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Sun girds its grid for cloud business spin out

Sniffs new business opportunity

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Exclusive Sun Microsystems' utility computing operation is being turned into a separate cloud business unit lead by Sun's chief sustainability officer Dave Douglas.

The Reg has learned Douglas will run Network.com, which provides hosted applications, servers and storage charged on a per-use basis, and will report directly to Sun chief executive Jonathan Schwartz. Network.com had been run inside Sun's software business, under executive vice president Rich Green.

The change was announced inside Sun in early June and was being bandied about the halls of the O'Reilly Open Source Convention last week as Sun's "cloud" initiative.

Sun executives have been in meetings with both Douglas and Schwartz to try and pin down exactly what the new business will do and how it'll operate, as there's no single, clear definition of what "cloud" really is.

Sun was unable to comment on details of the spin-out at the time of writing.

Sun's utility computing services were officially launched as the wave of the future in 2005 after a year of hype. Sun said it would provide customers access to computing resources such as servers and storage at $1 per hour using a utility model. The theory was customers would flock to the service as they wouldn't need to buy or provision their own infrastructure.

From difficult beginnings, Sun's service has attracted 13 "publicly referencable" customers, although Sun has proved reticent in providing actual numbers. Forty eight applications are listed in the Network.com applications catalog.

A Sun spokesperson said there are "many business customers as well as individual user accounts for Network.com who are not publicly referencable," adding Sun does not disclose these numbers.

If that's true, Sun has changed its policy, as utility computing users had to agree to be named in marketing programs as part of their contract with Sun in 2005.

Douglas, meanwhile, was named Sun's chief sustainability officer in May 2006. His broad remit covered responsibility for the "strategy and execution" of Sun's environmental initiatives, improvements in Sun's day-to-day operations, management of Sun's "asset sharing", donations and - ah, here it is - access to Sun's grid resources.®

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