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Sun To Acquire CenterRun To Beef Up N1 Offerings

Sun Microsystems, in an effort to beef up its N1 utility computing initiative, signed a letter of intent to acquire CenterRun, a developer of application provisioning software.

The acquisition would give Sun the ability to automate at the application layer. The company previously focused its utility computing on server and storage.

The deal is valued at an estimated $66 million, according to the Dow Jones News Service. It is expected to close in September, CenterRun and Sun executives said. Executives at both companies declined to comment on the financial terms.

CenterRun, Redwood City, Calif., was founded three years ago and currently has 35 employees, said Aaref Hilaly, CEO and co-founder. It has received a total of $20 million in funding, including $12 million from its B-round last year, he said.

CenterRun's software automates the provisioning of software applications, said Hilaly. For instance, customers might use it to automate the provisioning of a new version of WebLogic, to install a security patch to another application or to update an internally developed application. "It automates any change to any application on any server," he said. "Before, you needed to do it manually or via custom scripts."

CenterRun sits between a developer tool provider such as Rational and a network application such as Tivoli or Unicenter, Hilaly said. "Once testing of the change is done by the customer, the change is checked into CenterRun," he said. "Our system captures and deploys the change."

Sun gets a proven product with CenterRun, said Hilaly. "The risk has been taken out of the technology with three years of development," he said.

Yael Zheng, senior director of N1 marketing at Sun, said the technology developed by CenterRun is one of the building blocks Sun looked at when it developed its N1 architecture.

"We started to help customers aggragate infrastructure-layer tools into virtualization," Zheng said. "Now we are going to the next level with the automated deployment of applications. We feel CenterRun is the best in its class. It's no longer in the proving phase--they have products and customers."

Current customers of CenterRun include Agile Software, Collegeboard.com, The First American Corporation, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, Network Solutions, Seagate Technology and VeriSign.

CenterRun was developed to work in heterogeneous environments, and Hilaly said there is no chance that might change under Sun. "Sun is absolutely committed to heterogeneous environments with N1," he said.

Even so, Hilaly said he expects Sun to use CenterRun to move customers to its platform. "Every vendor tries to interest customers to their full suite of products," he said. "IBM, Microsoft ... they all do. But the customers hold the power over what they buy for their data centers. No vendor can change that. I would be shocked and disappointed with if Sun did not try to sell customers on its platform."

Zheng also said that availability to non-Sun customers would not be affected by the acquisition. "Sun's traditional technology supports multiple platforms beyond our own," she said. "We firmly believe that if we want to be successful, we must support heterogeneous platforms."

The move to acquire CenterRun is only the latest in a string of acquisitions of provisioning software developers by vendors looking to prepare their offerings for the utility computing model.

Veritas in December unveiled plans to acquire two separate developers that in May became part of its overall utility computing vision. The company paid more than $500 million to acquire Precise Software Solutions, which makes performance management software. It also unveiled plans to buy Jareva Technologies, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ISV and maker of automated server provisioning technology, for about $62 million.

IBM in May bolstered its on-demand computing strategy with the acquisition of Think Dynamics, a Toronto-based provisioning software company. That company's Think Control is an application suite that automatically reallocates computing resources, such as servers, middleware, applications, storage systems and network interfaces, to meet fluctuating business needs.

Sun itself has also been active in the acquisition space. The company said in September it would acquire Pirus Systems, a developer of hardware and software technologies that enable virtualization across heterogeneous environments. This was followed in November with the planned acquisition of Terraspring, a privately held, Fremont, Calif.-based developer of technology that automates the deployment of software across multiple servers.

Hilaly said his company is not quite in the same space as these other provisioning developers, as they focused on provisioning at the operating systems level, while CenterRun focuses on the application level.

Sun is already shipping software to automate the provisioning of blade servers under its N1 architecture, and expects to make that technology available to all its servers some time next year, said Zheng. Its storage provisioning technology is also shipping via its professional services organization, she said.

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