Sun lays down IBM gauntlet with Fujitsu alliance

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Sun was full of braggadocio at its SunNetwork forum in Shanghai today, laying down a challenge to IBM in a sneak preview of offerings and announcing a newly extended alliance with Fujitsu including further developments around Solaris.

Sun was full of braggadocio at its SunNetwork forum in Shanghai today, laying down a challenge to IBM in a sneak preview of offerings and announcing a newly extended alliance with Fujitsu including further developments around Solaris.

Jonathan Schwartz, COO at Sun Microsystems, said that Fujitsu and Sun had extended their partnership to build utility computing-related offerings that would challenge those of vendors currently considered as synonymous with varieties of utility computing.

'Both Fujitsu and Sun want to know how IBM can possibly respond,' Schwartz said. 'We can invest more resources.'

Schwartz gave as an example a sneak preview of workstation hardware -- loaded with Solaris -- that he claimed his lawyers would not allow him to announce.

'Seems like we want to get back to building workstations ... But I'm not announcing a product,' he said.

Schwartz unveiled a stack taking pride of place on the podium, which he claimed would beat out IBM in the systems stakes and would have a Solaris operating system that would out-perform Windows.

Solaris 10 is available now in a 'developer-quality' version but a commercial version is to be released later this year.

'Sun and Fujitsu have an operating system in Solaris that runs on any Intel Xeon, Opteron or SPARC system and as far as we all know, we're the only operating system in the universe that can run across that breadth of microprocessors,' he said.

The new workstation OS would be 'intuitive' in the sense that it was similar to market leader Windows and therefore easier for many new customers to use.

However, it took some of the strongest features of Windows much further, he said.

Schwartz demonstrated how the new Solaris 'windows' had taken on a 3D, panoramic quality. Solaris 'windows' could be opened, rotated in three dimensions and altered to fit more on the screen and manipulate myriad applications more easily.

The desktop view itself no longer ended at the edge of the monitor but was broader and deeper -- users could work across a much bigger area on the desktop by a process similar to scrolling.

As well as looking at the front of a 'window', you could also flip it and look at the back, he said, to get more information about the applications and tasks on which you were working.

Utility computing entails myriad applications and devices talking to each other in real time across one or several networks, meaning larger amounts of data must make sense and be integrated in an understandable manner.

Wall Street had advised Sun to dump Solaris, but Wall Street had been wrong, he said.

'Fujitsu and Sun see a common opportunity and we have been doing something a little bit counter-intuitive for the past three years,' Schwartz said.

'A few years ago, Wall Street advised Sun to drop Solaris, because there was this new technology called the Chicago project which would blow us away.

Chicago turned out to be Windows NT. And companies that adopted Windows NT in the systems world, you can't name them any more.'

Sun already had a two-way Opteron system that was the first such workstation in the world and four-way was slated for release by the end of 2004, he said.

Chiaki Itoh, corporate executive vice-president for Fujitsu in Japan, said Fujitsu and Sun already had a long term relationship of some 20 years.

'We have been collaborating on the design of the Solaris operating system,' Itoh said. 'This is a very big alliance.'

Sun also offered a taste of other upcoming storage and software products expected to be available commercially later this year.

Mark Canepa, executive vice-president of network storage products at Sun Microsystems, hailed the planned StorEdge 5000 family as another strong move towards utility computing.

'Today, we are signalling our intent to change forever the way storage is architected, implemented and managed,' he said.

Canepa said that although many businesses still thought of storage as an issue more or less solved simply by backing up data, to get more efficiency out of increasingly complex and costly resources meant storage would be increasingly about managing and retrieving data from the right place at the right time.

'There will be an explosion in the data environment. We need to be understanding and taming this data explosion. The network explosion is real,' Canepa said. 'You have got to be able to Google your business.'

A Sun StorEdge 6920 system due to be released in 45 to 90 days would offer data services such as remote replication and data migration and centralise business applications such as data warehousing and ERP. However, the upcoming StorEdge 5000 family would take that further by the end of the year, he said.

The StorEdge 5000 file-based storage lineup would be NAS-based and include some sort of subscription capability. Sun was offering unit pricing for storage at less than two US cents a MB per year, Canepa said.

'Sun will come in with its partners and [get customers] to subscribe to a data management model environment,' he said.

Utility-based storage would be available from Sun via iForce partners from July, Canepa said.

Fleur Doidge travelled to Shanghai as a guest of Sun Microsystems.

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