Sun bulks up storage line with NAS appliances

Sun Microsystems released new storage appliances on Monday, beefing up a part of its hardware line that has drawn criticism from some industry analysts.

The Sun StorEdge N8400 and N8600 filers are the latest additions to the company's set of Network Attached Storage (NAS) products. The appliances are meant to give users storage space while requiring minimal configuration efforts during installation. The N8000 series can store up to 10T bytes of data in a stand-alone configuration and can be up and running in minutes, according to Randal Sagrillo, director of marketing for Sun network storage.

The new appliances complement the lower-end N8200 released by Sun last year and mark an effort by the vendor to add to its NAS product line -- a move that could be a step in the right direction toward answering analyst complaints about the company.

"They do not have NAS products, which is a high-growth market," said Roger Cox, an analyst with Gartner Group.

Sun has fallen well behind the likes of Network Appliance Inc. in the NAS market, Cox said, adding that Network Appliance was "eating Sun's lunch."

The lack of NAS products is just one area where Sun has yet to live up to its storage claims -- namely that the vendor wants to become one of the premier storage players, Cox said.

Sun's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy said last week that his company will invest heavily in storage over the next year, and other Sun officials have said that storage will be close to, if not at the top of, major areas of investment for the company in 2001.

Cox, however, said that Sun needs to expand its storage product line in order to compete on par with Network Appliance and EMC Corp.

Sun's Sagrillo admits that customers are asking for more appliance-oriented products and that Sun is answering that request after Network Appliance did.

"What we have not understood is that we have customers saying, 'I would like something like this that just drops right in,'" Sagrillo said. "Network Appliance understands this."

The N8000 filers are available immediately starting at US$53,800 for about a .5 T byte configuration.