New Storage Array from Sun

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New Storage Array from Sun
R. Krause - July 13, 2000

Event Summary

June 14, 2000 [Source: Sun Microsystems]

Sun Microsystems Inc. introduced the Sun StorEdge T3 family of network storage arrays. The product line delivers scalable high-availability storage solutions for entry-level workgroup to high-end enterprise requirements and everything in between. Delivering on Sun's open systems-based managed networks strategy, the product line will support multi-vendor host environments including Sun Solaris and current versions of HP-UX, IBM AIX, Windows NT, Windows 2000 NT, and Linux/Intel.

"The exploding data requirements of the Net economy have brought about a new storage paradigm that requires dynamic, intelligent, network-based storage services for heterogeneous environments," said Denise Shiffman, vice president of marketing for Sun Network Storage. "Customers need to be able to scale capacity, performance and availability at the same time, and they need to be able to do it quickly and cost-effectively. Sun is the first to provide this three-dimensional scalability in a highly flexible product family designed for the network that can be affordably deployed at the workgroup level, yet can achieve massive scale to address high-end enterprise requirements as well."

Sun has designed the Sun StorEdge T3 array for continuous availability with no single point of failure and features such as redundant hot-swap components, dual paths to the host and mirrored cache. In the event of a component failure, the system is easily serviceable. Components can be accessed and swapped out without interrupting data availability.

Among the performance strengths of the Sun StorEdge T3 array are the system's redundant 100 MB per second Fibre Channel arbitrated loop (FC-AL) host interface and dual 100 MB per second back-end FC-AL drive loops, which deliver extremely high data throughput and bandwidth. In addition, the system speeds performance by using an end-to-end Fibre Channel hardware RAID controller with an optimized mirrored cache. The cache reduces mechanical disk seek and latency periods, optimizing physical disk I/O access patterns and reducing the number of drive accesses, which are the bottlenecks in most RAID storage systems.

The system scales capacity, performance and availability in a linear and predictable fashion, with a capacity expansion range of 162 gigabytes (GB) to 88 terabytes (TB). As capacity increases, performance increases by a predictable amount, and availability scales as additional data paths and redundancy are added. This provides for higher performance as capacity grows and delivers a measure of performance and availability that customers can count on.

Sun StorEdge T3 array customers will be able to take advantage of Sun's new Capacity on Demand leasing program. The program features a lease option that eases the financial impact of explosive growth with a starting price as low as $.01 per megabyte (MB) in the first year for certain configurations larger than one TB. The payment plan increases to $.04 to $.09 per MB depending on configuration in the second and third year providing the customer easy and predictable budgeting.

The Sun StorEdge T3 arrays for the workgroup and the enterprise are targeted for availability to U.S. and international customers beginning July 11, 2000. List pricing for a 162 GB StorEdge T3 for the workgroup starts at $32,500. The T3 for the enterprise is list priced at $91,450 for a 327 GB configuration, while a 2.6 TB configuration is list priced at $465,900. Pricing and availability are subject to change without notice.

During the coming months, the Sun StorEdge T3 array will be among Sun storage systems and management software introducing support for Jiro technology. Based on the Java 2 platform, Jiro technology increases integration among storage systems, management software and network devices, and is seen as an important enabler of next generation storage networks.

Market Impact

This will increase Sun's presence in the storage market, although we do not expect them to supplant EMC, Compaq, or IBM anytime soon. However, the StorEdge T3 does have at least a couple of things going for it:

  1. Sun's very large presence in Web infrastructure, giving the StorEdge an installed base into which it can sell

  2. Its professed scalability to 88 TB, far in excess of anything from EMC or IBM

  3. Pricing options are potentially attractive, as low as $0.01 per MB for a leased system for the first year

The potential downside to the above is that the low entry cost inflates to $0.04 and $0.09 per MB in years 2 and 3. This means that as the disk drives are becoming outdated, a lessee is paying almost 10 times as much. Unless we are missing something, this is similar to the practice known as "lowballing".

The "Jiro technology" and "Managed Storage Network" (MSN) announcement is of potentially greater impact. The MSN is supposed to allow heterogeneous servers and storage to coexist on the same large-scale (or small-scale, we expect) network. This is not unlike Compaq's Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA) or the product that Dell/ConvergeNet is trying to develop (we use "trying" because the product is currently about six months behind schedule, and may slip further).

If Sun can make their MSN (Scott McNealy must hate that abbreviation) work as promised, then we believe Sun will move into the ranks of heavy-duty storage system providers. But that's a big "if" - the other big three (EMC, IBM, Compaq) have been doing this a little longer, and should have a slight advantage in technology delivery.

User Recommendations

Although Sun says the T3 will support multi-vendor host environments, their expectation is that a customer will attach this array to a Sun server, preferably a new StarFire E10000. Per the discussion above, customers considering leasing the T3 should look at the entire lifecycle cost of the equipment, not just the initial price. For certain >1 terabyte (TB) configurations, the cost may increase more than $80,000 - not a tremendous amount for a very large ISP, but a big chunk to swallow for the smaller ones.

As is our habit, we advise caution with any new technology. Sun's engineering record is strong, but movement into a new area always increases development risk. Customers who can't wait for the next release should be sure to get a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with which they feel comfortable.

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