Suns McNealy Stumps for Utility Computing

Sun chief Scott McNealy warns that having a melting pot of proprietary architectures is a problem and buying computing services as a utility is the solution.

WASHINGTON—Thumping the open-source bible before an audience of government IT professionals on March 8, Sun Microsystems Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy warned that ongoing adherence to a hodgepodge of proprietary architectures will leave the IT environment inefficient and insecure.

Delivering a keynote address at the annual FOSE Conference and Exhibition in Washington, McNealy spelled out his view of the problems in todays typical IT environment and what can be done to fix them. (Hint: The solutions involve forgoing offerings from IBM, Microsoft or HP in favor of products from Sun.)

As McNealy sees it, the first problem can be traced to a devotion to "best of breed" server products, which have created a monstrous collection of proprietary systems bolted together in the server room.

At workstations, however, agencies (and enterprises) have developed a dangerously homogenous environment that leaves them vulnerable to breaches.

"In the server room weve got Frankenstein," McNealy said. "On the desktop, we have Dolly [the cloned sheep]."

Standards-based systems are shunned by engineers, who prefer to build things themselves, and a lack of security built into computing products requires additional products to be bolted on, he said.

Suns strategy for addressing these problems focuses on open interfaces, open-source code and community development, McNealy said.

"Its all about sharing. The way to solve your problems is to go with standards."

Standards-based architectures also make it easy for IT administrators to walk away from products that arent serving them, McNealy said.

McNealy reviewed several of Suns recent open-source initiatives, including the Open Document Format (an alliance among Sun, Oracle, IBM, EMC, Novell and EDS), open-source operating system Solaris 10, and data management and high performance computing products.

Ultimately, he said, the best way to accomplish a secure and efficient IT environment is to buy computing services as a utility.

Later this month, Sun will launch what McNealy calls the first public utility grid. Customers will purchase CPU hours on the grid, paying with PayPal if they like.

/zimages/1/28571.gifSun plans to open source education. Click here to read more.

"When youre done, we hose down the compartment youre in. We make it squeaky clean and make it available for the next guy to use," McNealy said. "No IBM Global Services necessary."

The computing utility model is not for everyone, McNealy said, adding that super secret intelligence and defense agencies probably wont rely on it. He also conceded that it will take some time before most users adopt this model.

"You buy telephone and water this way, but you dont buy computers this way," he said, noting that Suns grid offerings must adhere to export controls for sales overseas. "Is there any equivalent of IBM Global Services in the telephone industry?"

"Youre the buyer. You have the money. Take charge," McNealy urged the governments IT experts. "Twenty more shopping days in the fiscal quarter."

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