Sun's Smart Bet On Open-Source Storage

Are rumors of Sun's demise greatly exaggerated? Maybe so, if the company's open-source storage strategy is any indication.
Are rumors of Sun's demise greatly exaggerated? Maybe so, if the company's open-source storage strategy is any indication.Sun has struggled for years to shed its image as an old-school IT dinosaur. Lately, with the economy tanking and Sun's stock price tagging along for the ride, its quest for profitability looks more than ever like an exercise in futility.

But not everyone agrees that Sun is finished as an independent IT player. Enterprise Storage Forum columnist Drew Robb points to the company's storage-technology business as proof that it might yet regain its footing: "However, there are some glimmers of hope at the company. Its storage business generates revenues of around $2.5 billion and has grown for the last five quarters, a period that includes at least three quarters of recession. According to IDC, Sun is number one in automated tape library sales (its StorageTek line). Even in external disk systems, it showed 16.1 percent growth, maintaining the top spot for UNIX-based disk storage." Robb points out that Sun has continued to expand its storage product lineup, with a heavy emphasis on open-source storage tools that run on commodity x86 hardware. Sun has also, of course, forged ahead with development of OpenSolaris, including ZFS -- a robust, highly respected file system that does an outstanding job managing high-capacity storage systems.

Sun has made its share of mistakes and missteps over the years, but its investments in open-source storage technology are not among them. Even companies that are cutting jobs and slashing IT budgets must still cope with ever-increasing data storage requirements.

Open-source storage technology combined with low-cost hardware is a winning combination for smaller companies. Besides allowing them to spend their current IT budgets as effectively as possible, it eliminates the risks associated with proprietary solutions at a time when even big-name IT vendors may not live long enough to enjoy the next economic upturn.

That makes open-source storage technology a winning bet, whether or not Sun itself proves the doomsayers wrong.