In its continuing efforts to build support for its OpenStorage system, Sun Microsystems announced that it will provide new software tools and expanded professional support to assist developers in building open-source storage solutions. With the new resources, Sun estimates the average developer will be able to set up an OpenSolaris server is about 10 minutes.
"This is one of the biggest revolutions to happen in computing in 20 years," said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun Microsystems, on a town-hall-style webcast hosted on the Sun Open Storage Web site. What is occurring, Fowler said, is a major shift from proprietary storage systems to open-source technologies.
Giving Away Software and Knowledge
The announcement heralds an expansion of the OpenStorage program that Sun launched in April 2007, when the company first announced that it was donating storage software to the OpenSolaris project. "By contributing storage-related code to the OpenSolaris community," Nigel Dessau, a Sun senior vice president, said at the time, "Sun makes it easier than ever for customers to develop storage solutions that meet their needs."
The company is also offering developers how-to guides for building network attached storage (NAS) systems and OpenSolaris-based storage. The primary document, not surprisingly, is called "Building a OpenSolaris Storage Server," and offers step-by-step instructions on using OpenSolaris for a variety of storage tasks.
The other guide is called "Building a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) Appliance," again through the use of the OpenSolaris operating system. Both guides are available on the Sun Web site.
Although Sun promises that the how-to guides are simple and clear, the company is encouraging the development of other server storage applications by expanding its technical-support options. Developers can call to discuss a variety of storage-related questions, including how to work with OpenStorage systems or migrate data from proprietary systems. Sun is also expanding the scope of its online resources for developers interested in OpenStorage technology.
Will Free Software Sell Hardware?
The underlying question, of course, is how the expanded OpenStorage resources will benefit Sun. The most likely scenario is that by uncoupling storage software from the underlying hardware, Sun helps make it easier for organizations to migrate to its hardware. Servers are an important part of Sun's market, and the company clearly hopes developers will purchase Sun x86 servers -- including the company's flagship 48-drive Sunfire x4500 "Thumper" storage server-- to handle storage needs.
However, the company says its OpenStorage software will run on any server hardware. By switching to the OpenStorage system, Sun claims developers and organizations can reduce server storage costs as much as 90 percent.
In an interview with eWeek, Fowler said the work of the OpenStorage community is revolutionizing server storage and its associated costs. "The use of open platforms," Fowler said, "allows developers to repurpose and reuse hardware through the simple addition of new software -- something not offered by proprietary solutions."