Sun aims to cut complexity with N1

Sun Microsystems Inc. last month announced details of an ambitious initiative, informally called N1, that’s aimed at helping companies better utilize their data centre computing resources while reducing systems management complexity.

At its SunNetwork 2002 user conference in San Francisco, the company also disclosed details about an emerging desktop Linux initiative and new IT security software. But N1 is one of the top priorities on the SunNetwork agenda, according to company officials.

N1 is Sun’s code name for a set of software and hardware that’s aimed at giving IT managers the ability to dynamically allocate hardware, software, storage and network technologies to support distributed applications, or services, as Sun is now calling them.

“The idea is that N1 will match an application, or service, with the correct resources that will optimally handle that workload,” said Tony Iams, an analyst at D.H. Brown Associates Inc. in Port Chester, N.Y.

Instead of permanently tying an application to a specific set of equipment, the N1 offering is designed to let users shift resources as processing needs fluctuate, Iams said. IT managers will also be able to set resource usage prioritization policies to govern the allocation process, he added.

Much of Sun’s existing technology – including its Unix servers, the Solaris operating system, Java and the Sun Open Net Environment software suite – will be used as part of the N1 strategy, Iams said. For example, Solaris 9 already features an N1-like resource management capability.

But Sun also rolled out a series of new N1-related products and services, starting at last month’s conference, said Yael Zhent, a senior director at Sun. She said Sun’s goal is to support far better utilization of data centre resources.

“A theme we have consistently heard from our customers is that the data centre is not running efficiently because there is not a whole lot of resource-sharing going on,” Zhent said, adding that IT resource utilization rates often “are far from perfect.”

Another aim of the N1 initiative is to give administrators a much more service-oriented, cross-platform view of their technology infrastructures, as opposed to managing specific hardware or components individually, Zhent said.

The 4,000 or so attendees expected at the conference will also see Sun follow through on promises to announce client-level plans for supporting Linux, said David Head, the executive in charge of organizing SunNetwork. Sun CEO Scott McNealy said at last month’s LinuxWorld Conference & Expo that a desktop Linux move was in the works.

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