Sun Microsystems plans to donate pieces of storage software and hardware technology to the OpenSolaris open source developer community.

The company said that it will provide storage offerings to OpenSolaris.org, a Sun-sponsored site, incrementally over the next few months.

The first wave of code - including the Solaris Zettabyte File System, the 128-bit file system in Solaris 10, Network File System Version 4.1 (also called parallel NFS) and YANFS (formerly called WebNFS) - appeared on the website this week.

Sun's donation is a case of too little too late for some users, including Jeff Bast, lead Unix system administrator at Schneider National.

Bast said that Sun's inability to provide native back-up support of Linux forced him to buy a third-party alternative from Storix.

"Sun, they're a little late in the game here," said Bast. "If they were a little quicker to market to open source and support backup of Linux on their hardware, it probably would have worked [out]."

However, Schneider National had to turn to Storix to solve its bare-metal backup and rapid recovery needs, he said.

Bast added that smaller vendors such as Storix have an advantage over Sun by supporting multiple open-source platforms, including IBM's Unix-based AIX operating system and Linux.

He said that if Sun was serious about supporting the open source movement, its storage offerings would support all mainstream flavours of Linux and virtual environments such as EMC's VMware.

David Young, CEO of Joyent and a member of the OpenSolaris.org community, said the donated source code could help developers of storage products enhance their own code and perform more "automation" with fewer resources.

Joyent provides on-demand software and storage systems for Ruby on Rails, an open source web framework.

"We don't think [our needs] are much different than most users of storage solutions," Young said, explaining that he wants a lower price per gigabyte and the ability to manage storage devices from different vendors using a single software tool. "These things remove management costs," he added.

Sun said that it plans to donate code from its StorageTek QFS shared file system, StorageTek Storage Archive Manager, StorageTek 5800 client interfaces and simulator/server, and other storage components over the rest of this year.

Sun partner QLogic has also announced that it will donate code from its HBA Fibre Channel storage products to OpenSolaris.org.

IDC analyst Vernon Turner said Sun's plan to open source its storage technology could help it offer a unified storage package to users of systems from multiple vendors.

"That's a very important differentiation point from Sun over its main competitors," he said, citing IBM and Hewlett-Packard. "If the OS between systems and storage is optimised, it makes life a lot easier for developers to take advantage of both platforms."

Turner added that Sun's open source storage donation is a part of its long-term strategy to put Solaris on as many commoditised x86 servers and storage devices as possible.