Sun fleshes out N1 with storage system

Sun Microsystems Inc. will unfurl a laundry list of new products at a press conference in San Francisco on Tuesday morning (Pacific Time) including the N1 Data Platform, a system for managing storage resources that forms the second part of its N1 data center management initiative.

Also to be launched are the first members of a new midrange storage line-up that come bundled with Sun's management software, two low-end servers that use its long-awaited UltraSparc IIIi "Jalapeno" chip, and a handful of software products intended to help IT managers build more security into their computing environments, Sun officials said.

Sun is moving to a system where it ships all its products on a quarterly cycle, hence the long list. Its pitch is that it can simplify life for customers by releasing the products together. The move also helps Sun position its hardware and software as a single, more tightly integrated environment, said David Freund, an analyst with Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.

"What Sun is trying to do is present a product line and a message that's built around the whole concept of a 'network computer,' as they call it," he said. "A system as we've come to understand it has changed. It's now made up of disparate parts that you put together in the network. It's hardware and software and network components, and Sun wants to provide as many of those as it can."

Sun Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy is due to present the products at a press conference.

N1 will be a family of products intended to let customers manage their data centers more efficiently and cost-effectively, by making better use of resources such as storage and computing power. To be rolled out gradually over the coming years, N1 competes with similar initiatives underway at IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

The N1 Data Platform aims to let customers manage multiple storage arrays as if they were a single large system, allocating disk space to applications and databases as needed. The system being announced Tuesday is still in the pilot stage and includes only some of the capabilities eventually promised. It sits between a company's servers and storage equipment and includes software for grouping disks into logical units, dividing them into secure zones, and taking snapshots for data protection, said James Staten, director of marketing for Sun storage.

The system supports Fibre Channel but does not yet support Ethernet connections. It also does not yet do automatic provisioning or policy-based automation, which will allow additional storage to be assigned automatically to important programs when it's needed. Those capabilities are planned for future versions.

Sun acquired the N1 Data Platform last year from Pirus Networks and said the system works with storage products from multiple vendors. It will go on sale before the end of the year, assuming that feedback the three pilot customers is positive, Staten said. Pricing starts at US$112,600, with extra fees for implementation services, additional ports and other features.

The product complements the first element of Sun's N1 project rolled out earlier this year, a provisioning server that Sun acquired from Terraspring, said Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun's network storage group. The provisioning server will describe to the N1 Data Platform the characteristics of the storage system it requires. The N1 Data Platform "goes out and manages that (storage system), presents it to the application and manages the physical environment behind the scenes," he said.

Also Tuesday, Sun will launch the StorEdge 6000 midrange storage line, which it has tried to price aggressively in a bid to undercut rivals including EMC Corp. and HP. Bundled with the products is Sun's Enterprise Storage Manager Suite -- a move that mirrors its strategy of bundling its Sun ONE middleware products with its servers, Illuminata's Freund said.

"I think so long as the arrays are attached to Solaris (servers) then there's an absolute price advantage with all the bundled software, but if you go off base then much of that software suddenly disappears" because some of the functions won't work with equipment from IBM, HP and other vendors, he said.

The StorEdge 6120 array crams 14 drives in a 3u system starting at US$24,300, Staten said. The 6320 starts at US$67,600 with 22 drives and can scale to 45 terabytes of storage, he said. Both are due out this month.

Also new are the Sun Fire V210 and V240 rack servers, which were code named Enchilada and are the first to use Sun's UltraSparc IIIi Jalapeno processor designed for low-end systems. The processor includes an integrated memory cache and other features for faster performance, and is intended to help Sun to compete more effectively with servers based on Intel Corp. processors.

Systems based on Jalapeno had been expected late last year; Sun delayed release of the chip for testing and quality assurance reasons, a Sun official said.

The two-processor systems come with Solaris 8 and bundled Sun ONE middleware as standard, with Solaris 9 available as an option. The V210 is a 1u system which starts at US$2,995 for an entry configuration; the V240 is a 2u unit that starts at US$3,495. Both are due May 20.

Among Sun's other announcements Tuesday will be the following, officials said:

-- An upgrade to its Trusted Solaris operating environment that will ship in the second quarter and support x86-based systems as well as Sun's own Sparc platform. Pricing is $999 for a standard edition and US$2,495 for a certified edition.

-- Secure Trading Agent, a Java client product that extends the Sun ONE integration Server B2B Edition and aims to secure the exchange of XML (Extensible Markup Language), EDI (electronic data interchange) and other documents between trading partners. It is available now for US$2,000 per host, per connection.

-- Sun ONE Studio 8 Compiler Collection, an upgrade to its Solaris development tool priced at US$995 and due May 20.

-- Sun ONE Collaborative Business Platform, which is available now and integrates e-mail, instant messaging, calendar, search and content management capabilities.

-- Sun ONE Instant Messaging 6.0, an upgrade to its messaging software due in May.

-- The XVR-1200 3D Graphics Accelerator and XVR-100 2D Graphics Accelerator, designed to boost the performance of its workstations. The former is priced at US$2,995 and designed for more advanced systems; the latter is priced at US$295.

--- The Sun PCi III Co-Processor card, priced at US$695, an upgrade to Sun's card for running Windows applications on Solaris workstations.

-- Four "infrastructure solutions," or hardware and software packages for certain tasks. They are:

Enterprise Continuity, for recovering applications and data quickly over distances up to 120 miles (200 kilometers); Enterprise Consolidation, for consolidating systems in a datacenter; Network Identity, which supports the Liberty Alliance protocols for federated identity management, and Infinite Mailbox, a policy-based system for automatically archiving email, which is initially offered for Lotus Notes. Infinite Mailbox will be extended later this year to include archiving for software such as Oracle Corp. databases and SAP AG applications, said John Loiacono, vice president with Sun's operating platforms group.

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