Sun Marches On Washington To Push Utility Computing

At its quarterly product launch in Washington, Sun said it is offering the Sun Grid Compute Utility pay-per-use service at $1 per CPU, per hour, and the Sun Grid Storage Utility at a cost of $1 per gigabyte, per month. Sun also introduced three Sun Grid offerings for desktop users based on the Sun Ray thin client as well as Sun Grid offerings for developer communities and transactions.

Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy said at the event that he expects to see a wealth of public-sector opportunities. Though Sun must wrestle with the government's slow procurement cycle, tight government IT spending and the complexity of selling grids, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company will be ready when demand takes off, he said.

"We actually see big new opportunities in the e-government space," said McNealy, who identified the public sector as Sun's third most important customer segment after financial services and telecommunications. "In terms of slow [purchasing] cycles, the way we'll do it is outlast everyone else. With $7 billion in cash, we'll still be here when [the U.S. government] gets around this and is buying fewer bullets, tanks and gas and buying more computers, network and IT."

At the briefing, Sun also launched a new N1 product called N1 System Manager that provides hardware discovery, operating system provisioning, monitoring and management from a centralized console. The product, due out in the third quarter, is designed to provision operating systems as needed to the data center. It supports the Sun Solaris operating system and, down the road, is slated to support Linux and Windows platforms. In addition, Sun is working on an enhanced, multiplatform N1 Service Provisioning Manager that's designed to provision heterogeneous software stacks and applications.

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Also announced Tuesday was the Sun Connection program, under which Sun is preparing a set of add-on grid services that plug into its compute and storage grids. The first connection service, called the Sun Update Connection, is an intelligent software updating service that automatically deploys patches as required and customized for each network topology, company executives said.

While industry observers predict that it will take some time before the utility computing model takes off, some Sun partners said all of the pieces are in place, and they are beginning to deliver Sun's grid services to customers.

"We are seeing Sun do quite well with grid technology, and has good timing in the market, actually," said Marc Maselli, CEO of Back Bay Technologies, a Boston-based Sun solution provider. "In particular, we have worked quite well with their grid computing products for our capital markets customers who use Monte Carlo simulations to perform pricing calculations, analysis of portfolio variance (ANOVA) estimates, and other quantitative analyses that require high performance and throughput.

"Partners are interested in this, as the solution is strategic within capital markets and allows a launch point into other areas of target customers," Maselli added.

McNealy said that as the data center expands in size and scope, he aims to position Sun as the leader in utility computing. "The only way we can scale network computing is to go forward with the grid," he said.

Customers also could build their own grids, access public grids like those from Google, and subscribe to service provider grids such as Sun's for all of their computing needs, according to McNealy. "We're also suggesting the world start using general-purpose grids," he said.