Sun moves on cloud despite uncertainty

Sun is continuing with its plan to ramp up Sun Cloud, though Oracle, which is less sold on the cloud computing concept, could put a stop to the effort

Sun Microsystems, soon to be part of Oracle if a planned merger goes through, is proceeding with plans to ramp up its Sun Cloud service for cloud computing. But even a leading Sun executive for cloud computing acknowledges Oracle can do whatever it wants with Sun Cloud, including making changes or even eliminating it.

With cloud computing, users access Internet-hosted applications rather hosting them on their own in-house hardware. Sun still is on track to offer its Sun Cloud service this summer, said Lew Tucker, CTO of cloud computing at Sun, during an interview at the MySQL Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif. on Wednesday. But asked whether he could offer any assurances about the program in light of Oracle's planned buyout of Sun, Tucker said he could not comment on anything to do with the Oracle acquisition at this point.

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"We're continuing our plans as business as usual," said Tucker, acknowledging the fate of Sun Cloud would rest with Oracle.

Oracle has not released any public statements about its intentions for Sun Cloud. But in the past, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison has been critical of the cloud computing concept. The industry, Ellison said at a meeting with analysts last year, had redefined cloud computing to include "everything that we currently do." Also during that session, Ellison famously asked, "What the hell is cloud computing?"

"I don't understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud computing other than change the wording on some of our ads," Ellison said at the time. But he also said Oracle would make cloud computing announcements and not fight it.

Sun Cloud was announced in March. "The model is giving everybody a virtual datacenter," Tucker said. Developers and others would be able to create a virtual datacenter for servers, networking, storage, and other services and manage it all as if they would their own datacenter, he said. Tucker anticipates some competition with Amazon's cloud services. Sun Cloud will feature language bindings for Java, Ruby, and PHP. Sun has not yet announced pricing for the service, but customers will pay on a CPU hour basis, Tucker said.

"I do believe with cloud computing, we are dramatically driving down the cost of computing," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Tucker participated on an industry panel on cloud computing, which pondered such issues as standardization for cloud computing and applications for it.

"We absolutely do need some notion of standards and a way to operate across different clouds," said Thorsten von Eicken, CTO of RightScale.

But another panelist warned  of possible problems.

"There's a big potential downside to premature standardization," said Monty Taylor, a Sun official working on Project Drizzle, a fork of the MySQL database designed for cloud scalability. Some working group might, for instance, publish a 700-page document that actually stifles standardization efforts, he explained.

More mainstream ISVs will move into the cloud, such as what Sun did Wednesday with its GlassFish application server, said Mike Culver, evangelist for the Amazon Web Services cloud platform. He also noted that mainstream applications like ERP are moving into the cloud.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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