Sun may be getting their game on if the X4500 is any evidence. Packing 24 TB of storage and 2 dual-core 64bit Opterons into a 4U box, it is the first system anywhere to leverage the very cool ZFS.

ZFS: Google File System For The Rest Of Us
Google’s GFS isn’t a commercial product, nor is it suitable for the huge majority of IT work. But Sun’s ZFS is. The best data protection of any production storage plus the highest performance of any host-based (i.e. better than any PCI card and most any mid-range stroage) RAID, means the X4500 is ready for serious enterprise use. And at less than $2 per GB (after the normal discounts), it is a shot across the bow of in-denial Big Iron vendors whose bloated products cost 5-10x.

Can The X4500 Succeed In Spite Of Sun?
Of course, Sun has no idea how to market this beast, so I doubt it will get the traction it deserves. CEO Schwartz admits as much in his blog:

We’re still figuring out what to call the product, “open source storage” or “a data server,” but by running a general purpose OS on a general purpose server platform, packed to the gills with storage capacity, you can actually run databases, video pumps or business intelligence apps directly on the device itself, and get absolutely stunning performance.

This may be before your time, Jonathan, but before the idea of spreading everything across a network was popular, we called them “computer systems”. The X4500 is a new catagory: the general purpose appliance.

Thanks to ZFS it has the data integrity expected for the enterprise combined with the management advantages of an appliance. Yet the X4500 white paper spends 350 words on ZFS – USB pinouts get almost as much attention – while missing the key advantages of availability and performance.

Don’t Let Sun’s Storage Group Get Their Hands On It!
Or it will be doomed for sure. Keep it in the server group, where there is at least a chance that customers will be able to discover the virtues of this box on their own.

Update: iSCSI target mode
iSCSI target mode is in the latest version of OpenSolaris, so it is easy to turn the X4500 into a fast and cheap iSCSI array.