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Sun Microsystems has put more pressure on itself to make two rather large bets pay off.

The company this week bragged about booting Solaris on its Rock processor for the first time. It also hyped up the overseas expansion of network.com - Sun's pay-per-use computing and storage service.

On the Rock front, WYSIWYG. The company booted its flagship version of Unix on the 16-core chip. According to Sun, such a milestone keeps it on track to deliver Rock-based servers in the second half of 2008.

From what we hear, the second half of 2008 could optimistically mean Dec. 31, 2008. Our sources indicate that the first versions of Rock to come off the line have proved buggy - buggier than buggy things are supposed to be. Sun will need 12 to 18 months from the time it gets a proper version of Rock working to deliver the chip en masse. Do some quick calculations, and you know what Sun needs to do some serious work in the next 6 months to ship Rock on time.

(Your reporter must confess to believing previous hype about how well the Rock project seemed to be doing. We're downgrading Rock's on-time delivery from "total confidence" to "um, er, um, pretty confident.")

Turning to the network.com service, Sun has welcomed users from such fine countries as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

It only took Sun three years to clear the regulatory hurdles needed to ship its grid-like computing service to foreigners.

Sun has tweaked the network.com service, so that it aims primarily at developers. You can run computations for $1 per CPU hour and do something similar for storage.

Amazon.com did some of its own recent bragging about a similar service.

For example, more than 240,000 developers have signed up to use Amazon's Web Services technology. This program gives customers access to part of an Amazon.com-like data center.

Amazon also claimed more than 5 billion objects have been filed away with its S3 storage service.

This seems like the kind of business Sun should own, and you have to wonder how Amazon could beat out Sun by such a margin so far. Sun, at least on paper, has a much more direct path to developers and, er, stands as one of the larger storage companies in the world.

What gives? ®

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