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Using Sun's storage systems in Windows shops

Sun Microsystems vows its new StorEdge 3900 and 6900 devices will support almost all operating systems--including Windows. In this interview, Sun's Bill Groth sheds light on how you can bring StorEdge into a Windows shop.

Two terms, "open and heterogeneous," were heard often during Sun Microsystems' storage systems launch on Feb. 6 in San Francisco. Sun vows that its new midrange to high-end storage devices -- the StorEdge 3900 and 6900 -- will support almost all operating systems, including Sun's Solaris, Microsoft Windows NT, and Linux.

Despite this pledge, IT managers may doubt that it will be easy to bring Sun storage devices into an all-Windows enterprise. So, searchWindowsManageability asked Sun's Bill Groth to shed some light on how StorEdge and Windows will get along. Groth is product marketing director for Sun Network Storage.

sWM: What are the challenges of bringing Sun's new StorEdge hardware systems into Windows shops?

We've taken the issues out of bringing StorEdge into a Windows environment. These systems come with "call home," remote support, and remote configurability. Essentially, they're configured in the box. We also supply a specific software driver for our products that is integrated into Windows.

The 3900 and 6900 support Window environments. Initially, I don't expect to see a big market for those systems in Windows-only shops. They'll be used first by businesses running Solaris and Windows, which we see a lot of customers doing. The two platforms would share the 6900, for instance.

sWM: Will a business need an in-house Solaris administrator to run Sun's new storage systems?

There's nothing about the StorEdge 3900 or 6900 that is Solaris-specific. It's architected to exploit some of the software capabilities in Solaris. So, a Solaris administrator managing the storage on a 3900 or 6900, you wouldn't necessarily have a leg up on a Windows administrator.

sWM: Why is Sun making a big deal out of its open systems approach to storage? Aren't most storage systems based on open standards?

In the storage world, there are many proprietary systems vendors who use words like homogeneity and open; but these are just disguises for the fact that they're locking customers in. When other vendors say they're open, they really mean that want to be able to exploit open platforms like Solaris. For a proprietary storage vendor like EMC, being open means that their storage device will hook to many different servers.

Where Sun is different is that we're providing tools that can leverage other vendors' storage systems, as well our own. We're providing tools that will help customers optimize their storage infrastructure. If a customer has an EMC box that's running at 50% capacity, we have the tools to increase that utilization. The customer doesn't need to purchase another storage device. Other storage vendors haven't found it fiscally advantageous to do that.

sWM: Are you saying that Sun's "complete system" approach doesn't require customers to use all Sun systems and Sun systems only?

We believe that lock-in for customers is not good. EMC could say about Sun, "End-to-end solutions equal lock-in." That's not true. Sun delivers end-to-end, integratable solutions with a component architecture. So, people can infuse into their stack components as they choose. These components can optimize the functionality of legacy storage systems.

sWM: How do Sun's new storage tools decrease the complexity of implementing Storage Area Networks?

These StorEdge systems utilize SAN technology internally. If you looked under the cover, you would see switches, Fibre Channels, the cables, and all the things it takes to build a SAN. In most cases, customers have to buy all these things and make sure they interoperate. Sun provides a full-function storage system that gives customers the benefits of a SAN without having to incur the costs or overhead or deployment delays typical of SAN implementations until now. SANs are not easy or interoperable. Typically, only very large corporations take on the integration and implementation of SANs, because SANs are so very complex. The StorEdge box can be plugged in and will play as part as the IT infrastructure. It's a canned SAN infrastructure.

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