Sun Does Grid For OpenDocument, Podcasts

Sun Microsystems is putting the power and viability of its public grid to the test with two new services in its pay-as-you-go model.

The first service will allow users to convert proprietary data files to the OpenDocument formats while the other converts text to audio podcasts.

Officials plan to launch a retail version of the text-to-podcast service within the next 30 days but have no time line in place for the OpenDocument migration service.

“It is clear a second generation of the Web is emerging, with a broad array of on-demand services available freely and ubiquitously, tied not simply to a Web browser, but to any application or device that connects to the Internet,” Jonathan Schwartz, Sun president and COO, said in a statement.

The two services, when finalized, will allow users to upload a document to Sun’s grid through a Web browser, pay for the service using a credit card and get the converted file back on their desktop as an .odf or .mp3 file.

Officials are launching the two services as a teaser to the advantages of grid computing, but expect to see a lot of demand from scientists, engineers and other high-performance computing users to tap into the processing power available.

Officials deny any coincidence in timing between today’s announcement and that of Microsoft, which announced Windows Live and Office Live earlier this afternoon. The two products are the Redmond giant’s answer to software-as-as-service (SaaS), a Web-based version of its popular desktop software

“There’s definitely an overlap in strategy, if you will,” said Tom Goguen, Sun vice president of software marketing. “I looked at the Microsoft announcement, and I felt pretty strongly that it was a validation of our strategy.”

Sun recently formed an alliance with Google that was widely expected to be the announcement of a Web-based Google Office. While that didn’t come to pass, many expect a Web-based office suite from the two companies down the road.

Sun announced its grid utility plans last year, an offering that lets companies pay for the processing power and storage space they need to handle tasks rather than going out and buying the infrastructure needed. The price tag is a simple $1 per CPU per hour and $1 per gigabyte per month.

The software has been geared mainly toward smaller software companies that want to give their customers the processing power found in large data centers without going out and building a data center themselves.

The first to come out publicly in support of Sun’s grid was financial services software vendor CDO2, which tested the service as an option for customers who wanted to crunch the numbers on financial simulations.

Last week, however, Sun had to defend its public grid plans following a report the company had yet to log a single customer, saying it had thousands of customers waiting in the wings for the public launch.

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