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Sun's N1 technology will appear on blade servers

Sun Microsystems' N1 hardware and software management technology on new blade servers should arrive by the first quarter of next year, Sun executives promised.

Sun will retool software that it acquired through its recent purchase of Terraspring to form what it calls the N1 Control Plane. The product will serve as a management portal that looks out over servers, storage systems, switches and software in a network.

Sun planned to sell the Control Plane product with various hardware packages but will ship it first on a new set of blade servers, said Steve MacKay, vice-president of N1 at Sun.

N1 is the overarching term for Sun's "virtualisation" technology, which provides customers with a large-scale view of all the hardware in a network, be it from Sun or another vendor, and then makes it easier to install operating systems, applications, updates and other software on those systems.

Software components such as Control Plane will work in unison with specialised hardware to give a view of how many processors, how much disk space and what types of bandwidth are available throughout the network.

The idea is that administrators will, one day, be able to deploy an application by dragging and dropping the icon onto the image of this collected pool of hardware and letting the N1 technology do all the installation and administrative work.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard are the other major server vendors to have outlined a similar vision. A number of storage companies and software makers are also working on this type of technology.

HP has been using the Terraspring software in its UDC (utility data centre) technology, which is similar in concept to N1. Sun asserted that HP is "stuck on version 1.0" of the software, while Sun will be using version 3.0, which includes support for seeing more types of hardware from various vendors.

HP chief technology officer Shane Robison said his company would continue to develop the Terraspring technology using insight it already has into the code. He charged that Sun was forced to acquire the technology because it is behind in the race to create a virtualised view of the data centre.

Sun acknowledged it would take time to prepare all of the N1 technology and for it to be widely adopted by customers.

"We are in the early days here," MacKay said. "This is part of a multi-, multi-year journey. We think it's important to talk about new ideas and it's important to get people on board."

Sun expected the first of its customers to begin using its N1 technology with the release of its blade servers early next year. Over time, Sun expected to sell a variety of hardware that comes preconfigured with its N1 technology. Its professional services organisation will also work to sell the N1 software to Sun's customers. The company would not provide any type of pricing model for N1 software at this time.

Come 2005, Sun hopes to make its customers lives much easier by shipping improved versions of its virtualisation software along with provisioning applications for shooting software out across many servers, and hardware that can notify an administrator of a failure before it happens.

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