Chief marketing officer, Sun Microsystems Inc.

Sun Microsystems Inc. will announce a series of initiatives later today at its quarterly Network Computing Web event including a utility-computing offering and a new pricing structure for Java Enterprise System. In a pre-briefing with ITWorld Canada, Anil Gadre, Sun’s chief marketing officer, said the launch is part of Sun’s strategy to simplify offerings while still sticking to its vision that the network is the computer. I think we are seeing a whole new round of capability.Anil Gadre>Text

Probably the biggest announcement is around Sun’s grid-utility strategy of selling CPU cycles for US$1 per hour. Sun is building four centres, one of which is in Toronto. Gadre called it a “bring your own bits model.” Unlike other offerings where the user is constrained by vendor-specific applications that a customer must use, Sun’s model lets users send along their own algorithms and data sets.

“I think we are seeing a whole new round of capability,” he said.

Illuminata Inc. senior analyst Gordon Haff agreed, but with some caveats. “What I see is very interesting for certain types of applications.” Haff said the poster child for this type of setup is compute-intensive image rendering used in movie making.

Similar computational requirements can also be found in the life sciences, where data can be broken down and run in parallel, he said.

“Conceptually this isn’t entirely new but what hasn’t been proven…is how widespread this is going to become for commercial computer applications,” Haff said. There are many hurdles to be overcome, not the least of which is the corporate tradition of being slow to change and accept new business models, he said. Haff calls it the “we’ve always done it this way” scenario. Security is another big hurdle, though more perceived than real. A more legitimate concern is the limit to what kinds of applications are naturally suited to being hosted on external grids since many applications are tightly linked to others and tend not to operate in silos, he said.

For example, he said, companies like, which may need extreme compute power a few times a year might not be ideal candidates. “I’d speculate…it would probably solve only part of what Amazon needs to scale up to at Christmas.”

Sun plans on making the offering available to the general public in June.

Sun is also going to announce a more “holistic approach to a corporate IT infrastructure” for its services arm, Gadre said. Companies that agree to certain process or training improvements will get what Gadre called the “equivalent of a non-smoker or good driver discount built in” to the service agreement pricing model.

Haff said this sort of agreement already happens with most large-scale clients but that it is usually ad hoc and lacks a formal pricing structure. Mid-market companies tend not to be able to get this sort of preferential treatment, he said. “But actually it makes a lot of sense in today’s environment.”

Sun is also going to announce a new pricing structure for Java Enterprise System. Companies will now be able to buy one service (say network identity services) for US$50 per user, per year instead of having to buy the whole suite of offerings, Gadre said.

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