In his latest blog post, Jonathan Schwartz laments that the slow transformation toward multitenant grids behind corporate firewalls at the same time as he promotes Sun's forthcoming Grid service (starting with 5,000 CPU sockets, a mix of Ultrasparc and Opteron), which will live under the network.com URL (which came with the StorageTek acquisition. The Sun president and COO, along with others like Nick Carr, is a true believer in the grid as the logical next step in computing, where compute resources will be centralized and metered like electric power. The problem is that his beliefs haven't turned into profits...yet.
Schwartz cites 15 months of negotiations with a financial services customer about using Sun's grid for peak loads on portfolio simulations that devolved into discussions about approved network cable providers.
"Frankly, it's been tough to convince the largest enterprises that a public grid represents an attractive future. Just as I'm sure George Westinghouse was confounded by the Chief Electricity Officers of the time that resisted buying power from a grid, rather than building their own internal utilities. But that's not to suggest it hasn't been happening in the business world."
Like Westinghouse, Schwartz hopes that he can prove the naysayers wrong...soon...and begin charging per CPU hour for compute resources. Schwartz uses the term "grid" loosely, applying it to massive grids of distributed computer power for parallelized heavy computational applications (such as oil exploration and movie rendering) or the multitenant setups used by on demand providers to run a single instance across dozens or thousands of customers. It's about standardized, centralized power and on demand resources, managed like a utility, which means, like electricity, it's a general purpose, and even tradeable, commodity.
RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte expresses a common sentiment among software providers and IT shops. They don't need Sun's grid today, but Schwartz the evangelist thinks they will come around. Now Schwartz is adding the long tail to prop up his grid vision. Consumers are ahead of enterprises in using grids, he said. He points to Google, Yahoo and PayPal--as examples of the new infrastructure models for running specific kinds of applications. "Just think back ten years - when most enterprises I met laughed at the idea of putting business systems on the internet. Now you're an anomaly if you're 'off the grid,' " Schwartz wrote in his post. Of course, he would like Sun's Grid to power those Web service giants.
Here are few details on Sun Grid. The first release to U.S. customers--Sun has some export/security hurdles to cross; provisioning (PayPal as a payment service) will take hours, not minutes; and Web service APIs will be "relatively simple." It's a giant first step, which will either be a footnote in Sun's history or the beginning of the company's next major incarnation.