Sun runs with N1

Sun Microsystems has given the name, N1, to its network virtualisation strategy, according to Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology...

Sun Microsystems has given the name, N1, to its network virtualisation strategy, according to Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems.

Speaking at Sun's annual analyst conference, Papadopoulos explained how the N1 initiatives play off Sun's recent push to address computing architectures as network-centric.

A combination of Sun's efforts in distributed grid computing, server and storage virtualisation, and network resource optimisation, N1 now gives Sun a single term to address its vision of the future of network computing, according to Gordon Haff, an analyst at Nashua.

"Sun had lagged a bit in having a branded concept for the future of computing," Haff said.

Clearly, a number of Sun's current products will play into the N1 strategy, Papadopoulos said.

The company currently ships a Grid Engine product that helps make management of numerous servers easier for administrators. In addition, Sun plans to use its Jini and Jxta technology for announcing the presence of devices and users on a network in N1 somewhere down the line.

N1 could also help, for example, with software deployment. A developer could write a new application and then make numerous copies of the software that are distributed to users around the globe. Ideally, the new application would sense the presence of other software already on the network and link into those existing applications with ease, Papadopoulos said.

"What we are searching for is this new model where developers want to express a single copy of their software or a new service and send it out a million times," said Papadopoulos. However, added that "we still have to [figure out] as a community how you truly program, manage, and deploy onto distributed systems."

Haff said Sun's description of its N1 program was presented "very elegantly, and there were some twists in there that I have not heard expressed before. But this is still not fundamentally different from what people like IBM and Hewlett-Packard are talking about."

Haff pointed out that the idea of network-centric, distributed, grid-style computing where resources can me dynamically allocated by only a handful of administrators is a hot topic with all the major vendors right now.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is actively pursuing its Planetary Computing initiative, which is based on the idea of distributed networked computing systems that pool resources, according to HP.

IBM and Compaq Computer are also deep into grid computing-style efforts, according to representatives from both companies.

John Young, a research program director with DH Brown and Associates, said there is an industry-wide shift in the way vendors are looking at future network computing models.

"As a whole, the different elements of a computing network are beginning to work out as a whole," said Young. "You can't just talk about storage by itself, you can't talk about servers by themselves, you can't talk about the network by itself. You have to tie all these together to maximise throughput, interconnects, everything."

With N1 still at the concept stage, Young said there is still some way to go before such network-centric computing architectures come to fruition.

"Unveiling the concept is a long way from implementing the project," he said.

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