Sun Sets Sights on Cloud Computing

By Andy Patrizio

December 15, 2008

Channel vendor Sun Microsystems has decided to unleash its considerable hardware, software and technical expertise on the rapidly growing cloud computing area.

Dave Douglas, the director of Sun's cloud computing business unit, said one of the changes instituted by the company's recent reorganization was to set up a cloud strategy. CEO Jonathan Schwartz asked Douglas to develop the strategy last summer. Douglas assembled a team of cloud engineers, including the unit's new chief technology officer Lou Tucker, who had previously been with Salesforce.com.

Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) certainly is not lacking for technology. It has powerful hardware, the xVM virtual machine as the base for running Windows, Linux and its own Solaris operating system, multiple enterprise file systems like Lustre and ZFS, an open storage technology, and Java, MySQL and Glassfish for the software layer.

Sun is focusing on three layers of cloud computing: Software as a Service (SaaS), platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. Sun felt there would be work done in all three layers and companies will gravitate toward where they have needs.

Application clouds are different based on work, so a high performance cloud would be different from a Web services cloud. "So some clouds will be different than others. These many different layers will mean many different clouds," said Douglas. "There's not going to be just one cloud and everyone is going to use it."

Openness is emphasized

Douglas said Sun expects to play across a wide range of cloud offerings, where Sun provides a large amount of content to one customer or very little in another case. "We want those values of openness and compatibility to be coming through in every one of those cases," he said.

"Why do we think we're the right people for the job?" he continued. "The idea of openness is critical to the cloud space. This is at the core of our DNA. We know how to make that happen. We have a very rich portfolio that applies directly to this space."

There certainly is opportunity. IDC estimates that about $16 billion will be spent worldwide on cloud computing services in 2008, growing to $42 billion by 2012. Over the same period, cloud computing will grow from four percent of the total IT spend this year to nine percent in 2012, and that's with the economic slowdown.

However, IDC analyst Jean Bozman said Sun has not shown all of its cards yet. "What [this announcement] does is, it's pulling together things that Sun is already strong at. They probably should have done this a lot sooner," she said "They have all the pieces to make cloud computing work and have relationships with service providers to do it."

Bozman said it appears Sun has a multi-layered strategy for how they will go to market. For now, she said Sun is trying to position itself as a player because "they have some announcements they are not prepared yet to make." She expects more news from Sun next month filling out its strategy.

(This article was adapted from Internetnews.com)