Sun Microsystems is planning to unveil new networking and storage initiatives before the year is gone, the company's president and chief operating officer has revealed.
According to Ed Zander, while Sun has no intention of broadening its network hardware portfolio to compete directly with Cisco, he acknowledges some of Sun's new products will overlap with the networking giant.
"I'm not going to compete with Cisco in routers," he explained in an interview last week. Although Sun already produces some edge devices, firewalls, and caching appliances, Zander hinted at the possibility of new network-based storage switches catering for data virtualisation needs. "I don't want to talk too much about that, but we've got some plans to move into that space," Zander said.
He continued by explaining Sun believes some networking technologies that existed in the "cloud" are moving with servers to reflect what he called an appliance model. "So we end up maybe overlapping in some areas with Cisco as we see storage and some of the software going in that space."
Zander's projections reflect the rapidly changing storage market and the changing storage infrastructures that the market fuels, said Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.
Storage networking is rapidly moving from hardware-based interconnects to more interoperable software-based models driven by technologies such as advanced IP standards like iSCSI (Internet SCSI), said Duplessie. Sun may not have plans to cross swords with Cisco on the hardware side with a fleet of new Sun-branded routers, but competition between Sun and Cisco is likely to arrive in the form of storage software, he said.
"I think what Zander is really saying is that it's not going to matter what the connection is [in storage], there will be iSCSI, there will be Fibre, there will be Infiniband, and all of these things will have to act together," Duplessie said.
"Physical storage will exist, but the software and logical management of storage is where the money is going to be. Sun is the dominant Unix provider and wants its unfair share of the storage value proposition, and that value is storage software applications and software virtualisation -- it's all about software."
Cisco has been open about its intent to capitalise on the IP storage market as it evolves.
Following Sun's recent acquisitions of storage companies High Ground and LSC, Zander said Sun will announce new product offerings within the next 60 days. He indicated the products, based on Sun's newly acquired virtualisation and next-generation file system technology, were "equivalent to Sun ONE", Sun's strategy to offer an integrated stack of products and services.
"We're not going to call it Storage ONE," Zander added. "But it's going to be a software architecture and products based around running heterogeneous environments using the network."
Heterogeneity is the future of storage, Duplessie said. "There's going to be a physical collapsing of separate topologies between networking and storage. There will be this big [mixture]. Sun's strategy is to be in control of the mixture, utilise all the desperate resources as a universal data network, and provide the data layer based on SRM technologies, which is what LSC really gave them.
"Zander's saying Sun will not compete with Cisco because Sun's not going to build routers, but if storage moves out of the cloud, which it will, then the cloud right now belongs to companies like Cisco and [switch maker] Brocade," Duplessie said.