SAN FRANCISCO-Sun Microsystems has a plan to take the company into the cloud computing era and enable developers as well as designers to build and host applications in the Sun environment.
In a wide-ranging effort known as Project Hydrazine, Sun plans to use most of its core pieces of technology to deliver a turnkey hosted solution allowing developers to leverage the Sun platform to create applications and services and monetize them without going anywhere else.
Indeed, Sun has all the pieces, many in place now or soon to be in place, to pull off a strategy that no other vendor appears prepared to do, said Bob Brewin, Sun distinguished engineer and chief technology officer for software at the systems company.
In an interview with eWEEK at the JavaOne conference here on May 6, Brewin said Project Hydrazine will consist of a network environment, a data center and other infrastructure components such as Sun’s JavaFX rich Internet application technology, Sun’s GlassFish application server, the Sun enterprise service bus, the Sun directory server, MySQL, “cheap storage” and Sun hardware.
In addition, there will be a repository “where you can store services that run on the cloud,” he said, as well as a repository of metadata to be used and reused in building applications.
Project Insight to fold in analytics
Also as part of Project Hydrazine, Sun is introducing Project Insight, an analytics capability that will give developers the ability to know who is using their products “and be able to inject advertising, monetize or somehow leverage it,” Brewin said.
“Sitting on the side of this will be a developer environment and developer hosting services. … We want to make it as easy as possible for developers and designers to create and leverage applications,” he said, noting that developers will likely use the services differently than designers. “A designer might take existing services and combine them in unique ways to create mashups,” Brewin said.
In terms of hosting, he said, “a connected developer within their IDE [integrated development environment] can just hit run and their application is deployed to the cloud. This is much like we’ve eliminated the deploy cycle on Java EE [Java Platform, Enterprise Edition].”
The cloud portion of Hydrazine will feature “an extensible container that allows you to run apps-like Amazon EC2 or Google App Engine,” Brewin said.
Is Hydrazine a Live Mesh Challenger?
Some elements of Project Hydrazine appear similar to Microsoft’s recently announced Live Mesh strategy, which involves cloud computing and a sync mechanism.
The Project Hydrazine strategy definitely pits Sun directly against Microsoft in other areas-such as the developer and design tools space and the concept of developer-designer workflow in particular.
An element of that will be Sun’s JavaFX Transformer technology. JavaFX Transformer is a set of plug-ins that plug into existing designer tools that designers typically use, such as Photoshop, “and it will export these assets like FX files and layering information and then you can import those files into your development environment,” Brewin said. He said the concept is similar to what Microsoft does with its XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) and the way the software giant tries to facilitate designer-developer workflow between users of its Expression design tools and its Visual Studio developer tool set.
In Sun’s case, rather than XAML, “JavaFX Script ties it all together,” Brewin said. “The Transformer technology and our NetBeans plug-ins plug into JavaFX Script.”
Asked if Sun would get into the design tools space, Brewin replied, “Yeah, we have to; it’s the only way to be successful. We’re hiring a lot of designers, not coders, and they’re driving this.” However, Brewin said he does not see Sun delivering anything as specifically designer-focused as Photoshop right off. “We need to walk before we can run,” he said. He also said Sun will likely not deliver a designer tools suite, but could partner with an existing vendor for that functionality.
“Personally, I would much rather partner with somebody like Adobe in the design space” for those extended designer capabilities, rather deliver an extended suite of tools, he said.
Open source and best of breed could work for Sun
Michael Cot??«, an analyst with RedMonk, said of Sun, “It’s a long row to hoe for them or anyone else, like Microsoft. The fact that Sun is integrating with the Adobe design tool chain instead of going it completely on their own was a good surprise for me to hear about. More importantly, I’m hoping it’s indicative of Sun’s general plan for building out the developer-designer tool chain: pulling together the good parts no matter where they come from instead of building their own stack, top to bottom.”
Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, added, “There is a big battle brewing for the unified developer platform of new devices. It will take a long time to settle, but the stakes are high, since everything with a screen will end up with some sort of run-time, that is to say many billions of devices (several per every population of the planet). Dexterity with rich content is the key competence for all future environments. Sun has so far lagged Microsoft and Adobe in this, and there are many strong players on the mobile side as well, such as Apple, Google, Nokia, etc. The JavaFX announcement puts Sun in the game. The capabilities put them in the game, but not really in a leapfrog situation.”
Meanwhile, Brewin said Project Hydrazine would also support other clouds such as Google App Engine and Amazon EC2, but also will support services from vendors such as eBay and PayPal.
Brewin said the pieces are falling into place, with the storage components probably coming along first. “This will roll out over time, and by this time next year at JavaOne we should see a lot of this in place,” he said.
Sun plans to deliver an early access release of its JavaFX SDK (software development kit) in July.