Sun Downsizes N1 Grid Computing Plan

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-04-04 Print this article Print

Sun does an about-face on its promise to deliver its N1 Grid on multiple hardware platforms simultaneously, instead debuting it on its own hardware first.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has again scaled back its once-grand plans for its N1 Grid utility computing initiative, while at the same time doing an about-face on its promise to deliver N1 Grid and associated services on multiple hardware platforms simultaneously.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company will now release N1 Grid first on its own hardware and then roll it out to other platforms over time.

John Loiacono, Suns executive vice president for software, confirmed Sun has changed its N1 Grid implementation plan dramatically, saying those changes will become visible in the next few months when Sun releases a refreshed version that focuses on a more practical approach to dealing with how multiplatform services are provisioned.

Sun has said it wants to become a dominant low-cost provider of grid computing services. Click here to read more. "We will focus first on the Sun platform from a hardware perspective," Loiacono said. "Our initial hope was that N1 would solve all sorts of problems in a multiplatform world, but we are now pulling back to something that is far more practical than that. The advent of utility computing and what we are doing in the grid space come right into play with this new vision."

Suns N1 Grid competes with IBMs on-demand technology and Hewlett-Packard Co.s Adaptive Enterprise, as well as with technology from Veritas Software Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Computer Associates International Inc.

Click here to read more about IBMs on-demand computing strategy. Under the utility computing model, hardware adjusts automatically to allow computing tasks to be accomplished within a set time, requiring a computing infrastructure that is flexible and where hardware can be quickly reconfigured to meet changing business needs.

James Dobson, a systems architect at Dartmouth College, of Hanover, N.H., which has a large grid computing project, is not surprised by Suns move. "I had some doubts about any vendors doing true heterogeneous systems management. N1 Grid as a distributed computing platform is a great idea. Systems management, however, is very different."

Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H., said the grand vision of N1 Grid that Sun once espoused has essentially evaporated. "There seemed to be a lot of tumult at Sun as to what N1 is and should be," Eunice said. "This latest downsizing is a major shift by Sun toward just managing their gear, and it is a much smaller vision for N1. But that is a far more realistic view."

Sun and others in the industry have taken on a lot with their sweeping vision of solving the complexities around data automation, policies and autonomic computing, Eunice said.

The basic concept and philosophy behind Suns N1 Grid vision is that the network is the resource that will make computing flexible and easily connected. Sun planned to add the management and coordination software so that everything could be coordinated closely around the network, Eunice said.

"Trying to solve this for Windows, Linux, Cisco [Systems Inc.] routers, as well as for IBM and Dell and other servers, is just not a very attractive prospect for a company like Sun that needs to sell its own servers," Eunice said.

Loiacono believes the whole industry is to blame for the high expectations that were set.

Enterprises are seeking direction on utility computing. Click here to read more. "Yes, I promised something other than what we will initially deliver. Was it overhyped? Yes. Was I one of the overhypers? Probably, but so was everyone else," he said. The reality that can now be delivered on is real code that solves real problems, Loiacono said.

"You will see a greater push out of Sun and more talk about something we refer to internally as CNS, or the Customer Network Systems group, which is becoming a big motivator for how we do things at Sun," Loiacono said. "CNS essentially will see every component technology at Sun, from the server to the operating system to a Java virtual machine running on a handset, able to connect back to Sun.

"I want to be able to feed information to it and get information back from it, in the sense that I am looking for enough telemetry to service, provision and patch the product if the customer wants me to or allows me to. Customers will obviously be able to opt out," Loiacono said.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest utility computing news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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