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Sun's McNealy preaches utility computing gospel

Sun Microsystems chairman and chief executive officer Scott McNealy preached the mantra of utility computing and lashed out at rivals who call his company's technology proprietary.

McNealy, who was speaking at the SunNetwork conference yesterday, also provided brief glimpses of advanced Sparc chips planned for 2004 and 2005 which include a doubling of performance. 

He endorsed outsourcing of application services to service providers, and panned the use of unique, site-specific computing networks, stressing that computing services should fade into the background in the manner of telephone switches, in a utility-like fashion.

"People are so geeky about their computers because we forced them to be. Because we didn't make it easy, we didn't make it a utility model," said McNealy.

Service providers such as customer relationship management vendor Salesforce.com provide an alternative to users taking on these applications themselves, McNealy said.

"You use their stuff and they charge you once a quarter based on how many transactions you did," McNealy said.

McNealy described what he called the four ways to buy a computing environment: build your own data centre like a custom "jalopy"; hire IBM Global Services to build your data centre, which he described as outsourcing your custom jalopies; utilise inflexible reference architectures; and opt for a service provider. He termed service provider-based services "gift-wrapped software".

McNealy defended Sun against charges of being proprietary and gave a thumbs-up to the continued relevance of Unix.

"I croak when the press repeats our competitors' drivel that we're closed and proprietary. I think it's most irresponsible for the media to print that stuff without challenging those folks, because I challenge anybody in this room to name anything [that Sun offers] that's not open or adopted in the computer industry."

Sun competitors have cited Sun's embracing of Sparc as its primary chip architecture instead of the more pervasive Intel CPU platform. But McNealy noted that Sun does sell Intel-based systems and also gives users a choice between Linux and Solaris, owned or procured system models, servers and storage.

"There is choice across the board. Every aspect of what we do offers you choice," he said.

Defending Unix, he cited its influence in areas such as Linux and high-performance computing as well as its continued use.

To boost its Sparc architecture, Sun will to introduce two core low- and high-end Sparc chips with 50%  to 100% performance increases in 2004. Following these chips in 2005 will be a multi-threaded, multi-core environment.

"This is truly a server on a chip," said McNealy.

McNealy also touted Sun's $1.8bn annual research and development budget.

"We're investing like crazy throughout pretty challenging economic times," he said. Sun's R&D efforts also include acquisitions, he added.

Paul Krill writes for InfoWorld


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