Sun Says Open Source Storage on OpenSolaris Is Taking Off
Published: May 1, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
An operating system is not just useful as the software foundation of a general purpose server, but also for specifically designed appliances of all shapes, sizes, and functions. Open source software allows end users, manufacturers, and would-be appliance designers to craft new products and shape how they are created in a way that proprietary software does not allow. And that is why Sun Microsystems started open sourcing Solaris three years ago, and followed up with its Java Enterprise System software stack, Java itself, and various storage-related software.
This week, Sun wanted to brag a little bit about how OpenSolaris is doing as the center of what it called the "world's first open storage platform." That's a bit of a stretch, of course, since Linux and the various BSD Unixes have plenty of people working on storage, but to be fair, Sun has either coded or acquired so much storage-related software--starting with Network File System two decades ago and culminating in the Solaris and Zettabyte File System one-two punch more recently--that it has a right to beat its chest a little.
According to Sun, there are now over 3,000 members and more than 30 projects relating to storage on the OpenSolaris area dedicated to storage, which you can access at www.opensolaris.org/os/community/storage. But having projects does not necessarily lead to products--not as quickly as Sun would like, at least.
To help make it easier for companies to build Solaris-based storage servers and appliances, Sun this week announced new tools and how-to guides (both documents and video) to walk developers through the various Solaris items that relate to storage to help them create storage systems. The idea, says Graham Lovell, senior director of storage servers at Sun, is to get developers up and running with a storage server in 10 minutes, so they can start tinkering. The tool familiarizes developers with the NFS and ZFS file systems, the CIFS server (which implements the SMB protocol found in Windows file systems), and a new tool called Comstar, a bit of code that allows a Solaris server to act as a SCSI target platform. Another tool Sun has created grabs bits of Solaris and other code and creates a network-attached storage (NAS) appliance. A number of companies, including DigiTar and Nexenta, have created storage arrays based on Solaris 10 and ZFS because doing so allows for JBOD devices to be transformed into sophisticated RAID Z arrays, with data protection, sophisticated file management, replication, snapshotting, clustering, and other features, for less money than it takes to use hardware-based RAID 5 or RAID 6 arrays and their firmware and related management replication software.
Sun is, of course, one of those vendors looking to make some money off Solaris, ZFS, and all these other storage goodies. According to Lovell, sales of Sun's "Thumper" X4500 storage servers, which are comprised of a two-socket X64 server with 24 on-board SATA ports, are seeing good traction. (Because Sun is releasing its financial results this week, the company is in a quiet period and therefore Lovell cannot be precise about shipments or revenues.) But he can give a sense of where the Thumper arrays are being sold. A number of supercomputing accounts are using the Thumper arrays as giant "scratch areas" as they perform their computations, which is useful because of the high capacity and high bandwidth of the Thumper arrays. Some companies are also deploying Thumpers as local cache servers in their networks, where they can quickly replicate a database or set of applications in the event of an emergency or as part of an upgrade. Some companies are using them as backends in a virtual tape library, too, and of course, thanks to a partnership with Greenplum, also as the database engines behind open source data warehouses.
Sun Open Sources "Honeycomb" Disk Array Software
OpenSolaris Project Weaves CIFS Server Into the Solaris Kernel
Sun to Take 'Full Moon' Clustering Open Source
OpenSolaris Gets Lots of Storage-Related Code from Sun
Sun to Integrate and Open Source Its Software Stack
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