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Sun Clarifies Network Computer Vision With N1 Product Announcement

Sun Microsystems sent its clearest message yet about its "network is the computer" strategy Monday with the launch of its long-awaited N1 software and a fresh approach for releasing product updates.

At a press conference here, Sun executives, including Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy, laid out Sun's plans for a componentized approach to its long-touted network computing architecture, what McNealy has called the "big, friggin' Webtone switch," but which the company has officially dubbed Network Computing 03, Q1.

Sun's big picture includes N1 as the software component that will help administrators set up and manage software and servers across the network. N1 will interface with Sun products -- including new servers unveiled today -- as well as products from competing vendors.

McNealy said Sun's new strategy will revolve around product updates released every calendar quarter. That's why the first version of the architecture is called Q1, for the quarter of the release, and 03 for the year of the release, he said.

With this approach, Sun is moving to "model quarter" announcements, he added, likening the new strategy to that of the car industry, which introduces new models every year.

"This is not a product set, it's a feature set," McNealy said. "It's not about buying [individual] components, it's about buying a system."

All Sun products, whether they be hardware, software or services, will now be updated quarterly, Sun executives said. This will help keep partners better informed of Sun's strategy going forward so they will be prepared to offer the new products and services as they are announced.

McNealy stressed that although Sun is promoting the sale and implementation of entire systems rather than individual products, Sun is not trying to convert users of competing systems to rip everything out and replace it with Sun products.

Instead, McNealy said Sun's new approach allows the company to work with what customers already have in the network and help them manage it through N1.

In addition, Sun will work with partners to preconfigure and deliver the systems to customers through its iForce Customer Ready centers, as well as offer managed services through Sun Professional Services, McNealy said.

The new N1 Provision Server 3.0 Blades Edition, unveiled Monday and slated for availability in the next 90 days, is the first taste of the sweeping network management and provisioning product with which Sun has been teasing the industry for some time.

While the first version only provides virtualization for Sun's new blade servers, also launched Monday, Sun plans to provide N1 capabilities across all of its server lines in the future, executives said.

N1 provisions and manages hardware and storage arrays as well as all of the software and services running in the network, said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software for Sun.

After the press conference, Schwartz told CRN that Sun will include technology "profiles" in N1 for a variety of software and hardware systems, including products from competitors such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, that could occur in a customer's entire network.

Using these profiles, which can be mixed, matched and added as a customer wishes, solution providers can use N1 not only to manage and provision Sun products, but also anything that might be running on a particular network, Schwartz said.

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