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Sun's Utility Grid Play: Act II

Sun Microsystems is expanding its utility computing sphere of influence to now encompass its closest partners.

Armed with a combination of its Fire V20z servers, N1 Grid Engine software and either its Solaris Operating System or Linux software, Sun is wooing large contracts from companies in the petroleum and energy, life sciences, financial services, media and entertainment, and automotive and manufacturing industries.

As previously reported, the company is selling its services in unconventional ways, which include in increments of an hour for less than a dollar with some of its "right to use" licenses available on eBay . For its all-inclusive, pay-for-use Sun Utility Computing for Midrange Sun StorEdge Systems, Sun said pricing starts at 80 cents per Power Unit (SPU), per month.

As for delivering the backbone of the service, Sun said it has signed several partners including Atos Origin, CGI and EDS.

Bjorn Andersson, Sun's marketing director for grid computing, told internetnews.com that the company is just taking registrations now, because the infrastructure won't be ready till about mid-to-late November. "We have hundreds of people asking about it and kicking the tires, so to speak."

This is the second phase of Sun's master plan to help telcos and service providers eliminate some of the capital expenditures and maintenance costs of its networks. But the contracts were for Sun customers on Sun equipment. This time around, Sun is adding support for its iForce members on their choice of equipment. Potentially, a non-Sun company could be running non-Sun equipment, but Sun will still be reaping the benefits.

The third phase, due next year, broadens the model to include the rest of the IT world.

The new offering includes value-added services from Sun's partners, such as private and secure partitioning within a data center; options for large data sets or custom applications; customization services for unique workload requirements; architecture design; grid application tuning and integration; data management services; pay-per-use storage; and partner-provided applications and management.

Andersson also pointed out that the company is testing two grids in North America at undisclosed locations. That's not because of national security reasons, but because Sun is trying to cut a long-term contract.

"We've seen a lot of interest in this from the big oil and gas companies to companies that do financial services to universities," Ashif Dhanani, director of Sun's utility computing marketing said. "One of the things this does is help us address the mid-tier range companies that could not afford to purchase the computers or manage the infrastructure.

"With this Sun program," Dhanani continued, "customers get access to resources right away without the need for long-term contracts and gives them a forum to use this as a commodity product."