Sun has launched a new series of storage arrays and a hybrid server-storage platform.

The company says it is trying to tackle twin problems plaguing some storage-intensive enterprises, such as online video providers, high-performance computing shops and companies with large server farms. The need for storage capacity is exploding, while the initial price of that storage and the cost of staff to manage it remain high, said Ray Austin, group manager for storage product marketing at Sun.

Sun's new range of storage arrays called the Sun Storage J4000 series has been designed for customers ranging from small businesses to large enterprises with the biggest and fastest-growing storage needs anywhere. The arrays, available now, can cost just US$1 per gigabyte for bulk storage, with significant savings resulting from free software, according to Sun. The systems' high density is designed to save precious rack space.

The lineup starts at $3,000 and includes systems with maximum capacities ranging from 46TB to 480TB. The basic models are as follows:

  • 4200, with as many as 12 drives per tray, for up to 48 SAS (Serial Attached Small Computer Storage Interface) or SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drives
  • J4400: four drives per tray and as many as six SATA ports, with a maximum 192 SAS/SATA drives
  • J4500: four racks, with 48 drives per tray and as many as four SAS ports, for a total of 480 SATA drives
The company also introduced the StorageTek SAS RAID HBA (Host Bus Adapter), which lets users attach the J4000 arrays direct to servers running Solaris, Linux or Windows, in OpenStorage and OpenSolaris environments.

Sun is also updating its Sun Fire X4500 hybrid server-storage platform, nicknamed "Thumper," with the X4540, which has twice the computing performance for the same price, according to the company. The system includes both server and storage capacity in a single device that takes up just four standard rack units and can hold 48 drives, Sun said. Like the X4500, introduced last year, it is designed for sites where space is at a premium. The X4540 will be available this month, with the X4500 family starting at $22,000.

Sun has built its Open Storage initiative around free storage software it offers for download, as well as the company's overall emphasis on free software. Used in combination with Sun's OpenSolaris server operating system and Solaris ZFS (Zettabyte File System), the J4000 series offers a cost reduction of as much as 10 times over traditional storage arrays, the company said.

Typical storage systems require separate management software for the servers, storage and SAN (storage area network), along with multiple IT administrators to look over each, according to Sun. The company's combination of software platforms unifies management and reduces the need for ongoing administration, Austin said.

Sun's free, open-source software approach, turning its platforms loose for third parties to address particular issues, is good news to many of the kinds of organizations that are already drawn to Sun, analysts said. Those include high-performance computing shops, Web 2.0 companies and universities. But for other customers, it doesn't help, said Terri McClure of Enterprise Strategy Group.

"For the (general enterprise) market, they don't want to internally engineer a solution, they want a bundle," McClure said. "It's not free if you have to design, code and develop the solution on your own. You pay in labor costs."