Sun: Partners Will Play In Grid Computing Offering

The executives also hinted that the utility computing infrastructure, like any utility such as electricity, will be commoditized to the point at which exchanges will be set up to handle the price of the computing power, and that such a possibility will be introduced this Thursday with an as-yet unnamed partner.

Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO, used the company's quarterly Network Computing launch event to unveil the Sun Grid, a utility computing infrastructure under which customers would pay for IT resources only as needed, without the need to build their own IT infrastructure.

Under Sun Grid, customers would pay $1 per CPU per hour for processing resources and $1 per Gbyte per month of storage capacity needed to perform IT tasks.

Schwartz demonstrated that capability by logging on to the Sun Grid, using a credit card to purchase $100 worth of computing time, and then modeling a protein molecule, which cost him $13.

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Some tasks, such as rendering a movie or simulations are ideal for using the Grid, said Schwartz. Other applications, such as SAP or payroll, are not, he said.

Channel partners will find a number of ways to participate in the Sun Grid, said Robert Youngjohns, executive vice president of strategic development and Sun financing.

Key to their ability to participate will be to find places to add value to the grid, Youngjohns said. For instance, they can help customers integrate their libraries of information as a layer on the grid, or become an alternative provider of the infrastructure to share the load of the grid.

Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy said that his company does not want to be the "bricks and mortar" part of the infrastructure, but instead would be interested in partners helping to build the infrastructure.

Such partners can also bring in the network necessary to connect to the Sun Grid, and can help connect customers' disparate legacy infrastructures to the Grid. "Our goal is not to be in the retail space, but to be the wholesaler," McNealy said.

Sun has already lit up thousands of processors as part of the Sun Grid, and will work with partners to open more, said Schwartz.

Moving forward, McNealy said that while Tuesday saw the introduction of processing and storage resources as part of the Sun Grid, there is actually a third part that will be detailed in the near future: the presentation of the desktop.

McNealy said that with grid computing, there is no need to be tied to a single desktop with its own applications, processing, storage, and management issues. "Why not let Robert (Youngjohns) host your desktop. . . and just beam your desktop to wherever you are," he said.

With grid computing, computing resources will eventually become a commodity just like electricity and water, Schwartz said. And like all commodities, eventually computing resources will become available through an exchange.

On Thursday, Sun plans to unveil a partnership with an "industry leader" to create something similar to a commodity exchange to handle the buying and selling of computing resources under the Sun Grid, said Schwartz.

With such an exchange, the cost of using IT resources depends on supply and demand, said Schwartz. However, he refused to discuss details. "I think you should come back on Thursday," he said.

However, he did say that customers want choice. "If we build a true computing exchange, they will be very happy," he said.

McNealy said that there is only one other company that is able to provide all the parts to utility computing: IBM. However, he said, making computing resources available as a simple commodity runs against the IBM business model, which is based on IBM Global Services working with customers to set up proprietary solutions for their computing needs.

Therefore, McNealy said that in the battle of Mankind vs. IGS, Sun is a part of Mankind. "I'd like to be who mankind is against, but I got a late start," he joked. "I had to go to school."