Sun Goes 1 Up on HP and IBM

Sun is far ahead of HP and IBM in terms of actual customers.

Its easy to knock what you dont understand. Suns N1—the vendors bet-the-company technology for autonomic, on-demand, network computing—falls into the camp of little-understood technologies.

So Suns big N1 kickoff was brilliant. Why? Because it hid the technology under the protective blanket of a dozen or so product announcements.

Those announcements ranged from Wintel server consolidation machines to the V880z graphics visualization machine to a couple of storage systems to a set of blades. Taken as a whole, this might have been Suns biggest announcement day ever in terms of the volume of products.

The volume of products, of course, is meant to be managed by the N1 architecture. Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun have similar visions for utility computing—a concept in which computers are meant to be seen as utilities (like water or electricity) instead of as a bunch of parts that break down and need to be fixed by IT. So far, Sun is the only company that has managed to associate utility computing with actual products.

HP, with its UDC (Utility Data Center), and IBM, with its autonomic computing strategy, have so far taken a more academic role with the concept. This indicates that their technologies are stuck in research or that theyre waiting to see how Sun goes about it before plunging in with practical applications.

Much of Suns current iteration of N1 is based on technology from TerraSpring, which Sun acquired last year. TerraSpring also formed core underpinnings for HPs UDC, so it appears Sun at least has a leg up on HP.

Sun is also far ahead of HP and IBM in terms of actual customers. In a genius move, Sun partnered with Cingular Wireless to be a customer, a pilot implementation and a co-developer of the technology. Cingular was on hand for the product announcements. While the deal may rule out Suns chances of working with Verizon or AT&T Wireless in the future, it propels N1 into the practical realm of computing. Its no longer a concept. But it still shows that the total number of customers for the utility computing concept is one (maybe Sun should call it "N-One").

N1 seems futuristic. What will bring it home for you? Write to me at