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Sun Lights Up $1 Grid

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Sun Microsystems continued its disruptive pricing strategy this week with a new grid computing offer that costs $1 per -CPU, per-hour to use.

"CIOs around the world should begin benchmarking their internal grid infrastructures against our announced price of $1 CPU/hour and begin to consider the advantages of moving toward a service-oriented data center, rather than a custom-built grid," Jonathan Schwartz, Sun president and COO said. The outspoken No. 2 man at Sun called the radical per-CPU, per-hour pricing a new market opportunity for the company.

The grid comes courtesy of TELUS, a Toronto-based compute grid environment that is preparing an infrastructure it claims will scale up to 14,848 compute nodes in each data center. The project is expected to be in full production by early 2005.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun said TELUS will resell its N1 Grid Computing software for use starting with the financial services and oil and gas industries. TELUS' environment will be based on Sun's Solaris 10, Sun N1 Grid Engine software and Sun's open Grid Computing Reference Architectures.

"We currently have two targets, every software developer with a need for the N1 software grid and the other is scientists," Schwartz said during a press conference. "This is not about building 'My Beautiful Grid.' There is no one size fits all."

Sun's partnership is yet another example of how it and rival systems companies like HP, Dell and IBM with its new "World Community Grid" are taking their computing expertise and applying it to the enterprise.

As previously reported, Sun is in the second stage of a three-part goal of selling its grid services in unconventional ways. The company's tactics include selling in increments of an hour for less than a dollar with some of its "right to use" licenses available on eBay .

Originally, Sun established grid infrastructures for Sun customers on Sun equipment. Last month, Sun added support for its iForce members on their choice of equipment. The third phase, due next year, broadens the model to include the rest of the IT world. In that scenario, a non-Sun company could be running non-Sun equipment, but Sun will still be reaping the benefits.

TELUS is the first service provider to become a retail business partner with Sun for its pay-for-use grid computing offering. Schwartz hinted that a major media company might announce soon a move of its online content to one of Sun's grids.

Since the launch of its N1 grid software in September, Sun said it has committed more than 6,000 CPUs for early demand from major financial services companies ready to use its service. Sun said its first standardized utility computing center will go into full operation by the end of the year in the Washington D.C. region, and more centers are expected to power-up within months worldwide, including New York, London and Houston, Texas.

Sun is expecting to include hardware deals in its utility computing packages. Schwartz said the company might deliver its Sun Ray desktops or even Solaris-based thin client laptops as part of the contracts.