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Sun begins new push into cloud services market

By , IDG News Service
March 18, 2009 12:10 AM ET

IDG News Service - Sun is making a fresh push into the cloud services market, starting with hosted computing and storage services that it will offer to developers later this year.

The Sun Storage Cloud and the Sun Compute Cloud will compete with Amazon Web Services' S3 storage and EC2 compute services. Sun has been testing its services internally and will roll them out gradually starting this summer, it announced Wednesday. The company planned to demonstrate the services at its CommunityOne developer conference in New York City.

The services are aimed at developers, students and startups, and intended primarily for testing and developing new applications over the Internet using Sun's hardware. The idea is to help companies avoid having to buy new equipment, and to let developers set up their own infrastructure without needing an IT department to do it for them. They'll also be able to add more computing resources quickly, to test an application under a heavy load, for example.

Developers will access the services from a Web browser and be able to provision resources on the Linux, Windows and OpenSolaris operating systems. They'll be able to use a drag and drop interface, or a command line interface and a set of cloud service APIs, said Juan Carlos Soto, vice president of marketing for Sun's cloud division.

These will be the first of several cloud services that Sun plans to announce in the coming months, to create what it calls the Sun Open Cloud Platform. It won't announce the other services Wednesday, nor will it provide pricing or a general availability date for the initial offerings; that information will come in the summer, Soto said.

This will be Sun's second attempt at on-demand computing services. A few years ago it launched the Sun Grid Compute Utility, where companies could "rent" computing cycles on an hourly basis. The service attracted few customers and Sun stopped signing up new ones last year, though it said it will continue to support them for now.

That effort was geared more towards high-performance computing and research customers, according to Sun. The new services are aimed squarely at developers, and they come after Amazon has blazed a trail for cloud services and shown what can be successful.

Sun hopes to differentiate itself from Amazon by being more open with its APIs, which it will publish on the Web under a Creative Commons license, where customers can view them and contribute to their development, Soto said. They'll include a storage administration API, a storage WebDAV API, and a storage object API that will be compatible with Amazon S3, he said. Sun will also provide client libraries for Java, Ruby and Python development.

Being open with the APIs will help partners to build on top of Sun's services more quickly, according to Chander Kant, CEO of Zmanda, which offers a service for backing up databases to Amazon S3, and which will offer a similar service for the Sun Storage Cloud. He noted Sun's use of WebDAV, an HTTP extension that lets developers collaborate and access files over a network.

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