Sun Stakes Future on Grid Computing

Sun presses forward to become a dominant low-cost provider of grid computing services before IBM or Dell wakes up to the challenge.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Sun Microsystems Inc. senior executives hope to put Sun in a dominant position as a low-cost grid computing system provider before IBM or Dell Inc. are tempted to engage in a price war for a comparable set of services.

Suns objective, the senior executives said, is to provide grid computing power to corporations, academic institutions and government agencies for specific data processing projects, offering a less costly substitute for buying and assembling the computing capacity themselves.

Grid computing promises to be the fourth important new wave of technology that the company has developed in its 24-year history, after workstations, application servers and Java Web services, noted Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy. Sun is counting on grid computing to bring a long-awaited return to growth and prosperity.

Media and industry analysts heard the details of Suns grid computing plans and related software, client services and security offerings at the companys campus here Tuesday.

Sun will offer access to its grid computing capacity at a flat fee of $1 per CPU per hour and will provide a gigabyte of storage capacity for $1 per month. Furthermore, the company is offering "an infinite right to use" its Java Enterprise System Suites—a set of application and system management suites—for a price of $50 per employee per year.

These offerings include the Java Application Platform Suite, which provides tools and services to design and build SOA (service-oriented architecture) applications. The Java Web Infrastructure Suite provides security and access control to existing Web applications, or it can be used as a secure Web application deployment platform.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Suns plans to build global grid computing centers.

The Java Identity Management Suite provides tools to securely use and manage user identity information. The Sun Java Communications Suite enables dynamic access to applications and information stored anywhere on a corporate network.

The company is also licensing the Java Enterprise System Release 3 for a subscription rate of $140 per employee per year.

McNealy downplayed the possibility that IBM would choose to compete with his company at the same level. While he conceded that IBM is probably the only competing company that has all the technology components available to offer a competing grid computing offering, it would not be at the low flat rate Sun is offering, he said.

"Their pensions costs are probably greater than $1 per CPU" before they even start to provide such a service, McNealy said.

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz said it would be difficult and costly for Dell to assemble all the components for a grid system, including an operating system, platform integration stack, application layer and database engine. McNealy agreed, quipping, "A load balancer in front of your rack of Dell servers not a grid."

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about IBMs own grid computing push in the financial services industry.

The goal for Sun is to market computing power in much the same way electric power utilities market their commodity. Electric power is a relatively cheap commodity, but building power generation turbines and the distribution grid is an expensive and time-consuming process, Schwartz said.

The grid service would give corporate business managers an inexpensive way to perform sophisticated data analysis and simulations that are beyond the capacity of their organizations existing IT resources or cant be scheduled on a timely basis, he said. This includes drug company protein or drug molecule modeling, Monte Carlo simulations for financial analysis, or oil and gas reservoir simulations for the oil exploration industry, Schwartz said.

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John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...