Sun has introduced subscription for its storage software, claiming it removes the complexity of licensing.

There are four sets of Java StorEdge storage management software, sold in the same way as its existing Sun Java Enterprise System. The cost for the whole bundle is $350 per employee, per year. It can be used to manage storage hardware from different vendors.

The four components are a Consolidation Suite (addressing heterogeneous storage resource management and more), a Continuity Suite to ensure continuous access to business data, a Content Suite to manage the data lifecycle, and a Compliance Suite to satisfy requirements for record retention.

All suites include a main console, which allows for heterogeneous SAN management of all devices and systems.

The software can also be bought on a managed service basis, starting at $400,000 per year for 5TB. Sun says that this licensing model offers customers potential cost savings of at least 30 percent in comparison to typical, point-product offerings. Customers would outsource the management of their storage infrastructure to Sun's SNIA-certified storage engineers.

Mark Canepa, executive VP Network Storage at Sun, said: "When customers purchase storage hardware, software and services from separate companies, they have difficulty making it work all together. On top of that, they have to deal with complicated pricing, support and licensing structures, which just make it even more confusing to manage."

He says: “Sun is dramatically simplifying how customers locate, acquire, and manage solutions to meet their data challenges while reducing overall costs.”

Sun is also going to make storage capacity available to service providers and larger enterprises from July. It will cost $1 per gigabyte per month and can be used for remote archiving and recovery.

ASP failure
In the 1980s and 90s Oracle, IBM, LoudCloud and other large vendors trumpeted the ASP (application service provision) model in which customers treated IT software like a utility and obtained their computing resource via a network plug in the wall. In the event these services never became generally popular because the network robustness, service guarantees and pricing models didn’t provide any compelling reasons for customers to switch.

Here we go again with Sun's SSP (storage service provision) idea. Networking is now cheaper due to the glut of fibre laid down in the dot com era. Whether customers will move their storage lock, stock and barrel to Sun for it to manage is a big question.

Sun thinks it will work because customers can still choose the infrastructure. Adam Couture, a principal analyst at Gartner, said: "One of the reasons the old SSP utility model never caught fire was that they always coupled outsourced storage management with outsourced capacity, often by sharing infrastructure. This posed serious security concerns and limited the customer’s voice in infrastructure choice. Discrete storage management services keeps storage infrastructure control and decisions in the hands of the customer."

The utility model is good for things that are exactly the same and consumed in regular amounts - like gallons of water or watts of electricity. Utility proponents argue that bytes of storage are the same as watts of electricity. Doubters say that we don’t erect infrastructures like files and folder structures and databases on units of water or electricity and that we don’t want bytes on their own. We want the storage infrastructures.

Sun is offering to supply raw bytes, to manage infrastructures for customers, or to offer storage management software by subscription: three bytes at the storage utility cherry. It’s hoping customers will be reluctant to carry on managing a heterogeneous storage infrastructure.

Sun’s Java Enterprise System subscription offering has almost half a million customers and the company is hoping that its storage subscription offering proves as attractive.

We have to wait and see whether the fruits now hanging from Sun’s storage tree are low enough for customers to want to pick.