Before the end of the year, Sun Microsystems will follow the lead of Amazon and Microsoft in providing a "pay as you drink" applications hosting service that provides a lifecycle approach to new web application development and deployment.
In addition to announcing JavaFX Script, a lightweight programming language for creating rich online and mobile content, Sun software chief Rich Green said that Sun plans to leverage its grid and utility offerings -- priced on a per-use basis -- for swiftly building and deploying web applications, services, and mashups.
While specifics on the venture were limited, Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz seemed to embrace the initiative during a press conference at the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, indicating he thought having such services available soon would be beneficial to Sun's business goals.
The Sun development and deployment as a service offering would follow other increasingly popular application hosting and infrastructure as a service offerings that are designed to offer developers and entrepreneurs quick, low-risk paths to production -- from tool to test to deploy and then hot-provisioned scale. Amazon's EC2 service, for example, has proven a boon to start-ups and departments within enterprises seeing a fast-track to applications and content hosting.
Sun may not be first in this space, but it does have the assets to be large. For example, Sun already has a compute-intensive grid, and ample storage as a service offerings. By bringing its tools, NetBeans framework, open source Java community, middleware, virtualized runtime containers, and pay-per-drink grid together provides a significant, long-term subscription opportunity for Sun and its partners.
I also think Sun needs to be more aggressive at bringing its own (or co-branded?) Web 2.0 services via open APIs to market. If Sun has OpenOffice.org, why not OpenOffice.Saas? If compilation of Java code as a service is impractical, how about debugging scripting and markup languages as a service? Can we do something with ID federation and management, or governance, or single sign-on, in this regard? Uh, huh.
If Sun can prove these approaches as viable, it can then package the services in association to its new "red shift" customers as they offer other niche services on top -- from media to telecommunications to mobile commerce. If Microsoft can go "Live" so can Sun.
IBM, HP, and Red Hat may have other means to the market. For Sun, this should be a priority.