Sun Revamps Its N1 Strategy

Sun Microsystems released new software Tuesday to help flesh out its N1 data center management


The company introduced its new N1 System Manager and revealed an update to its Sun N1 Service Provisioning System. N1 is

an integrated system that helps data center operators manage server and computing resources independent of the vendor or


Both improvements are based on Sun’s 2003 acquisition of CenterRun. The announcements are part of

Sun’s quarterly release party, being held in

Washington, D.C. The N1
products are expected to compete with similar system management software
from IBM and HP .

However, the new software shows a lag in Sun’s aggressive vision for the platform. Back when it was launched in 2002, the

company said it would make its N1 software available for Sun products first, its iForce partners second, and then to even

help manage its rival’s products. Sun execs said at the time that data center operators would be able to manage their

heterogeneous environments right from the first installation and even if the machine was turned off.

At this point, the System Manager will only manage Sun systems, beginning with the Sun Fire V40z and V20z servers. The N1

Service Provisioning System introduces bare-metal OS provisioning but only for J2EE-based application servers, Web servers

and databases.

On the plus side, Sun said the new offerings are equipped to integrate with Cisco networking products

and will cover operating systems from Solaris 8 through Solaris 10 and IBM’s Unix variant, AIX. The N1 enhancements also work

with network environments such as Red Hat Advanced Server, Microsoft Server 2000, and Microsoft Advanced Server.

“We can get a little deeper with our own systems,” Jim Sangster, Sun’s director of N1, told “We

will be quickly adding more hardware support to the N1 system with more infrastructures coming as well. Additionally, we’ll

add more to this than just Sun but that is our mid- to long-term strategy.”

Sangster said the snag in broadening N1 beyond Sun is that the company is aiming to connect into the systems service

processor using IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface), a hardware level interface specification to communicate

with the hardware instead of installing a mini-boot or similar workaround based in the software stack.

The tradeoff, according to Sangster, is that N1 will recognize a server as soon as the bare metal is placed in a rack.

From that point, a system administrator can start the provisioning, installing different operating systems, software stacks,

and other assorted data.

“We can then group these systems together and group per rack or group per data center and then perform drag and drop

functions,” Sangster said.

Sangster said N1 System Manager has passed its beta stage with a number of different customers testing in multiple Sun

Grid data centers and being able to manage up to hundreds of systems. The software also features a hybrid user interface that

mixes the graphical user interface and command line functions where operations are simultaneously reflected in each


The Sun N1 Service Provisioning System, which is more focused on
commercial applications, has also been updated to dovetail with services
that span multiple tiers — J2EE Application servers, Web servers, and
databases from Sun, IBM, BEA and Oracle — across heterogeneous

Sun said its N1 System Manager will be available for download in late
summer, while the N1 Service Provisioning System is available now
as a separate purchase or as part of the Sun Java Enterprise System.

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