When you think about Sun Microsystems, you probably think first about servers. But Sun has a pretty healthy storage business, one that's poised for growth. In recent interviews, Sun executives have emphasized that Sun is increasingly serious about growing its storage business, especially in the networked storage area. In fact, Sun has introduced a new storage strategy with full-page newspaper advertisements in major US markets.

StorEdge is Sun's new series of midrange storage arrays. The StorEdge T3, Sun's first midrange offering in this series, will be the size of a desktop computer and have a capacity of about 330GB (i.e., a third of a terabyte) of data. This combination of size and capacity puts StorEdge T3 into play in a market sector that is expected to heat up over the next year, giving large departments and small companies entry into networked storage technology. With this product, which costs about $100,000 fully loaded, Sun hopes to penetrate the storage market—offering an open storage solution that is both modular and scalable. This announcement follows on the heels of an announcement just weeks ago that Sun will release a lower-end storage offering called the StorEdge N8000 that can be configured with 200GB to 800GB of storage; the entry-level price is $54,000.

According to Janpieter Scheerder, president of Sun Network Storage, "Until now, storage has been extremely proprietary. Storage should be open." In the future, Scheerder notes, "When you store on the Net, you won't know where you're storing." With its storage offerings, Sun is targeting EMC and stressing Sun's more open approach.

Sun's newest offerings compete more directly with vendors and offerings such as Compaq storage products and EMC's CLARiiON line than they do with the largest storage system vendors and offerings such as Symmetrix storage products, HP's XP line, and IBM's Shark. But the products are significant introductions nonetheless: They mark Sun's push to have its storage systems sell into the open storage market and service other vendors' OSs. Sun's storage products will support servers running Microsoft's Windows 2000 and Windows NT, HP's HP-UX, and IBM's AIX, as well as Sun's own Solaris. Sun expects to add Linux support in the near future.

Storage hardware is useless without software; in the long run, storage purchasing decisions are based on software offerings. Therefore, along with its systems announcements, Sun also announced backup software for Sun and for competing storage systems. And the software products will contend in the storage software sector as well.