The best Windows storage isn't on Windows

There's a dark horse coming up on the outsideIsn't Sun - and Solaris - almost dead? No and they're showing quite a bit of life in the storage arena.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

There's a dark horse coming up on the outside Isn't Sun - and Solaris - almost dead? No and they're showing quite a bit of life in the storage arena. It is amazing what a $12 billion company can do with a unique strategy and deep engineering smarts.

One big change: after winning the $1.6 billion anti-trust settlement against Microsoft, which included a 10 year cooperation agreement, the 2 companies have embraced each other in ways - like storage - unthinkable 10 years ago.

CIFS support in the Solaris kernal After blowing billions on failed - or not very successful - storage acquisitions, I'd pretty much given up on Sun as a storage vendor. But the new CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, has a new storage strategy: move storage functionality into the operating system.

The latest piece: CIFS. There are two file serving protocols in the world, NFS, an open standard Sun invented, and CIFS, which Microsoft controls. For years I've listened to engineers moan about the pain of implementing CIFS on non-Windows systems.

In a blog post Sun engineer Alan Wright explains why:

There is a common misconception that Windows interoperability is just a case of implementing file transfer using the CIFS protocol. Unfortunately, that doesn't get you very far. Windows interoperability also requires that a server support various Windows services, typically MSRPC services, and it is very sensitive to the way that those services behave: Windows interoperability requires that a CIFS server convince a Windows client or server that it "is Windows". This is really only possible if the operating system supports those services at a fundamental level.

Solving those issues required 180,000 lines of new code in Solaris, Sun's UNIX OS.

It gets better OpenSolaris supports the cool new file system ZFS (see my ZFS: Threat or Menace? on StorageMojo), which is also being integrated into OS X.

ZFS eliminates most of the data integrity issues that plague older file systems like NTFS, UFS, HFS+ and the like. Sun has added important enhancements to ZFS to support CIFS, including

  • Support for DOS attributes (archive, hidden, read-only and system)
  • Case-insensitive file name operations.
  • Support for ubiquitous cross-protocol - NFS and CIFS - file sharing.

Check out the storage community at OpenSolaris to see what else is cooking.

The Storage Bits take OpenSolaris is becoming the finest storage platform out there. Adding CIFS support to the kernal is a Big Deal: OpenSolaris will be industry's first OSS universal storage platform. If your shop isn't 100% Windows this is a win for you. Even if you are 100% Windows, the low-cost Sun Thumper storage server could be a win for you.

Furthermore, the days of costly low-volume, custom hardware arrays are drawing to a close. With the massive growth in data it's not a moment too soon. We can't afford to keep going as we have. With OpenSolaris we won't have to.

Update: Disclosure: I worked in Sun's storage group for 3 years in the '90's. I have no financial or other affiliation with Sun.

Comments welcome, as always. Yes, I know the Samba guys aren't happy.

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