Sun Grid Takes Big Step Forward

By By Derrick Harris, Editor

March 19, 2007

Sun Microsystems has added “click and run” functionality to its Sun Grid offering at Network.com by providing end-users with a catalog of applications from ISVs and open source communities. There are currently 20 applications in the catalog, the vast majority of which are open source.

This is a rather big advancement for Sun Grid, where in the past users were required to develop their own applications, using Sun Grid only for its computing resources. Now, said Rohit Valia, group product manager for Sun Grid, users just submit data into pre-configured, pre-tested applications, kind of like an “application jukebox.”

From the ISV point-of-view, the application catalog offers a new avenue to reach customers who might not have the resources or expertise to manage the high-performance datacenters often required to get maximum results from certain applications.

In terms of pricing, the standard $1/CPU/hour model remains for the use of the grid's infrastructure, and ISVs will grant users Digital Entitlement Tokens, which give the user controlled access to a particular applications. “We keep the model pretty clean,” said Valia. “The ISV charges for their application, we provide our infrastructure and we charge for that, and the relationship the ISV has with their customer is maintained. The customer contacts the ISV directly to get access to the software and support for the application.”

Valia believes the new Network.com will be a big success in the target markets of life sciences, media and manufacturing — areas in which he said the company has seen a lot of energy in recent months. This sentiment would seem to be mirrored by the categories of applications available in the catalog: Computational Mathematics, Computer Aided Engineering, General (which currently includes Blender, the catalog's only digital media application) and Life Sciences.

According to Sun Microsystems, hundreds of customers, users and communities — Including InfoSolve Technologies, Lawrence Livermore National Labs and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — have joined Network.com to take advantage of the new capabilities. One application that has been particularly popular in the utility model is SimBioSys' eHits, which is used for fast, flexible docking of whole or partial structures to target receptors, and counts the University of Southern California, LLNL and the EPA among its Network.com users.

Valia said this is latest update to Network.com is in line with the planned evolution of the Sun Grid utility model, which was made available to the public in March 2006. “This is exactly how we envisioned the roadmap,” he noted, “where we built first the infrastructure, then we built the applications and content, and then offered them to our joined communities with our partners.”

In the near future, Valia added, users can expect to see more applications across a broader spectrum of categories.

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