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Sun, EDS Join on Utility Computing

In a quest to build out its utility network vision, Sun Microsystems said it is preparing a new package for data centers with the help of integration partner EDS .

The companies said they are grouping different combinations of hardware and software designed to create a virtualized model whereby a data center can act like a utility. While the partnership is not anchored by any particular processor (SPARC, AMD64) or operating system (Solaris, Linux, Windows), the platform is loosely based on Sun's N1 virtualization and provisioning technology.

"We are looking at graduating a number of hosting centers that we think are the next generation of data centers and utility computing," Bill Mooz, senior director for utility computing at Sun told internetnews.com. "From our standpoint, it is beneficial to team with EDS with their service element to operate in these environments."

The platform is one of a handful of utility computing offerings favored by so many of the major IT businesses these days, including IBM , HP , Veritas Software and Computer Associates . Each of the vendors is seeking to help customers lash together the melting pot of servers and storage currently found in corporate server rooms.

"There are two solutions in utility computing," Mooz said. "There is the pay-per-use pricing -- literally paying for what you use. And then there is the underlying architecture -- what technologies are able to help power the network. Sun is working on an optimized business solution to run in a pooled environment. So if we have a customer that wants a business process outsourced solution, we now have a partner in EDS to take care of that."

The two companies have been working closely since the summer of 2001, but the partnership is not exclusive. Sun has partnered with EDS rivals like Accenture. EDS has a broad selection of partners -- including HP and IBM -- but says it enjoys working with Sun.

"We have literally worked across the board with the providers. The difference here is that we are standardizing in the product development path," said Larry Lozon, EDS's vice president of hosting services. "We're in a wave of utility computing where companies have hardwired their business processes and rigor mortis is setting in and the platforms tend to grow unabated. So if I am a customer with a complex system, I have to transform the platform and streamline it. For that, Sun is our data center partner."

According to the companies, EDS trusts Sun's systems so much, that when EDS client Microsoft wanted to begin running its migration path between Windows NT 4.0 and Windows Server 2003, it did so running on Sun's Opteron x86 servers.

To make sure its brand of on-demand computing would work, Sun said it became its own customer -- what it calls "customer zero" -- and tested a myriad of configurations at its labs. Early testing was so positive, according to Mooz, that the architecture was passed on to a separate company for beta testing and is currently running one of the top 25 sites on the Web.

"We have also constructed an N1 software environment with a blade architecture to run our Sun.com Web site," Mooz said. "We tested it to reduce the provisioning because the elements are streamlined. The cost to run the system was reduced because we were working with less equipment. We saved time because we were able to tap into the operating processes that were there. For us, the costing elements in a Web hosting model were minimized."

Lozon was also very excited by the advances of Solaris 10, which is scheduled for release next month. The EDS executive said his company would really benefit from the server operating system's multi-OS capability as well as containers and zones that allow a network administrator to partition CPU cycles to accommodate the ebb and flow of different applications.

Sun and EDS have not announced an official release date for the solution, but with the latest installment of Sun's quarterly update coming next month, the expectation is that the two companies will be making some noise about it soon.