The move comes at a time when demand for the Santa Clara, Calif., companys Sun Grid utility computing offering continues to grow, particularly in the financial services and oil and gas fields.
Through a partnership with London-based InTechnology Plc, Sun on Tuesday announced two new storage services.
The Sun Grid RBR (Remote Backup and Restore) service and Sun Grid RFV (Remote File Vault) service will be piloted in the United Kingdom by Sun and InTechnology starting in December.
The new services are likely to be available to U.S. customers as early as March 2006, according to Aisling MacRunnels, senior director of utility computing at Sun.
Offered to customers through a usage-based monthly billing cycle, Sun Grid RBR is an active off-site storage service designed to eliminate remote data backup duplication by ensuring that only modified or changed data is backed up.
The new service performs centralized backups of desktops, laptops, file servers, and application and database servers. Data is then copied to a remote data center for restoration on demand.
Sun Grid RBR is based on 120-day backup "windows" of service that will provide timely alerts as the window expiration draws near.
That reminder serves two purposes, MacRunnels said. It enables customers at that time to choose to keep, expand or discontinue the Sun Grid RBR service.
In addition, it plays a pivotal role in helping end users decide what data is important to keep for retention and storage and can be discarded or moved to lower-cost storage methods such as tape.
For its part, Sun Grid RFV is being steered by Sun to exist in close tandem with Suns utility computing strategy of having large amounts of data easily accessible for long amounts of time. Its being offered as a complimentary service to Sun Grid RBR or as a stand-alone service, and features a pay-per-use option to store file at remote locations.
Sun Grid RFV, based on passive long-term file retention, runs on the Sun Solaris 10 operating system and allows end users to archive their data without a formal backup process.
Sun Grid RBR will cost customers about 5 pounds during its pilot in the United Kingdom. The price for Sun Grid RFV will be 2 pounds per gigabyte per month. MacRunnels said the prices are subject to change from its currency rate equivalent when the Storage Grid Services make their U.S. debut next year.
In addition, she said Sun is looking at other types of storage services to add to its Sun Storage Grid portfolio.
MacRunnels said companies in vertical industries, such as oil exploration or financial services, can take advantage of the new Sun Grid RFV service to conduct tests against their historical data with single or many transactions to forecast impact or conduct business analysis queries.
She said the high level of interest from Suns customer base in maximizing storage as a Grid Utility Computing component has caught Sun by surprise.
"I dont think we realized how important it was going to be. All of the compute customers we have, even though their jobs are computational and not really huge data sizes, we found that a lot them want to draw down on horizontal data," MacRunnels said. "We have found that there was huge demand to get more storage in there, and thats one thing we really modified in the last year."
Sun has increased the amount of storage available to monthly subscribers from its utility from 1 to 2GB all the way up to 10GB.
"Storage utility is not just customers thinking, Should I buy an extra box? Its about If I use this type of service, I can go ahead and be more risk averse, I can store more. I may not store it forever, but in 120 days I can see how it goes.… Its really changing the way people are thinking about computing and storage," MacRunnels said.
The demand for the utility computing offering, which debuted in February, is outpacing what the company initially expected, she said. Much of the focus at first was on the financial services industry, but demand among oil-and-gas companies has ramped up quickly to the point where Sun is increasing the capacity available to those users.
Thats best illustrated by Virtual Compute Corp., a high-performance computing provider to the industry that earlier this month was announced to be the Sun Grids largest customer to date, ordering more than 1 million CPU hours.
Sun on Tuesday said Virtual Compute, of Cypress, Texas, has used those 1 million CPU hours in about three weeks, and is now working on its second million. Ed Hawes, CEO of Virtual Compute, said his company uses the Sun Grid to supplement his operation when its resources are fully used, and that he expects to continue to rely on Suns utility computing offering.
"The whole process here is [based on] being able to expand our compute capacity as needed," Hawes said. "Its worked pretty well. Theyve kept up with our demand, and I expect well continue to use it. … This allows companies like us to extend the life span of our current infrastructure and supplement it with an even more current infrastructure."
MacRunnels said having quick access to the compute power available on the Sun Grid allows users to adapt their business strategies to take advantage of it.
Sun currently is focusing on its commercial grid for high-end users, and demand there is such that the company has had to delay the opening of its retail grid, though it is being used by some beta users.