Sun extends grid computing service to Australia

Sun Microsystems has extended its grid computing service to Australia which makes available supercomputing resources to the enterprise.

The Network.com utility computing service has now been extended beyond the US and is being launched in 23 countries across Europe and Asia.

Utility computing, in which customers pay an hourly rate for access to a Sun data centre, began as a US-only pilot in March but is now ready for a large geographic expansion, according to Rohit Valia, group product manager for the Sun Grid Compute Utility.

Sun charges US$1 per CPU (central processing unit), per hour to access a network of Sun x64 hardware running the Solaris 10 operating system.

Australian end users can now access the utility which is competing with other on-demand computing initiatives from IBM and HP.

The services are for companies or other enterprises that have a short-term need for extra computing capacity but don't want to incur the expense of adding onto their own data centres.

"Our business model is around charging for CPU cycles, not idle CPUs. We only charge when your CPU is actually processing data," Valia said.

Sun is also adding a feature called Network.com Internet Access so that Sun customers can interact, through Sun's utility data centre to the Internet, with other companies that have resources the customer might want to use for a particular project.

The company is also offering a limited beta program for developers called Job Management Application Programming Interfaces, which allows users to perform production scale tests to build software applications using Network.com.

Sun believes the grid will make supercomputing resources available to companies that cannot presently afford them.

However, some customers have expressed concern about security issues.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy said that this kind of hesitation ultimately scuttled a Sun Grid deployment with an unnamed bank.

The bank made so many security and compliance-related demands that Sun eventually walked away from the deal, he said.

"When it came down to it, they said that even though Sun was not able to see the data, they wanted us to warrant that the data would never be lost and if anybody ever got hold of it, it would be our fault," he said.

Eventually Sun decided, "We're out of here; we've wasted our time with you guys," he said.

It could take an exceptional event to finally move a large number of customers over to products like Sun Grid, McNealy said. "It may take natural disasters or a real fundamental crisis to break their adhesions to their traditional way of doing things."

- with Robert Mullins

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