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Sun reveals war on data centers

Everything must go by 2015

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Sun Microsystems plans to give up on data centers by 2015. How do you like that?

"Sun IT is driving towards a consolidated and unified data center approach by 2015, while reducing overall operating costs, overall energy consumptions, and to eliminate all SunIT data center's [sic]," writes Sun data center architect Brian Cinque on his blog. "Did I just say 0 data centers? Yes! Our goal is to reduce our entire data center presence by 2015."

We're not 100 per cent sure what Cinque means here, and his post fails to clear up all the uncertainties.

Sun has been a vocal backer of the utility computing model where it sees companies of all sizes abandoning their own data centers in favor of tapping into a few large data centers run by, say, utilities or companies such as Sun, IBM, HP, Dell and even Amazon.com and Google. Following along these lines, Sun might as well set an example for others to follow by plugging into the utility system as well.

Cinque, however, never describes what type of utility service will replace Sun's own systems. Is he talking about Sun plugging into a system run by PG&E, the local utility company, or is he talking about Sun managing and sharing its own utility-type service?

In either case, you would expect that Sun thinks the utility system in question will be full of Sun servers, storage systems and software. Otherwise, the company has a hell of a lot of work to do creating a new $18bn franchise between now and 2015.

Color us confused.

Here's another bit of weirdness.

To hit the 2015 goal, Sun has established a data center reduction roadmap and released a single objective date to the public. By 2013, Sun plans to cut its current data center square footage in half and to reduce the power consumed by Sun's data centers again by half. Er, and then two years later, everything will be gone.

SunIT will move in an evolutionary manor from several generations of infrastructure, both technology and processes, to a model that is far more efficient with enabling factors like technology and IT Governance like processes. As SunIT reduces data centers due to higher utilization functionality, there will be a point proven by metrics, that SunIT can only become so efficient. At that point SunIT must progress from a service oriented architecture to more of a software as a service.

Got that?

Without question, technology companies and businesses finally seem ready to get serious about this utility computing stuff. The thought of a company like Procter and Gamble or Exxon Mobil spending millions of dollars to maintain their own computing systems in 20 years feels silly.

Sun, however, can ill afford to waffle around on a blog about this transition. The company, as it stands today, must navigate the utility computing switch with skill. It will need to secure large amounts of business from those few companies buying infrastructure gear for their utility centers and, at the same time it will need to fend off threats from a company such as Google willing to build hardware and deliver services on its own; and it will need to compete with companies such as Amazon.com who are willing to go around the traditional infrastructure players with their own services.

So far, Sun has seemed to want to play a part in just about every aspect of the utility computing game. It wants to sell the hardware behind other companies' utility systems, while also offering its own processor, storage and eventually software rental services directly to customers.

Cinque is talking about eliminating Sun's internal data centers used for IT functions. So, maybe Sun still plans to go after the rental services over the long-haul with data centers that count as a type of product rather than an internal system. Who knows?

Given how central the utility computing push will be to Sun in the coming years, we think the company could do with a less cavalier approach to announcing the end of its data centers.

Cinque has vowed to dish out more posts to explain Sun's harrowing transition. Hopefully, they will contain actual information.

You have to wonder if a company like Exxon Mobile would think it a good idea to announce that it no longer planned to use gasoline in workers vehicles or corporate transports as part of a move to alternative energy via a scatter-brained blog post. ®

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