Sun Prepares Flash-Based Storage Products for 2008
Published: June 13, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Server and operating system maker Sun Microsystems has coveted the large storage businesses of rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard and partners Hitachi and EMC for a long time, so much that it has made a number of storage acquisitions, including buying StorageTek a few years back. But for several reasons, Sun has had a tough time being the supplier of storage arrays on its own platforms, much less those of other platform providers.
Sun believes that being energy conscious is not just the right thing to do, but also gives it a competitive edge in the data center, and that is one reason why the company believes that flash memory solid state disk technologies are going to be a big deal soon. In fact, the company is preparing a slew of storage products based on flash technologies, which according to Graham Lovell, senior director of storage servers at Sun, are due to first come to market in the second half of 2008 from Sun and its partners. That could mean July, it could mean December. Sun isn't saying, and the company is not being terribly specific about the kinds of products it will bring to market.
What we do know is that Sun doesn't just think of flash memory as some kind of cache or a kind of fast disk drive, but as a component to be used throughout systems and storage arrays. "We are realizing that customers, particularly those deploying Web 2.0 applications, want to scale their storage dramatically," says Lovell. "The promise of flash technology is huge--high performance at an attractive price." Not to mention very low power consumption. One of the secret ingredients that Sun and its partners are adding to flash drives is, of course, Solaris and the Zettabyte File System, or ZFS, which have been made flash aware so they can move data to flash inside a system or in a disk array managed by the Solaris/ZFS combination as workload requirements dictate. Sun is also apparently making its newly acquired MySQL database aware of flash storage as well so it can have a performance boost if it finds flash hardware to play with. What Sun has said is that it has hired flash memory expert Michael Cornwell from Apple, who was instrumental in creating the iPod and who is now working inside Sun's Systems Group to figure out how to weave flash memory into systems and storage.
"We believe that every server that ships in 2010 will have flash built into it," says Lovell. "This isn't about disk capacity, but it is about balancing I/O, which will require memory, flash, and disk."
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