ZFS Gets Good… Maybe

Back in April of 2006, Unicity (my company) took Bill Moore to lunch to chat about ZFS and a storage system idea Sun was working on. We’d met Bryan Cantrill at a presentation he gave on dtrace, which was the new hotness at the time. We were impressed, and stayed after the preso for a chat. Jim Crumpler, one of my Unicity mates, did most of the talking.

Bryan was interested in the work we’d done inventing OmniPresence (a NetApp and IP/ethernet based Storage Area Network model) for Telstra. He suggested we should have a chat to Bill when he was in the country on other business with Sun. Bill very kindly flew down to Melbourne from Sydney for the day, just to chat with us, which was a great honor. We figured that ZFS was a game changer, since you no longer needed special hardware to do funky RAID weirdness, particularly in the low- and mid-tier space. Enterprise would still remain the realm of storage vendors, like EMC and NetApp, because of all the manageware they have to make it easier to look after farms of multi-petabyte, generic storage.

Quite a few months later, Sun unveiled Thumper, which we figured was their re-entry into the storage market. Their StorEdge range of stuff was… well, unremarkable by this stage. EMC had long held the high end, HP, HDS, and others had pretty much given up on winning storage business that wasn’t directly connected to their own servers. NetApp was making promising inroads in some markets. Thumper looked interesting.

I looked closer at it. No manageware. This was very disappointing. Sun have often had awesome ideas, but failed to deliver on their promise due to a lack of what I guess I’d call product design. NIS anyone? They have awesome technology, but they just don’t seem to wrap it all up as a neat product that customers can buy. So, geeks like me love it, but it’s hard to use, understand, or set up. It’s Linux while everyone else is buying an iMac. AltaVista vs. Google.

That’s why I’m very interested in the latest unveiling by Sun: the 7000 series. It has a GUI. It looks shiny. It has a simulator that runs in VMware. It has analytics. w00t! So, 2 months before our meeting with Bill, Bryan had done the pitch to Jonathan and Scott and was already working on what we asked them to build for us, and storage customers everywhere: a great user experience to go with all this cool technology. That, we told them, is what the enterprise customers will want.

Now to find out if they’ve delivered. God I hope so. It’ll make up, in a small, small way, for the bath I took on Sun shares back in 2001. :)

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