Sun, Red Hat Building Storage in the Open

Solaris and Linux will get more storage tools.

IT professionals who use Solaris or Linux to control storage will see a boost in native management tools next year, as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Red Hat Inc. build them into their respective operating environments.

By getting more storage tools inside the popular operating systems, users will have fewer parts to buy when assembling or maintaining storage networks, said officials at both companies. In addition, storage and application providers could launch products faster, having fewer ports to write.

"Within our Java Enterprise Systems Initiative, were going to continue to expand what we embed in the operating system over time," said Jim Comstock, director of strategy at Sun, in Palo Alto, Calif. That includes traditional host-based storage functions such as snapshots and replication, Comstock said.

The functions will be embedded into Solaris in phases, Comstock said. But the order in which theyll be rolled out and whether theyll be backward-compatible with previous versions of Solaris are still being determined. Details will be announced in six months, Comstock said.

The plans will be increasingly important next year and beyond as underpinnings to evolving trends such as information lifecycle management and utility computing, Comstock said.

Storage features of Red Hat Enterprise Linux have also advanced recently with the additions of file journaling, volume management and Serial ATA support. Looking forward, besides virtualization and data replication features planned for 2004-2005, clustering and better integration with backup applications are also on the road map, said Brian Stevens, Red Hats director of engineering, in Raleigh, N.C. "We may be able to deliver on top of Enterprise Linux 3, or it may have to wait until Enterprise Linux 4," Stevens said.

As with Suns plans, the Linux storage management tools have big-picture implications. Storage tools that are network-based are becoming increasingly common, delivered as appliances, and many of those run Linux.

For its part, Microsoft Corp. began a storage tools push for Windows in mid-2002. Separate from the companys network-attached storage products, the focus of the enterprise storage division in the next few years is to help build WinFS, the object-based file system within the upcoming "Longhorn" version of Windows, said officials, in Redmond, Wash.

"With the OS our biggest challenge is [that] every time we want to look at another op-tion like a Linux, it brings another challenge to the table," said Jim Medeiros, IS and services manager at United Parcel Service of America Inc., in Atlanta, which has 700 terabytes of storage growing at 20 percent annually. For UPS, reliability is more urgent than the cost so the company prefers to use tools from the storage vendors, Medeiros said.