Sun Talks (a Little) About Cloud Plans

By Derrick Harris

December 10, 2008

Last month, we broke the news that Sun Microsystems is investing heavily in a cloud computing strategy. In a teleconference yesterday, Sun expanded on its plans … a little.

Here, in a nutshell, are the bullet points laid out by Dave Douglas, Sun’s senior vice president of cloud computing:

  • Aside from Douglas, Sun’s Cloud Computing Business Unit consists of Lew Tucker, CTO; Jim Parkinson, vice president of engineering; Juan Carlos, vice president of marketing; and hundreds of engineers and other ancillary employees.
  • The company has formed a “cloud advisory group” that includes customers, partners and luminaries.
  • Sun sees the cloud ecosystem as being comprised of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Douglas says Sun will have the strongest pure play in the latter two, but will partner with ISVs around SaaS.
  • Sun’s foresees three main types of clouds — public, private and hybrid — and many variations of each. Sun’s goal is not only to “power” these clouds when possible, but also to use its expertise to facilitate openness and compatibility among them.
    • To this end, Sun’s cloud computing offerings will include products and technologies; expertise and services; partners; and an open community.
    • Sun’s current suite of cloud-enabling technologies includes OpenSolaris, xVM, xVM Ops Center, Open EDI, VirtualBox, Crossbow, MySQL, Glassfish, Open Storage, ZFS, Sun Storage 7000 systems, Lustre and Celeste.
  • Cloud computing could be a new source of vendor lock-in, but Sun wants to push openness by being part of as many clouds as possible, regardless of how integral its technology is to the infrastructure.

CTO Tucker also chimed in, noting that Sun is in a great position to start building clouds for companies, and it has received much interest already.

Details were equally sparse during the Q&A session, during which the Sun team indicated:

  • Sun is equipped to help telcos and service providers get into the cloud business, and service providers will play a big role in bringing SMBs to the cloud.
  • SLAs in the cloud will vary depending on the use case, and in some scenarios where Sun is involved, it might have to bring in partners to ensure service levels can bet met.
  • Sun views everyone in the cloud computing ecosystem as partners (an attitude embodied in the Google-Salesforce.com partnership). As an example, it was pointed out, Sun has hundreds of people running OpenSolaris AMIs on EC2.
  • There is a “huge affinity” between Star and Open Office and cloud computing. (Ed. Note: Go ahead and read between the lines.)
  • Sun might even have announcements around CDNs and cloud computing (one of many things that could be coming down the pike).

And let us not forget the still unanswered question as to what will happen to Network.com. Unless I missed something, this was never explicitly brought up during the call, and not wanting to be on the receiving end of a good, old-fashioned corporate sidestep, I didn’t ask. My prediction (on which even I wouldn’t place a bet) is that Sun ultimately will offer a full-on cloud platform, offering not only PaaS (as it is well equipped to do, and which Douglas acknowledges would be the proper description for Network.com 1.0) but also nearly bare metal IaaS and social networking/Web 2.0 services. It has the means to do all these things (and has hinted at them through various projects — like Caroline and Hydrazine) and, if done right, could make Sun the only (?) low-maintenance, full-service cloud offering.

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