Sun opens up with storage software suite

Sun Microsystems on Tuesday will throw its hat into the emerging market for heterogeneous SAN management software, claiming to be the first company to offer support for budding open standards for discovering and managing multi-vendor storage devices.

The new software suite, dubbed Sun StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager (ESM), was created by combining its existing discrete storage software products with new technology based on evolving storage-specific standards, said James Staten, director of strategy for Sun's Storage division, in Mountain View, Calif.

These open standards include CIM (Common Information Model), WEBM (Web-Based Enterprise Management), and the Bluefin specification that was recently submitted to the Storage Networking Industry Association under the name SMI (Storage Management Initiative). SNIA says SMI will be formally submitted to a standards body later this year.

The decision to adopt open standards in lieu of exchanging proprietary APIs with competitors and partners was an easy choice, explains Steve Guide, a product line manager for Sun's storage division.

"We think supporting Bluefin and CIM/WBEM is a long-term strategy," said Guido. "The API exchange approach is only a short-term solution." Guido says Sun is committed to pursuing open standards.

Guido explained Tuesday's release of the ESM software suite will feature a way to do topology reporting, device configuration, and proactive health diagnostics. Guido added future releases will support an "expanding device support list" and automation capabilities via the company's existing StorEdge Utilization Suite & Performance Suite.

Staten further explained that the StorEdge Resource Management was created by combining the company's current StorEdge Diagnostic Expert software, StorEdge Resource Management and Availability software, StorEdge Traffic Manager, and StorEdge Utilization Suite & Performance Suite.

Steve Kenniston, an analyst at the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group, says the most significant part of Sun's announcement is in fact its decision to pursue open standards.

"Mark Canepa [executive vice president of Sun's Storage division] has said he wants Sun everywhere," explains Kenniston. "And instead of developing independent relationships with other vendors, Sun has said 'why not use the efforts in pursuing standards.' This is a really good idea."

According to Sun, the company's ESM will also leverage technology developed by it partner Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). Together with HDS, the two companies earlier this year agreed to work together on both software and hardware initiatives and drive industry standards.

Relative to Sun's ESM product, users will have a choice of using HDS' HiCommand or Sun's StoragEdge Configuration services to manage both HDS' and Sun's line of storage systems from a Web-based interface.

"We've agreed to cooperate with HDS when necessary, but also compete when necessary," said Staten. "The collaboration foundation is the same, but we're giving customers a choice of HDS or Sun."

In addition to Sun's work with HDS on the software front, Sun is also a large reseller of HDS' higher-end storage systems -- Freedom Storage 9900 product (commonly referred to as Lightning).

According to Staten, the company's storage strategy is derived from customer's needs.

"Our customers want simplicity in managing storage, lower cost [total cost of ownership or return on investment] and choice," said Staten.

Kenniston adds that Sun's ESM product has a robust feature set, equal to that of other products on the market, including EMC's software used to manage its own products and third-party vendor Prisa Networks.

"There is no leapfrogging of any technology boundary, but [ESM] is definitely on par with all the other vendors' product," said Kenniston.

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