Sun Introduces New “Open” Storage Array Line: J4000

Posted on July 11, 2008

Sun’s recently been on an “Open Storage” kick. They define this as using “industry standard components” together with “open source software”. Frankly, the pitch sounds pretty similar to the one Sun has had for the last 2 decades of “open standards” products… the new tact is really just pitching the cost savings of specifically depending on open source software freeing you (potentially) from high licensing costs.

So, there are 3 arrays, we’ll look at them each.

The Sun Storage J4200 array is an single or dual controller external SAS JBOD and offers 3 SAS ports per controller. It supports “Hardware Raid”, but notice that its “(with RAID HBA)”, so there is no hardware RAID happening on the controllers (the same goes for similar solutions from Dell). This unit is 2U and features 12 3.5″ drives. While the interconnect is SAS, you can use either SAS or SATA drives. The cheapest setup is single controller with 2 250GB disks, for $3,140.00. If you customize one with a fairly normal config of dual controllers, 12x 500GB SATA drives (7200RPM), plus 1 cable, 1 HBA, and a rail kit you come up to around $9,000 with a raw capacity of 6TB.

The Sun Storage J4400 Array is the same basic array but with more disk capacity. You still don’t get hardware RAID in the controllers, only on the “RAID HBA”. The chassis accommodates up to 24 drives in 4U, and starts at $7,410.00, although that price is single controller with 12x 73GB SAS drives. A reasonably stocked config with 24x 500GB SATA drives, dual controllers, dual HBA’s, cables, and rack kit come to just over $20,000 with a raw capacity of 12TB.

Lastly, the one many people have been waiting for… the Sun Storage J4500 Array. This is a Thumper but notice whats wrong in the picture above? The server component is replaced with SAS controllers. This is a 48 disk in 4U storage array in the traditional sense, not a hybrid server. The unit does not feature independently replaceable controllers, but otherwise shares in the basic vibe of its siblings in the lineup. “Four 3 Gb/sec SAS ports per tray”, however 2 are server ports and 2 are expansion (daisy chain) ports. Prices start at $32,960.00 for a 48x 500GB SATA setup (24TB raw), and go up to $60,960.00 for a 24x 1TB SATA setup (48TB raw). SAS disks are not an option in the unit, and you will have to use a “RAID HBA” for “hardware RAID”.

One thing I’ll note is that they are branded “Sun Storage”, rather than “StorageTek”. I did find one or two “Sun StorageTek J4000” references around but very few and they looked like mistakes. I’m supportive. 🙂

In general, I think its good to see Sun pushing new storage product. Does it differentiate enough from the offerings in its line? I dunno. Clearly Sun is addressing the demise of Fibre Channel is a large segment of the market, but competition in that space is with Dell and the like and very competitive. For instance, a Dell MD1000 configured like the J4200 above (12x 500GB SATA, dual controller standard, single HBA, cable, rack kit, etc) is $7,000… versus $9,000 for a J4200 with only a single controller. Which is better? That comes down to the HBA actually, and I’m terrified (RAID 1E? I only see that on Adaptec) the HBA is an Adaptec controller rebranded as StorageTek. The Dell PERC HBA’s (LSI MegaSAS) are the best around, hands down.

What Sun has that Dell, or anyone else, doesn’t have is the software. Lustre is now Sun, ZFS is Sun, SAMFS/QFS are Sun, not to mention HoneyComb and Sun’s work on pNFS. Sun has the storage software unlike any other vendor in the industry. I can only hope that Sun is pushing the “Open Storage” to raise awareness, not of something new, but what its been dedicated to for some time as part of OpenSolaris. If that awareness rises and low barrier to entry gets customers excited they may, hopefully, be willing to pay more money because they’ll have support for hardware and software from a single vendor. Lets hope. 😉