Grid Computing For Sale, PayPal Accepted

Sun Microsystems is making its Sun Grid Compute Utility available over the Web in the U.S., charging customers $1 per hour per CPU through billing fulfillment provider PayPal.

Developers and researchers in several fields will be able to access the utility with a click-through license through a simple portal, said Aisling MacRunnels, senior directory of utility computing at Sun.

Customers, who must be using AMD Opteron or Sun UltraSparc machines to procure the processing power, will be billed through PayPal. The computer power will be provisioned within 24 hours of an order.

The move is the next step from the company’s commercial plan, in which Sun secured specific contracts with organizations such as Applied BioSystems, CDO2 and Princeton.

These contracts allowed companies in financial services, oil and gas and biological sciences to let their customers dial up or dial down the computing power they required as a utility, according to their company needs. Customers were not billed if they were not using the computing power.

“Those [contracts] fulfilled the utility vision from a perspective of a much more standard environment, much lighter weight, simple to dial up and dial down,” MacRunnels said.

“At the request of the customers, we did provide a reservation based system so that they could [generate a PO] or reserve a certain number of CPUs for a certain time band.”

The executive said oil and gas company Virtual Compute Corporation purchased 2 million CPUs through this offering.

MacRunnels said the new offering is essentially the same system, but accessible through a portal. U.S. customers can procure the computing power through PayPal here. Sun will announce international availability later this year.

Sun, along with rivals IBM and HP, has been a leading proponent of grid computing.

But to this point, Sun has been the only vendor to offer the technology as a utility that customers can control through their laptops at the touch of a few keystrokes.

Analysts tend to agree the technology has a great deal of value in the flexibility it affords customers, but not all agree on whether or not the adoption required to keep the CPUs flowing freely will take root.

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