Sun casts wider net with storage efforts

The company will announce tomorrow a new storage strategy, featuring a product code-named "purple," which it hopes will make storage leader EMC see red.

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Sun Microsystems will announce tomorrow a new storage strategy it hopes will make storage leader EMC see red and the rest of the industry think "purple."

Purple is Sun's code-name for the StorEdge T3, a disk array the size of a desktop computer that can store up to one-third of a terabyte (1 million MB) of data. Sun hopes the machine, priced around $100,000 fully configured, will pave the way for modular, scalable and open storage networks.

Along with the new hardware, Sun plans to unveil backup software that can run on both Sun and competing storage systems.

"We think up until now storage has been extremely proprietary," said Janpieter Scheerder, senior vice president and head of Sun's network storage unit. "These things should be open."

Scheerder says that storage is becoming a commodity that people will outsource to data vendors they trust, such as Exodus. The data vendors will want an open approach, he said. Two weeks ago, Sun unveiled the lower-end StorEdge N8000, with 200 to 800 gigabytes of capacity and a starting price of $54,000.

"When you store on the Net, you will not know where you are storing," Scheerder said. "It de-brands EMC."

Illuminata analyst John Webster said the announcement was Sun's most comprehensive storage move to date. Webster said Sun's new hardware takes aim at offerings from Compaq Computer and Hitachi Data Systems, as well as at products from EMC.

"Sun has made attempts before to go outside their base," Webster said. "It doesn't have a particularly good track record. (But) they are doing a lot of the things they need to, perhaps for the first time."

In particular, Webster noted that the new storage systems support a variety of operating systems. Sun said the servers will recognize systems running Windows NT, HP's HP-UX and IBM's AIX operating systems, as well as Sun's Solaris. Scheerder said Sun is working to add Linux support.

"In a Solaris environment, you typically see Solaris and NT living side by side," Webster said. "The fact that Sun is going to address NT...that could help significantly."

Sun plans to formally launch the storage offerings tomorrow at an event with president Ed Zander at Sun's Santa Clara, Calif., campus.