Sun Promises New Reference Architectures

Executives from Sun Microsystems conducted a conference
call Tuesday to offer the public a taste of what will be unveiled next month
at its SunNetwork 2003 Conference
with regard to its solutions and reference architectures for its Orion and N1 initiatives.


Clark Masters, executive vice president of Sun’s Enterprise Systems Products
Group, and Marge Breya, vice president of field marketing for Sun’s Global
Sales Organization, presided over the call, offering shadowy details of
pending reference architectures.


The duo did, however, talk about specific implementations that customers and
partners are using to cut costs without sacrificing computing power or
operational efficiencies. What Masters and Breya wanted to drive home was
that Sun is a bonafide services company that competes with IBM and HP
through its own engineering process as opposed to just a IT products maker.
The goal seemed to be to give industry watchers a taste of how it develops
products and gets them to market.


Noting that the IT environment has changed radically over the last few
years, with customers demanding more for less, Masters said his Santa Clara,
Calif. company’s goal is to remove the fear factor of computer system
complexity.


“Sun’s approach is different than IBM or HP,” Masters said. “We’re
engineering the complexity out of solutions in advance,” with the
development of N1 products and reference architectures. The latter, Masters
promised, is not a collection of brochures, but a set of “real,
pre-engineered solutions.”


“Complexity is IBM’s friend,” Masters said. “We take out complexity, but IBM
has a layer of services that is non-repeatable. Sun is adding repeatable
services.” Masters promised the reference architectures would not be
immutable, and that engineers would go back and recharacterize those
architectures as needed, tweaking the hardware and software.


Sun is racing rivals IBM and HP to the finish line of next-generation
computing platforms that are easily managed and extremely automated, both
qualities customers are asking for. The competition is fierce, and Sun has
largely been acknowledged as a company that has been behind the others —
not in terms of vision, but in terms of actual products on the market.


Accordingly, analysts are waiting for more concrete evidence of products
from the company’s vaunted Orion and N1 strategies, which will be furthered
at next months conference in San Francisco. Masters vowed new Orion and N1
solutions in 2004, if not late 2003. He also said the new reference
architectures would greatly simplify Sun’s strategies, but would not be more
specific.


Masters described a process where Sun developers author sketches, or
blueprints for solutions, followed by reference architectures that take
customer problems in retail, banking, data warehousing or digital media and
comes up with a logical hardware/software solution to them.


Finally, the actually infrastructure solutions themselves are born and sold
through Sun’s direct sales force or iForce and with the cooperation of such
partners such as Deloitte and Touche, Sybase, Oracle or Infosys.


Breya delved into a few more specifics on the call, noting that Sun
currently has nine reference architectures spread across four major
solutions for enterprise consolidation, enterprise continuity, digital
archiving and network identity — all keystone segments at a time when doing
more with less — securely — and with the ability to back up operations and
data is paramount.


“We have three goals with this process: to help customers reduce cost and
complexity, increase the effectiveness of mobility with security solutions
and accelerate network services deployment,” Breya said. “… Why are we
doing this now? Looking at current trends, we’re seeing infrastructure
problems that limit the effectiveness and competitiveness of companies
around the world.”


Breya said the handling of virus situations with the improper architecture
is one such example companies have been guilty of — and an area Sun hopes
to correct with its network identity solutions. Breya also said companies
that have had a hard time managing large data centers they’ve built owing to
“server sprawl” can benefit from Sun’s enterprise consolidation strategy.


For example, Sun has pared the number of its servers at British Telecom from
95 to 6, as well as replaced 43 HP servers at Corporate Express with two
high-end SunFire systems.


With regard to enterprise continuity, which has become a must for systems
vendors since the 9/11 disaster, Sun boasts an “active, active cluster” that
is effective up to 200 kilometers away to increase transaction failover.


Digital archiving is also becoming incredibly important. As the government
continues to crack down on corporate governance rules, the duration of time
enterprises must keep vital e-mails has lengthened. While the cost of saving
such deluges of e-mails is prohibitive, Sun’s digital archiving solution
servers 80,000 users at Daimler Chrysler spanning 18 countries, lowering
total cost of ownership and security risks.


Network identity is also a hot topic and Sun has made great strides with its
software. With the help of Liberty Alliance 1.0, Sun has policy-based
procedures for employees, customers and suppliers implemented at Wells
Fargo. While passport support is generally expensive for multiple single
sign-on solutions, Sun’s identity products virtually eliminate password
costs, Breya said.


Ultimately, Masters and Breya said they will unveil new reference
architectures and progress of ongoing Orion software management and N1
automated computing systems projects at the SunNetwork Conference from Sept.
16-18.

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