Sun Debuts Network-Attached Storage Gear

BOSTON (05/26/2000) - Sun Microsystems Inc. entered the high-end network-attached storage (NAS) market this week with a family of file servers that let network managers at dot-com companies, enterprise workgroups and service providers add up to 10 terabytes of storage to local Ethernet networks.

The Sun StorEdge N8000, 8400 and 8600 are NAS appliances that span low-end workgroup use to high-end corporate use. They have capacities that range from 200G bytes to more than 10 terabytes of storage. The entry-level N8000 is available now; the high-end 8400 and 8600 will ship in July.

International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts, expects the rapidly growing NAS appliance market to exceed $3 billion by 2003.

Network Appliance Inc. and EMC have dominated the enterprise segment with a number of smaller file server vendors, such as Quantum and Maxtor, on the low end.

Sun's chances of making a dent in the high-end NAS market are good, analysts say. Steve Duplessie, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Massachusetts, says Sun made a half-hearted attempt at penetrating the NAS market two years ago with the Sun Netra.

"If Sun does it right this time, their chances are great, because all those other boxes are installed in Solaris shops," Duplessie says. "Sun's appliance sounds cheap compared to Network Appliance and EMC."

The rack-mounted StorEdge N8000 file server takes about 10 minutes to install, according to Sun, and contains a browser-based management interface that lets system administrators add users to the NAS, configure the box, and manage and monitor its operation.

The N8000 has 10/100Base-T connections to the network and operates on Unix, Windows NT and 2000, or any network that uses the Network File System or Common Internet File System. The N8000 also uses a light version of Solaris, which means it can be managed by Sun management tools.

"We are a storage service provider that provides our services into collocation facilities," says Chris Reidler, vice president of engineering for Storageway in San Diego. "Our customers want a variety of file services that can scale from 50G bytes up to terabytes of storage. Because [Sun's] file servers are based on Solaris, I can participate in open clustering or management from a single console."

A mirrored boot-disk provides data protection by ensuring the system's storage won't be brought down by a boot-disk failure. In addition, Sun later this year will switch from 18G-byte drives to 36G-byte drives, which customers can install. The file system includes Sun Solstice and Veritas client software for network backup.

Sun will follow the N8000 with two other NAS appliances in July. The N8400 and 8600 will scale to 10 terabytes and have Gigabit Ethernet connections to the network. These products will also support Fibre Channel connections to storage-area networks in July.

The Sun StorEdge N8200 file server is available starting at $54,000 for a for a 200G-byte configuration.

Prices for the other products are not available at this time.