Sun confirms plan to ship solid-state drives in 2008

In development with undisclosed firms, 2.5-in. flash disk to ship in 2008 and 3.5-in. drive in 2009

Sun Microsystems Inc. today said that it plans to start shipping solid-state disk technology by the end of this year.

Sun officials said the company is working with undisclosed third-party manufacturers to ensure that the 2.5-in. and 3.5 in. drives can support its software, server and storage products. John Fowler, executive vice president of systems at Sun, said that users will be able to plug the new drives into Sun's server and storage offerings.

"From an implementation standpoint, it will be as easy as plugging these into the front of a server" or storage device, said Fowler. "The questions for us is the adoption rate, but I know that will happen."

Sun said the 2.5-in. drive will ship by the end of this year and the 3.5-in. offering in 2009. Sun officials did not disclose pricing or packaging details of the new solid-state drives.

Fowler said Sun is putting a heavy emphasis on making sure that the solid-state drives are optimized to support the open-source Solaris ZFS file system software and its recently acquired MySQL open-source database technology.

Fowler said Sun is initially targeting the technology at businesses running large databases, enterprise applications and data analytics software. The drives should help such firms in "battling the IO bottleneck" problem, he said.

Mike Kahn, an analyst at the Clipper Group Inc., said Sun's challenge to woo adopters of solid-state disks is to find out which of its users' applications can best take advantage of the technology. "I think that the proof will come not in intent, but [what] they eventually bring to market -- they're being very coy about that," he said.

Sun is following the lead of other top storage vendors in targeting large corporate users with new flash drives. For example, EMC Corp. in January unveiled plans to offer flash technology as an option for its high-end Symmetrix storage arrays. Meanwhile, NetApp Inc. founder Dave Hitz earlier this year discussed the benefits of solid-state technology. 

Despite analyst predictions that solid-state technology would begin to gain acceptance as an alternative to hard disk drives within enterprises this year, IT managers said in recent interviews that they are so far unimpressed. Some cited problems with the reliability and high costs of the technology.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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