Jonathan Schwartz must be about to book a dental appointment with the number of times he has had to grit his teeth recently. Following the bad news over layoffs he's now about to kill off a long-awaited open systems virtual tape project according to reports.

This project has been a bit of saga with Sun people being keen to explain just how complicated it is to move a mainframe VTL to open systems. Sun is committed to VTL technology; in May it upgraded its mainframe product.

Also in May James Whitemore, then Sun's head of storage market, but now, alas, resigned, and Martin Warren, Sun's UK DMG UK product manager, said Sun had poured an enormous resource increase into the open system VTL project. 3,000 people were mentioned; it was likelier to have been 300, working on VSM for open systems. It had become a vast software project. Martin Warren said: "You'll be surprised at the speed of the result."

We are Martin, believe me, we are.

Incoming Sun storage boss David Yen probably dealt the mortal blow and authorised the project cancellation. I don't see this as in any way betraying a StorageTek heritage since the mainframe VTL carries on. Equally I don't see Sun walking away from the Solaris/Windows virtual tape area. That is so mainstream now it would leave its customer base wide open to competitive incursion.

It just so happens that, today, HDS is announcing its own open systems virtual tape product, using Diligent Technology's ProtecTIER software de-duping technology. Sun already OEM's disk arrays and high-end storage controller-based virtualisation products from HDS and it would make practical sense for it to take this new VTL.

There is a quarterly Sun product announcement tomorrow and it would be surprising if Sun did not temper the bad news about its internal VTL project cancellation with compensating (and cost-saving) supply arrangements for the HDS project. It would also help stave off Jonathan's visit to his dentist.