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Sun breaks through the clouds

Presque vu all over again

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Down the Amber Road

These blades will be backed up by Sun's "Amber Road" open storage arrays, which sport Solaris 10 and ZFS, among other things. These arrays do not have flash-based solid state disks in them yet, but very well could soon, since Sun is trying to get developers interested in these SSDs so they can talk their companies into buying them. Soto says that the storage part of the cloud will have an S3-like service that is "conceptually more like block-level storage" and that Sun will eventually offer file-level access to the storage service using the WebDAV protocol.

The secret sauce to the Sun Cloud, according to Soto, is not all of the iron and virtualization, but the interface that Sun has created to allow developers and startups to create a "virtual data center" using drag-and-drop tools that allow them to create a set of software stacks - for load balancers, Web servers, proxy servers, database servers, and such - and just pull them from the library and plunk them out onto the real Sun cloud. Sun is interested in supporting the open source Hadoop distributed computing environment on the cloud, of course, and will be layering other services on top of the compute and storage services. A MySQL database service is an obvious one.

As we reported last week, Sun's chief technology officer, Greg Papadopoulos, had already outed the Sun Cloud, saying in a keynote address at the AFCOM Data Center World conference that Sun's next-generation cloud was being housed at the SuperNAP data center compound run by Switch Communications outside Las Vegas.

Soto says that Sun has had the Sun Cloud up and running for the past few months and that a number of alpha customers have been putting it through the paces. Presumably, the Sun Cloud will be as inexpensive and easy to use as the touchstone in this cloud racket, Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). While Sun is launching the Sun Cloud today, and its Cloud Compute Service and Cloud Storage Service (with no funky abbreviations like C2S or CS2), it is not announcing pricing. Those will be announced some time this summer, when the Sun Cloud becomes generally available, as will detailed service level agreements.

So, can Sun eventually make money at this cloud thing? "Not only do we believe that this will be a profitable business," says Soto, "but that the time is now right to enter the cloud computing market."

If that is the case, Sun had better set its targets a lot higher than developers, students, and startups. They don't cut the big checks or cheques, depending on what side of the Pond you are on. To be sure, you need to include these types of users, but that is not where the money and profits are going to be in this down economy. Companies want to cut IT budgets, and anyone who can demonstrate that their cloud is as good or better than whatever the IT department can build - and do so for less money - is going to get some business. ®

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