Sun to unveil first fruits of scaled-back N1 plan

Sun plans to release N1 Grid software next week, but only for managing its own Sun servers.

Sun Microsystems plans to announce new N1 Grid software next week for managing and provisioning groups of servers in a data center, a company executive said. The product reflects a strategy to scale back Sun's original N1 plan and focus on managing Sun hardware only.

Sun's N1 software aims to reduce the complexity of running data centers by allowing users to manage equipment as if it were a single, large system. Rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard are pursuing similar initiatives. Part of the idea is that users will be able to install software on several machines simultaneously using automated tools, and then manage them easily as a group.

Sun originally said its N1 products would manage all types of data-center equipment, including storage gear, routers and servers from other vendors. That goal appears to have proven too ambitious. Sun decided several months ago to scale back its efforts and to focus, at least for now, on managing Sun systems only, said John Loiacono, executive vice president of Sun's software group.

"Rather than trying to solve all problems for all people, we decided to take a more pragmatic approach. We'd talked about being heterogeneous and managing any kind of device, and then we said let's pull back a bit and deliver something that can be deployed right now. Next week you'll see the first implementation of that," he said.

Loiacono declined to discuss the new N1 software ahead of next week's announcement. He did indicate that the product will manage more operating systems than just Sun Solaris, but that it would be limited to managing Sun systems based on its own Sparc chip or x86-type processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

"Initially we'll manage and provision more than just the Sun OS, but we'll stick to Sparc and x86," he said.

Reducing the scope of the N1 Grid management software allows Sun to deliver products to customers more quickly, Loiacono said.

"Instead of boiling the ocean sometime tomorrow we're going to boil a pot of water right now," he said. The plan is for N1 to encompass more heterogeneous platforms in the future, he said.

The new N1 Grid software will likely be among several products and services that Sun is expected to announce at a press event on Tuesday.