Sun Opening a Global Grid

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2005-02-01

Sun Opening a Global Grid

Sun Microsystems Inc. is ready to unveil its Sun Grid.

At its quarterly product rollout on Tuesday, the Santa Clara, Calif., company will announce that it is opening six grid centers around the world, according to Sun officials.

Sun has been doing utility computing for more than two years, but until last year that was little more than adding usage pricing to some products, said Aisling MacRunnels, senior director of utility marketing at Sun. Last fall, the company put together a plan to create data centers around the world that customers could access and pay for on a per-use basis—$1 per hour of CPU usage.

The first six of those are either up and running or close to completion, MacRunnels said. There are three U.S. sites—in New Jersey, Texas and Virginia—as well as centers in Scotland, England and Canada.

What does Sun CEO Scott McNealy have to say about the companys grid vision? Find out here.

The centers are populated by Sun servers running on both Suns SPARC and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processors, all of which are running the Solaris 10 operating system, she said. Suns vision is of a massive grid with multiple centers around the world that offers not only compute services, but also storage, application and development services, MacRunnels said.

"Itll be one global grid, but with regional services," she said.

Sun was planning to launch with retail availability, where businesses could access the grid and run whatever project they needed, MacRunnels said. However, the resistance that Sun initially expected from large financial services firms never materialized. Instead, there was heavy demand from both financial services firms and oil and gas companies.

"We thought [banks and gas companies] would have cultural hurdles to overcome" before accepting the grid concept, MacRunnels said. "For now, were using all of the CPUs on proof-of-concepts with large banks or on RFPs [requests for proposals] with large financial services institutions and oil and gas firms."

Retail access to the grid will be available by the summer, she said.

The concept is a simple one, according to MacRunnels. Customers using a credit card to access the grid, run their applications and projects, and then get out when their work is completed. They are then billed $1 per CPU hour. Its all done automatically, without Sun employees touching any of the customers data.

The availability of the Opteron-based systems, which Sun began rolling out early last year, and Solaris 10—with such features as the grid containers, which enable greater virtualization—allowed Sun to make its grid concept a reality, MacRunnels said.

Next Page: Storage services on the horizon.

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In the spring, Sun will add storage services, where customers can store data on the grid on a per-gigabyte basis. By the summer, Sun officials also plan to offer development services, where customers can develop and test their applications using the grid, and third-party applications.

They also are looking at offering desktop services through the companys Sun Ray devices, she said.

Grid computing takes the open-source route. Is this a model you should follow? Find out here.

William Hurley, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., said Suns push with the grid makes sense. It gives customers the chance to try out Sun products that they may end up buying later and gives Sun access to markets it might otherwise be kept out of.

There is a renewed interest in the hosting model, and past concerns about such issues as security have largely been dealt with, he said.

"Security is always a high-level concern, and security is always complex," said Hurley, in Portland, Ore. "But the fact remains the technology has evolved to such a point that a vast majority of hardened concerns have been addressed."

Other companies have rolled out similar programs. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., has opened several computing-on-demand centers around the world, where customers that need additional compute power can access the IBM systems in the center.

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