Sun envisions shift to network paradigm

Sun Microsystems officials Monday, during a presentation at company offices, have again hailed the company's N1 computing plan as a unifying technology for linking multiple computing systems and presenting them as a single, virtualized entity. But the officials did not provide specific product details pertaining to N1.

Presenting N1 as a multifaceted network operating system that could link resources such as computing cycles and storage, Sun's Greg Papadopoulos, executive vice president and chief technology officer, stressed that computing is moving to a new paradigm in which the network is a single computing resource. N1 would provide the technology to enable the next paradigm, he stressed.

"The key piece of technology here [with N1] is writing an operating system for the network," Papadopoulous said.

Papadopoulos declined to offer specific product details, saying merely that Sun would be launching systems to bring about N1.

The paradigm shift is much greater than a single CPU platform such as Intel, or an operating system such as Linux, Papadopoulos said. "Sparc, Intel, Linux, Solaris -- those are all component discussions and it's missing the big picture [to focus just on these]," he said.

"The software shift is much more about what are developers trying to write to and they're not trying to write to the machine, they're trying to write to the network," said Papadopoulos.

In Papadopoulos' vision, which was reminiscent of Novell's NEST (Novell Embedded Systems Technology) proposal of the 1990s, in which virtually everything -- including light bulbs -- will have network connections, bringing the number of network connections to the hundreds of millions and eventually to the trillions.

N1 will provide for virtualization of resources within that massive computing network, scaling to coordinate resources of thousands of systems, according to Papadopoulus. Sun's goal, he said, is "building scalable systems that scale in capacity without scaling in complexity at the same rate."

While N1 is focused on IT administration and deploying and managing resources, Sun's ONE software development platform complements N1 by simplifying application development, according to Sun officials. Sun's JXTA peer-to-peer and Jini networking technologies also are expected to play roles in Sun's network plan.

Other elements of Papadopoulos' network computing plan include Web services, which will offer far more distributed services than is currently afforded by these services, and grid computing, the linking of systems into virtual grids for pooling of computing resources. But grid has issues such as security that need to be addressed, Papadopoulos said.

He had criticism for Intel and its desktop dominance. "Intel is not the low-cost semiconductor [manufacturer]. They will have issues getting marginal performance out of an individual processor when that's not the thing you ought to be doing," he said. Intel should be thinking about throughput, he said.

"They're very much driven by the desktop," Papadopoulos said.

He had praise for Sun's Java programming language. "Java has blown well past C++ in performance capability. I think we'll be exceeding C in the not-too-distant future," Papadopoulos said.

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