I keep re-visiting Thumper aka Sun Fire X4500. ZFS sounds so very, very good. A grand total of 24TB of direct-attached storage sounds great - for a server and Thumper is properly chracterised in my mind as a server with a super-charged helping of direct-attached storage - DAS. A sustained I/O rate of 2GB/sec is pretty compelling too. It's obvious, it seems, to me, that Thumper is a brilliant machine on which to run applications needing access to TBs of information.

It doesn't have a global namespace capability and you can't link Thumpers together to form a - well, what exactly? A burrow? Why would you want to network these fast, fast machines together unless they could communicate as if they were one super-Thumper?

This takes me to clustering and companies like Isilon. Suppose Sun added cluster capability to the X4500 and gave it a global namespace function. Then you would have an extraordinarily powerful application server cluster and also a real competitor for Isilon. It would be a great NAS facility.

Would Sun want to add such a potential NAS powerhouse to its line-up? The first reaction is; why ever not? EMC doesn't have anything like it and it would give Dave Hitz and his merry men pause for thought in NetApp mansions.

On the other hand, is this the route, the road that Thumper is going to travel?

I'm convinced that Thumpers will link together. I can see Thumper clusters having some real attractions for Sun. But functioning as super-NAS resources?

Well, why not? Drop a processor or two since you wouldn't need all that power or link in more drive arrays via controllers at a cluster link performance level. It doesn't seem to go against what the Thumper ethos (as I see it, however dimly) is.

Somehow I can't see Sun adding Fibre Channel HBAs to the X4500. Thumper's already got lots of storage. Could Thumpers serve blocks though to Fibre Channel-connected application servers? Well, anything's possible but Thumper acting as the back-end of a SAN? That goes against the Thumper ethos, I think.

I think a Thumper cluster would have the potential to replace some SAN storage. A cluster would give you more (server) fault-tolerance than just one X4500. ZFS would give you the file system performance and capacity and data reliability. The thing would probably run faster and be a lot simpler to manage than the equivalent app server - SAN fabric-storage backend infrastructure.

This is what my intuition is telling me, that the Sun Fire X4500 really is a game-changing machine. It might have a crazy characterisation as a hybrid server/storage with Sun saying run your app directly on the storage - sigh. That's what everybody used to do before networked storage came along, you know like on Dec VAXs and stuff.

But apart from this terminological inexactitude debate Thumper looks to be a radical machine with a heap of potential. Think clustered Thumpers with a global namespace facility.

Or, if you think I'm smoking illegal substances, let me know. I'm curious about this box. I really want to know more.