Sun Shows Off Cloud Platform


Microsoft, Google and other companies have a new cloud competitor in Sun Microsystems, which has announced its upcoming Sun Open Cloud Platform

Sun Microsystems used the opening of the CommunityOne open developer conference to announce its upcoming Sun Open Cloud Platform, a set of core technologies, APIs and protocols that the company intends to proliferate throughout private and public clouds in the coming years.

At the conference, which started this week, Sun also announced the Sun Cloud, its first public cloud, intended for use by the enterprise, students, developers and others. It is already being used by Sun internally.

While Sun planned to make some noise this week with its cloud computing offering, the announcement has been overwhelmed by reports that IBM has begun negotiating to buy Sun for nearly $7 billion (£4.9bn). What impact that will have on Sun’s future cloud strategy is hard to tell at this point.

The move will position Sun in a competitive environment with Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other companies that have been busily moving into the cloud-computing space. Microsoft Windows Azure, an enterprise-capable cloud platform that experienced a 22-hour outage over the weekend, will be generally available by November.

Sun executives see an extremely cloud-filled future.“In Sun’s view, we think there’s going to be many clouds: There’s going to be public and private clouds, clouds set up for different applications, clouds behind firewalls, and clouds done geographically for political and legal reasons,” David Douglas, senior vice president of cloud computing and developer platforms for Sun, said during the opening keynote address.

Sun, he added, was positioned to potentially play a substantial role in this future.“We have a lot of pieces that allow this to happen: products and technologies such as VirtualBox and Sun xVM,” Douglas added.

In Sun’s vision, the cloud platform rests on a few major pillars: Compute Service (which includes virtual machines, networking and storage), the Virtual Data Center, Open API, and Storage Service (including volumes, objects, protocols, and the like).

With these tools in place, developers can create a virtual data center in the cloud, and then place their own virtual machines within it.

“We think everyone on the planet deserves to have their own virtual data center in the cloud,” Lew Tucker, CTO of the Sun Cloud Group, said during the keynote.

Tucker then demonstrated the functionality of the Sun Cloud, running live from a data center in Las Vegas. Taking the role of a developer, Tucker opened a dashboard-style screen on his laptop.

“What a developer gets when they have an account with the Sun Cloud is their own virtual data center,” said Tucker. “It starts with a connection to public Internet and a switch.”

A tool bar on the left side of the screen held a number of components, represented by icons, which Tucker then dragged onto his “palette.”

Tucker then connected a server (one of those dragged components) to the public Internet, picked up an IP address, and then connected server to switch, all by drawing lines between the icons.

He then went on to load other servers into his new data center. “One thing that’s important is scalability,” Tucker added. “Conceptually, how I can bring components in, and manage them holistically, and then replicate the distributed architecture.”

The Sun Cloud displayed other functionality, much of it now integrated with existing Sun applications. For example, Sun OpenOffice will offer the ability, via the “File” menu, to “Save To Cloud” and “Open From Cloud.”

Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos previously voiced the opinion that the global recession will drive enterprises to give a more thorough look at cloud computing and virtualization as a solution to their efficiency needs. The economic doldrums, he suggested, would speed cloud computing’s rate of adoption within the enterprise.

Economic driver or no, cloud computing itself is positioned to become a major competitive arena for Sun, Microsoft, Google and other companies over the next few years.