Service providers look to partner

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Service providers and ISVs should be looking for ways to join with vendors to bring utility computing to market as the PC increasingly loses its place as the face of network computing, according to predictions made by Sun Microsystems.

Speaking in a keynote presentation opening today's SunNetwork talkfest in Shanghai, Jonathan Schwartz, COO at Sun Microsystems, said the vendor was seeing predictions it made 20 years ago beginning to take shape as networks become increasingly commoditised.

"We have had a fundamental belief ... that the network is the computer.
Innovation becomes self-sustainable when it stops being predictable, and we've seen an extraordinary validation of these views that the network is computing and that everything should be connected to the network. Today there are billions of devices connected to the network," he said.

Device diversification and convergence were two symptoms of that trend. PCs for decades had been the central locus of computing, but as devices multiplied and were increasingly capable of doing more different things, the PC was becoming less essential to the system, Schwartz said.

"We are beginning to see automobiles and appliances talking to the network," he said.

Quite unexpected and quirky applications such as ring tones and handset games were becoming big earners. Such applications were cost-effective to create but had generated enough demand to make money.

Game developers might spend only US$1 million to create a game that in 24 hours could be earning the development company millions of dollars a day, he added.

'With ring tones -- and I've bought my share -- the global market in the last 12 months was US$2 billion ... Around 10 percent of total revenues now from music is being generated off [ring tones] and that will move potentially to 20 percent or 30 percent,' he said. 'Imagine that for [car horn] tones."

In future, the network would be the commodity that was bought and sold and that would happen on a grand scale, as had already been seen with utilities providing electricity and water across nations.

When the network was the commodity, then IT providers would have to move into utility computing to provide the kind of on demand products and services the global marketplace increasingly desired, Schwartz said.

As a result, Sun was seeking to partner content providers and service providers to deliver that vision to their customers. Sun was already working with its global network of iForce partners to start making it a reality, Schwartz said.

"Content providers make money by delivering content to the people who want it," he said.

Sun believed that the total mobile data services market would exceed US$80 billion and a main driver of that revenue was going to be applications for Java-based handsets.

Today, there had been around 250 million Java handsets sold but that number was expected to snowball as the number of applications that increased the functionality of those handsets multiplied, Schwartz said.

Mobile data services and mobility technologies such as RFID were only part of the vision. New software, other hardware and storage products and services on the drawing board from Sun and other vendors were increasingly designed with the goal of utility computing in mind, Schwartz said.

"RFID is going to move it from billions to trillions of devices," he said.

Sun had, for example, introduced pricing for some of its Java-based enterprise offerings that was expected to encourage large organisations and governments in particular to move towards utility computing, he said. "A rising tide lifts all boats," Schwartz said.

Fleur Doidge attended the SunNetwork conference in Shanghai as a guest of Sun Microsystems.

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