Sun introduces open cloud amid IBM takeover talk

Sun Microsystems Inc. announced today its new open cloud initiative, the Sun Open Cloud Platform, an open cloud computing infrastructure based on Sun’s Java, MySQL, OpenSolaris, and Open Storage.

The initiative will include a set of open APIs, which the company hopes will usher in better standardization as developers building clouds keep Sun in mind.

“For it to take off, we need that openness and compatibility,” said Dave Douglas, senior vice-president of cloud computing. “If software developers want to deploy to many, many clouds on a huge scale, we can make it happen. We want these core APIs to proliferate through as many clouds as possible.”

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“This is ‘open’ in the sense that it’s a platform for Sun’s open source development tools and platform,” said senior research analyst John Sloan of the Info-Tech Research Group. “They’re delivering their platform as a server based on the cloud model. Does that make them any more open than any other ‘open’ cloud?”

It will allow developers to deploy applications to the Sun Cloud, courtesy of Sun open source software virtual machine images.

“This will give users their own virtual data center in the cloud,” said Lew Tucker, CTO of cloud computing. “When start-ups are beginning, they can’t think, ‘Where am I going to put all these servers?’ or ‘I need to go to a venture capitalist for a couple million dollars in equipment.’ We’ll put that equipment in the cloud.”

Sun does have a slight edge, however, and could have an advantage over other large companies rushing for prime cloud real estate, according to Sloan. “They have a fairly strong development community that develops a lot on their platforms, including Solaris, MySQL, and Java,” said Sloan. “In a sense, Sun is like Apple. They started out in hardware, but, really, it’s software that’s the differentiator.”

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Software or not, Sun has staked its claim in the cloud, and that might prove attractive real estate to more than just developers: namely, its rumoured buyer, IBM. “They do have that cloud play and the developer play, and if Sun has already made that move, IBM could benefit from that, since they don’t really have anything to match yet,” according to Sloan.

In other benefits, Sun’s move into the cloud will also allow its community of developers more scalability, according to Tucker. “People are often starting small these days, but when they design applications they want them so they can scale,” Tucker said.

This could spread beyond the usual servers punted up to the cloud, said Tucker. “Not only does this mean Web services, but also e-mail servers, or your source depository. You just take that all virtual and put it in the cloud.”

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