Is Sun's public cloud developer philanthropy, or strategic positioning?

During last year’s JavaOne event I filed a short report detailing the goings on during Sun’s pre-show CommunityOne day.Almost a year on, the company has just wrapped up another CommunityOne developer event where it showcased the Sun Open Cloud Platform, which includes a preview of its plans to offer public clouds targeted at developers, student and startups.

During last year’s JavaOne event I filed a short report detailing the goings on during Sun’s pre-show CommunityOne day.

Almost a year on, the company has just wrapped up another CommunityOne developer event where it showcased the Sun Open Cloud Platform, which includes a preview of its plans to offer public clouds targeted at developers, student and startups. So is this purely programmer altruism born out of a desire to “give” to the community? Or is strategic product development aligned to profit making?

Relying heavily on Sun’s own technologies (Java, MySQL, OpenSolaris and Open Storage) at its backbone, the company’s top brass has said that the architecture behind its cloud platform is designed to create a world with many clouds that are both open and interoperable from a developer perspective. Freedom of speech in the cloud is surely no bad thing; but within all this talk of interoperability, there is no mention of standards or controls. One has to sit back and wonder for a second surely?

Alongside the general preview of this initiative for developers comes the release of a core set of Open APIs published under the Creative Commons license for public review and comment. The intention being that others building public and private clouds can design them for compatibility with the Sun Cloud.

Ah I see, we need to be compatible with the Sun Cloud – is Sun trying to say that they set the benchmark and standard in this space? They’re a big company with great technology so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t aim to set the bar. But I can’t help feeling that they just held back from saying so.

Whether this a purely philanthropic move or one being taken to increase the proximity of Sun technology to the wider programming world is perhaps open to debate.

Sun says that developers will be able to deploy applications to the Sun Cloud more or less instantaneously by using pre-packaged VMIs (virtual machine images) of Sun's open source software. Via this method, the proposition is that there is no longer need to download, install and configure infrastructure software. You can read more about this here if you wish.

Available this summer (check your diary dates for JavaOne ’09 if you want to make a guess on what Jonathan Schwartz will be announcing in his keynote), the core of the Sun cloud is driven by a storage and a “compute” service that together are hoped to deliver the combined benefits of open source and cloud computing.

Nobody yet seems to have tried to write a creative headline on this topic along the lines of – Sun brightens the forecast for cloud computing. Perhaps best that I didn’t go there either isn’t it?

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