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Sun plots its data-centre domination

The Unix powerhouse is set to unveil new releases of its clustering and management software. The goal? Stay a step ahead of Wintel.

On Thursday, Microsoft and Intel ran a three-page spread in The Wall Street Journal, emphasising the reliability and scalability of Wintel solutions for e-businesses.

On Tuesday, Sun is slated to announce two more components of its Net Effect initiative, aimed at providing increased reliability and scalability for e-businesses. Sun is set to unveil the latest versions of its Sun Cluster and Sun Management software, sources close to the company confirmed.

These two components are expected to be part of Sun's "Service Management" message during Tuesday's event, which will take place at Sun's Californian campus.

Like Microsoft, with its Windows 2000 Datacenter product, as well as Sun's myriad Unix competitors with their own clustering and management wares, Sun is hoping to capture the hearts and minds of businesses with ever-increasing storage and data serving needs.

And like Microsoft and Sun's other competitors, Sun is expected to emphasise the idea that managing servers is passe; instead, managing services is key for data-centre customers. Microsoft outlined its plans for .Net Management Services in October.

Sun launched its Net Effect initiative in late September in New York, where the company unveiled UltraSPARC III-based workstations and servers.

In an interview following the Net Effect unveiling, Sun's vice president for marketing, Andrew Ingram, offered some hints of how Sun intends to handle customers' massive Net infrastructure scalability requirements. "How do you deal with complexity?" Ingram asked rhetorically. "We are talking about service management, which means managing applications at the service level."

Ingram said that Sun sees service management as comprising three tasks: provisioning, or installation, and change management; monitoring services and infrastructure; and managing resources.

He said Sun offered some of the software required to accomplish these tasks with Solaris 8 Release 2, but that it intends to supplement Solaris 8 with additional tools, such as hot patching, enhanced load balancing, and the like, from December 2000 through April 2001.

Sun Cluster 3.0, which has been in beta test for over a year, is one of these add-on tools. Ingram said the new release of Sun Cluster will separate data services from network services. Customers will gain increased redundancy and increased horizontal scalability, thanks to Sun's new clustered file system, he said.

Sun has talked about its clustering vision, code-named Full Moon, for years, but has had trouble delivering in a timely fashion on its promises.

But Sun isn't alone in finding clustering tough. Microsoft, too, has had trouble keeping to its "Wolf Pack" clustering roadmap.

Microsoft is providing four-node clustering with Windows 2000 Datacenter; Sun is expected to offer eight-node clustering with Sun Cluster 3.0

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