Sun Sees the Cloud as Its Chance to Shine
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|Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz|
Speaking today here at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), Schwartz talked about where Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) is headed as it continues to refine a strategy that has taken it from a hardware giant to a innovative but struggling "unified computing" company.
But he shied away from commenting on widespread reports that his company is in merger discussions with IBM, a move that neither company has publicly confirmed. However, observers have said that such a deal could be based, at least in part, on both companies' combined interest in cloud computing and Sun's aggressive steps to move into the field.
Instead, Schwartz concentrated on making it clear that Sun sees cloud computing as an immediate revenue opportunity. And, despite having revealed its plans for the technology only relatively recently, Sun sees the cloud as area where it's already poised for success.
"With the cloud, we can scale to the size of the user base rather than to the size of our sales force," he said.
Last week, Sun announced the Sun Cloud, which is built on top of its open source products like its ZFS filesystem and Crossbow -- a virtualization-based technology for managing high-volume network traffic that's now a part of OpenSolaris -- and which will have open APIs all published under Creative Commons licenses.
Today, Schwartz outlined how he expects Sun to make money from the cloud. For its own cloud computing services, Sun plans to charge using a pay-for-service model like that of Amazon.
He also announced today that Sun's cloud services will be able to import Amazon cloud services to allow customers to move from Amazon to Sun.
Battle in the cloud
Few would dispute the claim that cloud computing is seen as one of IT's hot, emerging areas. Schwartz pointed out that analysts are already claiming that cloud computing is anywhere from a $20 billion to $80 billion per year business and Amazon already has 500,000 paying customers for its cloud infrastructure services.
But Sun is hardly alone in seeking to squeeze revenues from the trend. Traditional rivals like IBM, Dell, HP and Microsoft are all fleshing out cloud computing strategies of their own, while Internet giants like Amazon, along with Google and Yahoo, are likewise pushing hard into the field.
For Schwartz, Sun occupies a critical position as enterprises move to adopt the trend.
[cob:Special_Report]He described six basic cloud computing models -- public and private versions of infrastructure as a service, platforms as a service and applications as a service -- and said Sun is the only company involved in each.
He also said he believes that Sun Microsystems has a big advantage as businesses move to a cloud computing model because it sees itself as the only vendor with a solution that can work behind a firewall -- a private cloud.
This is a critical point for businesses with regulatory requirements for data protection, specifically healthcare, financial services and businesses doing business with government. These businesses all require that data cannot be accessed across a public system, a fatal flaw with current cloud computing models.
Sun's open source stratagem
Cloud computing isn't the only closely watched sector of Sun's business. The company's also invested heavily in open source -- another area where industry observers see potential for synergies in an IBM tie-up.
But during his keynote here at OSBC, Schwartz focused instead on Sun's success in transforming its software side into an open source giant. He claimed that there are 200,000 downloads per day of open source software of some form from Sun.
He said that Sun's plan is to drive very wide adoption of its open source solutions and then begin to monetize adopters who are having success using them.
If all goes well, that will encourage users to adopt Sun's cloud-based services, as well as its other offerings.
The idea hinges on Sun's success in using the trend toward "unified computing," or the coming together of computing, storage and networking, to piggyback hardware, software and services offerings onto the growing adoption of its open source software.
But first, Schwartz said Sun remains focused on growing its open source user base.
"Our open source adoption is accelerating," Schwartz said. "That's not revenue -- adoption precedes revenue."