percent faster than both competing storage offerings and earlier VSM release versions. The performance boost also enhances disaster recovery capabilities to mission critical data, Wallace said.


The VSM 5 architecture uses the StorageTek SL8500 tape library and StorageTek T-series tape drives in its operation to optimize tape application performance, Wallace said.

Sun claims growth in its enterprise mainframe storage business, Wallace said, due to its strong showing in the enterprise tape automation market. According to a Q2 2007 report by IT researcher IDC, about 80 percent of customers in the 1,000-slot-and-higher class use the StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library System, which supports both mainframe and open systems within the same physical library.

Sun also claims the industry's only access-centric enterprise tape drive, the T9840 product line. Sun say it has shipped more than 100,000 T9840 tape drives since its inception in 1998. Further development continues in the T9840 drive platform with a fourth generation utilizing the same physical media forthcoming, Wallace said.

Ever since Jonathan Schwartz became president/CEO of the company in April 2006, Sun has turned much of its attention on getting more of its software into the enterprise-by conventional subscription or for free as open-source code. It has also focused on expanding the hardware options for its software as it looks to boost its software support business.

Earlier in November, Sun and Dell announced that Solaris and OpenSolaris have both been sanctioned for use on all Dell servers. Other such partnership deals are expected in the next few months.


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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...