Oracle: Storage trouble in store
Sun's 7000 top of the class - who's getting expelled?
Comment Oracle is putting a heavy focus on Sun's 7000, tape and flash storage products, implying the rest of the bought-in storage line is not so well-regarded and may be under threat.
Larry E and the new exec team at the big O have spoken and the storage winners and losers are becoming clear. In the winners' enclosure are the StorageTek tape line, the 7000 open storage line with ZFS, and flash-based storage products. Outside we see the ho-hum drive arrays, the 6000 modular line and 2000 workgroup storage line, the confused-looking 4000 set of storage servers and the 9000 line of resold HDS USP-V enterprise arrays, plus a few bits and pieces of storage management and protection software products.
Not everyone can be top, but does this mean there must be relegations? In the harsh light shining out from Redwood Shores it probably does. Oracle has little tolerance for second and third-rate products.
The StorageTek mainframe-class tape products are leading that market but the LTO products are not so well-regarded, and Sun is outside the HP, IBM and Quantum trio now controlling the LTO consortium and setting its direction. With tape being one the three specialities of the Oracle-ised Sun sales force, the StorageTek mainframe tape staff will be riding high and the LTO ones less so.
The second speciality is servers and the third is, well, storage, meaning flash and disk drive arrays and the storage software. Only the 7000 line of storage arrays and its software, including the Apple-rejected ZFS file system, has been mentioned at a top level.
That's not because of a high sales count, but because of the huge momentum the products have built up since they were developed. They are hot, whereas you get the distinct impression that the other storage arrays are not.
Oracle wants to sell integrated Oracle app-to-server-and-disk flatpacks. It hasn't said it wants to be a successful storage product supplier outside that remit, and with regard to the non-7000 storage arrays it isn't. Sun's rankings in the externally-attached storage market have been falling and it is a big supplier with ageing, across-the-line kit fallen on hard times, not a new and nimble startup with focussed hot boxes, like Compellent or 3PAR.
The high-end 9000s are sold in competition with HDS itself and with HP, which also OEMs them from Hitachi. There is a USP-V rev coming along which Sun may take, but you get the feeling Sun could bulk up the 7000 to fulfil the 9000's role in its product line. It might even look at Pillar's recently hardware-boosted Axiom and judge it could replace both the 9000 and modular 6000 arrays.
Next page: 6000 line looking a bit peaky
If you do a ZFS snapshot, and backup the snapshot remotely, then only the bits that changed will be transmitted. Not all data will be transmitted. This is old ZFS functionality.
But with dedup it works like this. If you do a ZFS snapshot and backup the snapshot remotely, and if you transmit data blocks that already exist on the remote server, then ZFS will only send references to the data blocks. The actual data will not be sent. Only new data blocks that dont exist remotely, will be sent. Everything else will be sent as references, pointing to the data that already exist on remote server. There are potentially enormous savings in bandwidth here. Combine this with compression too, if you wish. :o)
If you look at all the mess the other players have, (e.g. EMC with Celerra, Clariion, Symmetrix), I think Oracle does the right thing.
ZFS (in combination with Solaris) already does NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, FC, DeDup, Compression, Async-Replication). It needs to be polished/improved a little bit to be really at the high-end level. But absolutely doable in 2-3 years time.
Sun Storage overall...
Well, even though the 25x0 storage seems to be much maligned, we've actually been quite happy with it.
I know they're dropping the j4x00 JBOD's - which we were actually starting to really like - this year (not to be confused with the j4400's they sell for 7000 series integration).
The 7000 series are fantastic boxes for what they are, but if you're wanting to run VDI or OLTP type stuff from them, you're still better off running in RAID 0+1 rather than one of the RAID-Z's. Physics still gets in the way.
We'll probably put in 4 to 6 of the 7410 arrays this year, and maybe a dozen 2540's. The 7310's and 7410's aren't quite as refined as a NetApp (we have a FAS3170, and we'll probably end up with a 2040 or two this year, so it's not like we've entirely drunk the Sun Kool-Aid) but if you need/want all the additional stuff Sun just includes for "free," there is no comparison in price. It's not even close.
I wish they wouldn't drop their low end though. I hate to think we're gonna be stuck using Dell (especially storage - the R610 and R710 aren't THAT bad once you get past iDRAC6 Enterprise's issues.) The AX4-5f is a mess compared to a 2540, and significantly more expensive.