Sun Turns on Storage

Company to bundle four management suites; IBM StorageTank under way.

Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM early next year will unveil major storage management software and virtualization products.

The moves come after other large storage vendors, including EMC Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., rolled out initiatives to expand further into the burgeoning storage management market.

Sun will announce four suites—for availability, performance, hierarchical utilization and resource management—bundled as one product, said sources close to the Palo Alto, Calif., company.

Like the suites from rival EMC and Tokyo-based Sun partner Hitachi, Suns suites will try to manage other companies hardware as well as its own. However, it will go further, also managing competitors software and features, such as file systems, volumes and data objects, the sources said.

The sources could not provide a release date, other than to say it will be next year. And Sun officials declined to comment on unannounced products.

"[Suns] going to provide a heterogeneous solution for both the hardware and software perspective," one source close to the company said.

Still other sources said the company is also planning a version of its high-end StorEdge T3 system with Vicom Systems Inc.s virtualization and policy-based management features, using industry-standard Logical Unit Number technology. The company is expected to launch the update Feb. 6 at a Sun-sponsored analyst event. Sources said it will be marketed for use in storage area networks and likely be called the 6900.

The products will help Sun move from being a bit player—the company first jumped into the storage management fray earlier this year—to having a comprehensive strategy, said Steve Duplessie, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc., in Milford, Mass.

Comparing Suns new products with EMCs AutoIS initiative, which was unveiled last month, Duplessie said, "This is far more general, far more open, lots of [Microsoft Corp. Windows] NT stuff."

"If [Sun] can pull this off, I think that it has great benefit," said Marty Boos, chief architect and vice president of IS at Digital River Inc., an e-commerce and Internet marketing company in Eden Prairie, Minn. "Youve got to have different tools to manage every one of [the different vendors hardware]. I dont really see any risk here. This has always been a missing piece."

Meanwhile, in the first half of next year, IBM will roll out its much-talked-about StorageTank products, also for open storage management and virtualization, said Chris Andrews, a spokesman with the Armonk, N.Y., company. IBM already has entry-level virtualization products, using technology from DataCore Software Corp., in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

At Xand Corp., a hosting and infrastructure integrator in Hawthorne, N.Y., IBMs upcoming products are welcome news.

"We have a hybrid of direct-attached storage" from Sun, IBM and Network Appliance Inc., said Joseph Fuccillo, senior vice president. "I feel that maybe theres a better chance [of open systems coming from IBM]. From our perspective, its going to devalue some of the proprietary features, and its going to allow us to expand our [storage-attached networks] with different classes of storage."

The products from Sun and IBM will compete against ControlCenter and AutoIS applications from EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., and Hitachis HiCommand, all of which were released earlier this year. The battle will be between these companies, which have proprietary hardware agendas, and software-only vendors like Veritas Software Corp. and BMC Software Inc.