McNealy Pushes Suns Grid Vision

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-10-19

McNealy Pushes Suns Grid Vision

ORLANDO, Fla.—Speaking to a near capacity crowd of IT executives at Gartner Inc.s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here on Monday, Sun Microsystems Inc.s CEO Scott McNealy preached the new Sun gospel of grid computing powered by Suns N1 Grid.

"We want to move customers to a managed service," said McNealy. "We do it much better than IBM and [Hewlett-Packard Co.]. Well still build really a great customized box for you if you want, but wed prefer if you just used our truck."

When asked by Gartners Managing Vice President Paul McGuickin and Vice President Laura McLellan for more detail, McNealy explained that Suns new subscription plan, powered by the forthcoming Solaris 10, will give users the computing power they need at a price they can afford and without having to worry about the underlying technology.

Going back to his truck metaphor, which he used throughout his presentation, McNealy said of Suns N1 Grid vision, "Its like a car with a V6, V8 or diesel. Do you really care when you need to go? No, you just step on the gas."

Customers will buy into this subscription model using what McNealy calls a "call plan." With these call plans, customers will pay for only those CPU hours and storage they need when they need it. "But," he said with a smile, "we will bill you by rounding up to the next hour."

This plan is more than just an infrastructure plan. McNealy wants customers to not only host edge services and application servers on the grid, but "we want to host and run your desktop on the N1 Grid."

When asked what was the difference between this and IBMs old time-sharing on a mainframe plan, McNealy replied, "[Its] back to the future, only better." This, he explained is because of Suns open infrastructure, which will be powered for the most part by Solaris 10 and Java Web services. Solaris 10, in particular, McNealy noted is a necessity for raising productivity.

McNealy was candid, though, in admitting that to make this plan attractive with its introductory pricing of $1 per CPU hour and 80 cents per gigabyte of storage, Sun is going to cannibalize its own product sales. "Id rather we cannibalize ourselves rather than have someone else do it," said McNealy.

Of course, Suns sales force has been very comfortable selling boxes, "SPARC and Solaris, SPARC and Solaris" is the companys slogan, said McLellan.

"Were having to retrain," McNealy said.

Sun is also changing its internal sales plan. "We now compensate our salespeople the same regardless of the hardware they sell. If they sell software on a Dell machine, then theyre compensated just as if they had sold a SPARC machine," he said.

Next page: Beyond the grid.

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Shifting away from Suns change to a grid model, McNealy also said to expect to see an announcement from Microsoft Corp.s Steve Ballmer and himself in November spelling out how the two will work together to bridge, but never close, the gap between Java and the .Net environment.

McNealy also talked briefly about Suns recent IP (intellectual property) loss to Kodak. He said that Sun takes this loss very seriously. In a warning tone, McNealy said, "If someone comes after us [in an IP issue], were going to come after them. We may go after Kodak. We have a vast patent portfolio."

McNealy insisted throughout the presentation that Sun is doing well and that the company will be around for the long run.

Indeed, "I dont want to see us having 40 percent to 60 percent growth again. We fell short in service and support then. I dont want to see that again. Ive also given up tequila," McNealy said wryly.

Finally, in a familiar theme, McNealy said that IBM is, as always, the enemy and that Sun is the champion of open source, open standards and the people. Concluding, "Only two companies, Sun and IBM, can build trucks. All of the others, including HP and Microsoft, can only build truck parts."

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