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Sun Microsystems, like server rivals Hewlett-Packard and IBM, has been transforming its data centers in an effort to cut costs. And like HP and IBM, Sun wants to take the expertise it has developed from this process, put a price tag on it, and peddle it to customers who are facing the same budget pressures.

This week, Sun announced a suite of data center services through its Professional Services organization that will help companies plan, build, and manage data centers.

Sun's experience with its Sun Grid compute utility has been interesting, but - limited to the Solaris operating system - it hasn't seen the broader appeal of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. When it built the Sun Grid, Sun took standardization beyond the server and rack level and out into a collection of servers, storage, and networking that it calls a pod. Sun is telling customers that they should be thinking at the pod level as well, so they can speed up deployments within their data centers.

Energy is also a big part of Sun's story as it seeks to get an edge over its rivals in the data center. This year, Sun opened up its newest data center in Santa Clara, California, using this pod approach and worked with APC, a maker of power distribution units, power supplies, and other gear related to power and cooling. The new Sun data center allowed Sun to cut its electricity bill for a data center by 60 per cent, gain $1.2m in rebates from the power company, and cut its data center real estate space by 90 per cent.

The three Sun services announced this week include strategic consulting, which examines the entire IT ecosystem at a company; looking at the multiple data centers and platforms the company uses; and the disaster recovery and fault tolerance plans for applications. This strategic review also looks at real estate and facilities, security (both electronic and physical), power and cooling efficiency, and the hardware and software stack.

Having done that strategic review, Sun will suggest optimizations for the data center given all the gear in place and the prevailing budget. The second service goes one step further and actually has Sun techies design a new data center using the pod approach Sun itself uses - presumably with a heavy emphasis on Sun gear and Solaris, but certainly not limited to Sun iron and software.

The third service engages Sun to actually build a new data center or build out an existing one with new physical plant, a "Blackbox" Modular Datacenter (a data center in a shipping container), or Sun's own hosting services.

Sun was, of course, a big and enthusiastic partner of Electronic Data Systems. But now EDS is owned by HP, so Sun is probably looking for ways to not steer business that way. This is probably not a good time to build up a hosting business, so you can bet Sun is focusing on other hosting partners - particularly those that might deploy its iron. ®

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