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Sun preps Flash-based servers, storage for '09

Sources say the company is aiming for a first-quarter debut, hoping for major performance boost.

Sun Microsystems plans to introduce Flash-based servers and storage systems in early 2009, according to company sources.

This would build upon Sun's earlier embrace of flash in its ZFS storage platform. Sun officials have argued that Flash pushes down the total operational cost of storage, particularly when it comes to data or performance intensive applications. Earlier in the year, there had been speculation about a faster move to Flash before the end of 2008.

Sources say they expect performance gains of between 10 percent and 20 percent in the upcoming systems. An announcement is expected in the first quarter of next year.

"Certainly, there are lots of Web 2.0 customers out there who are trying to get performance gains so anything that pushes out their scale is going to be valuable," said one executive familiar with the plans.

Sun Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos told a gathering of analysts and reporters in brief welcoming remarks Tuesday evening that "Flash memory will be the catalyst...that leads to a rethinking of storage." He did not get more specific.

Earlier in the day, Sun disclosed that it had stopped accepting new customers for its pay-per-use utility service. Dave Douglas, senior vice president of cloud computing and developer platforms group, acknowledged that it had been slow going for the 2-year-old project.

"I think the model makes definitely (appealed to) a set of customers but not as big a set as we would have hoped," Douglas said.

Lew Tucker, who was hired in August to take over as vice president and CTO of Sun's Cloud Computing initiative, left the door open to a "retooled" sometime in the future.