Sun boss sees a plethora of devices driving demand for IT.For the past two years Sun has pushed the idea of the web tone, which could make accessing a computer network as easy as picking up a telephone handset and hearing the dial tone. Greg Stroud, UK managing director, Sun Microsystems in the UK believes this concept will change the way IT is managed within business and the future role of the IT director.
"Our vision at Sun is to move the role of the IT director from one of managing complex network and desktop IT infrastructure to that of a true chief information officer," he said. Stroud believes IT directors need to reassess the way IT is delivered to the business. "The CIO manages IT as a service," he explained, where IT would be delivered to the business as a pool of resources.
Stroud is concerned that people are deploying IT infrastructure in ways unsuitable for the type of applications they plan to run, regardless of the level of IT service required. This can prove very costly. "People can put a mission-critical IT system in place when one is not needed," he said. However, Stroud is confident that costs will come down, particularly in terms of system administration.
Currently, an IT manager can only oversee a relatively small number of servers and storage systems, but, according to Stroud, this is set to change. "One system manager should be able to manage 100Tbytes of storage and 500 servers," he said.
Stroud said architectures such as Sun's N1 technology will take complexity out of the IT infrastructure, allowing IT resource pools to provide scalable symmetric multiprocessor servers and server virtualisation.
Sun's core business is hardware, and Stroud anticipates demand for computing power to continue to increase. "There is a stunning plethora of computing devices, all of which will feed on powerful computer systems," he said. As an example, Stroud pointed to the Vodafone Live service built on Java. "Vodafone Live represents a microcosm of what is going to come - computer power will grow exponentially."
Such applications will drive demand for greater levels of computing power. As to where this demand will come from, Stroud believes applications based on radio frequency identification tags will have a huge impact. Such devices could be deployed anywhere where goods need to be tracked, each one requiring a network connection. "There will be more devices on the network, and this will require huge amounts of computer power," he said.
While other major hardware companies support Intel processors, Sun is still very much seen as the company that uses and drives the development of the Sparc processor. Sun often faces the question of whether it should drop Sparc, but Stroud said this is unlikely. He said there will be more than one approach to building datacentres in the future, and Sun will be tackling Intel servers head on over the coming months with Afara, a multichip Sparc module for low-end server environments.
As a former darling of the dotcom boom that is still making money selling internet technologies, Sun has kept a close eye on the business opportunities presented by the internet, and Stroud is confident there is still scope to make money. "It is about identifying a service people want - who would have thought SMS would be so successful?"
Commenting BT's to roll out ADSL into more UK exchanges, Stroud said, "It is amazing that UK broadband will be able to reach 90% of the population."
Stroud dismissed concerns that people will not be prepared to pay for the new online offerings that broadband allows. The internet may have grown from a free information service, but while money may not have exchanged hands, Stroud argued that the internet today is not free. "Free internet is not free at all. Someone always pays," he said.
This could take the from of more advertising, but it is analogous to free TV. Stroud said just as he pays for the advert-free television on the UK's BBC channels, which he prefers to the advert-heavy commercial channels, so he believes people will prefer and be prepared to pay for online content.
CV: Greg Stroud
Greg Stroud is vice-president, UK global sales operations, and managing director, Sun Microsystems, with responsibility for the UK and Ireland. He has worked for Sun since 1982 in areas including operations management, marketing and sales, rising to the position of vice-president of the Western US global sales operations, where he focused on large accounts. Stroud has a BSc in economics and an MBA from the University of Santa Clara.
This was first published in April 2003