Sun acquisitions bolster N1 strategy

By Lisa Coleman

Sun Microsystems is launching pilot programs for selected customers with products from Pirus Networks and Terraspring, companies it recently acquired to build out its N1 strategy. N1 will eventually enable users to create more-efficient, easier-to-manage data centers, according to Sun officials.

In addition to the pilot programs, Sun will launch an N1-enabled blade system within the next month.

Sun acquired Terraspring primarily for its virtualization and provisioning software products. Virtualization is a keystone and the first step for the N1 concept, which requires pooling data-center resources, including storage, and then provisioning the resources where needed.

Terraspring's software provides automated resource allocation and provisioning for network switches, servers, storage, etc. Sun will deploy version 3.0 of Terraspring's software, which Sun enhanced after the acquisition. For example, Sun added device and operating system support, high-availability options, support for local disk and blades, and metering.

While the Terraspring software provides management control for virtualized resources across the data center, Sun recognized that it needed more help in virtualizing storage. Therefore, the company also acquired Pirus Networks and its Data Services Platform technology, a hybrid switch that provides virtualization capabilities and converges storage and multi-protocol access into a single, centrally managed platform.

"Storage is particularly difficult today, and there are opportunities for cost savings through improved virtualization," says Steve MacKay, Sun's vice president of N1.

The Pirus technology includes hardware and services designed to deploy storage-oriented applications in the infrastructure. It sits in front of the storage subsystems and provides aggregation and partitioning.

"You can achieve a certain level of storage virtualization with the Terraspring software, but what Pirus' technology adds is more-powerful—and faster—storage virtualization," says MacKay. "Because it's a programmable device, we can roll in additional capabilities as we move forward."

The Pirus switch can support heterogeneous storage across Fibre Channel or Ethernet/IP using file-level or block-level protocols. Its software includes virtualization services such as storage pooling, partitioning, concatenation, and striping virtual volumes. It also features multiple copy-on-write snapshots per volume, on-the-fly volume enlargement, and the ability for users to create volumes with different size, shape, and performance characteristics.

Ultimately, the Pirus technology will help reduce the cost of storage ownership by increasing storage utilization, consolidating and securely provisioning storage, converging block and file infrastructures, and freeing up users to choose any brand of storage that suits the application, according to MacKay. Pirus will continue to develop products as Sun's Data Services Platform Group.

Virtualization is the first phase of N1. In the next phase, Sun plans to deliver provisioning and policy-automation capabilities.

This article was originally published on February 01, 2003