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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Sun Services CTO talks up Next Generation Data Center

Hal Stern, vice president,Distinguished Engineer,and CTO for Sun Services, in this interview with InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill discusses Sun’s “Next Generation Data Center” concept and to talk about subjects such as security, utility computing, and how the company stacks up its services efforts against IBM Global Services. Excerpts:

On “Next Generation Data Center”: - The first is that I think it’s largely going to be defined by virtualization of resources. So virtualization at the storage level, virtualization at the processor and memory level, and then finally virtualization at the application level. So it’s a datacenter in the classic glass house sense of, how do we better utilize the resources we have, how do we better manage it, how do we drive out costs and complexity? But the bigger issue then is the datacenter may not be an asset that you physically own, it’s not a glass house you go to now but rather a resource that you subscribe to or a resource that you lease, or a combination of those things.
I think there are a number of models that we’re trying to drive here. There is an asset acquisition model -- how do you acquire them? Do you outsource it or do you in-source it? There is a utilization model, which is, how do you drive better utilization of the resources you have? How can you, through a server consolidation or through things like virtualization and consolidation together, try to improve the utilization of the resources that you have? There is a financing model, which is again, is it outsourced, is it in-sourced? Is it leased, or in the case of a utility model, is it a baseline acquisition with a variable lease on top of it? There’s the deployment model, which is if you’re able to go run your applications in such a way that they really are accessed over the network and they really are set up in such a way you could think of having a dropbox environment, you drop your application into a set stack and it just runs.

On Sun trying to compete with IBM Global Services
- We’re going to compete with them, and we’re going to compete with them with I think a different metrical value. I don’t want to compete with them in terms of how many bodies or how many consultants I can [put] on the problem, I want to compete with them through technology, and to do that by scaling the technology. So a lot of that involves the things like this risk management. If I can automate a process and have it [on] as many systems as possible and can provide monitoring of them, I really don’t need to have tons of [system administrators] running around the datacenter doing patch updates and installs … We have been working very carefully with our partners to figure out, what’s the partner delivered, what’s Sun delivered?

On utility computing: - We look at utility, first of all, as a way of changing the incremental provisioning and incremental financing model for that. So we have done utility deals which really feel like capacity on demand. [A customer in Singapore provides] an example where we basically sold them a number of servers. The more [compute cycles] they consumed, the lease rate went up. Which is classic capacity on demand, what I think a lot of people are calling utility computing today. And then we also have been working with, again, EDS and AT&T on a sort of more standardized hosted environment where you incrementally provision servers or pieces of servers.
I think the real end target for utility computing, though, is to look at the application space and get to something like a Salesforce.com. To me, the ultimate utility compute provider today is eBay. I mean, you know, you have a selling engine, a pricing engine, a payment engine there and you pay for it by the drink. It’s got a mindlessly simple API, anybody can use it. It actually has programmatic APIs, and they make changes to the back end, they constantly improve it, they have their service, and you never have to change the parts. An insightful interview, definitely worth reading.

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