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Sun Overhauls Grid Strategy

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Sun Microsystems is expanding its Grid computing offerings beyond raw compute power to include collaboration, data Grids and visualization.

The new “Grid Everywhere” strategy, announced Tuesday, lets customers take a “building block” approach to Grids, says Steve Perrenod, HPTC group manager for Sun.

“We believe it’s important to have a wide variety of offerings,” says Perrenod, who describes Sun’s approach as “working to fit the Grid to the customer, not the customer to the Grid.”

Perronod says Sun is seeing demand for Grid computing at the enterprise level and inside the firewall, but isn’t seeing much of a move toward the “global Grid” or Internet-based vision favored by IBM.

Sun’s new approach focuses on resource utilization, data Grids and visualization, and Perronod says other promising areas for Grid technology include end-to-end collaborative design and even supply chain management.

Sun’s new Grid offerings come in four categories: access, data, computation, and visualization.

Sun says its “access software” enables efficient usage of resources regardless of location, and is provided through a new Grid Portal solution that relies on the Sun Grid Engine Enterprise Edition (SGEEE) software and the industry-standard Globus toolkit.

Sun’s Data Grid solutions rely on the Sun StorEdge Open SAN Architecture, the Sun StorEdge 3510 FC array, and Sun StorEdge SAM-FS and QFS software. Sun said its Data Grid solutions allow data to be collected, managed and protected regardless of user or data location.

The Sun Fire Compute Grid family couples Sun Fire systems with a choice of interconnect technologies, which Sun says “provides excellent price-performance with clusters of small systems as well as excellent price/productivity with superclusters” that utilize large memory and simplified programming environments. Interconnect choices include Gigabit Ethernet switches, Myrinet, Infiniband, Quadrics, or the Sun Fire Link interconnect.

Visualization Grids let applications perform graphics operations using local or remote graphics systems. Sun’s Visual Grid platform is based on the Sun Fire V880z, the XVR-4000 high-speed graphics subsystem, and specialized software based on the OpenGL industry standard.

Sun says its Grid Reference Architecture provides a framework for the deployment of these building blocks. Sun’s Customer Ready Systems (CRS) program integrates the building blocks with complementary third-party hardware and software into “ready-to-deploy” solutions that are built in Sun factories based on a customer’s specifications and supported by a global professional services practice focused on Grid deployments.

Sun’s Grid Everywhere initiative also utilizes partnerships and alliances. It focuses on the HPTC market as the early adopters of technologies that over time gain acceptance in business computing. The initiative is led by Sun’s HPTC business unit.

One satisfied Sun Grid customer is the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

TACC director Jay Boisseau says the center recently began working with Sun to develop software for Grid-enabling its Sun terascale visualization system for integration into the TeraGrid, the massive national scientific computing infrastructure funded by the National Science Foundation. He described TACC’s experience with Sun as “very positive.”

Analyst Ahmar Abbas of Grid Technology Partners says of Sun Grid Everywhere, “Any sets of tools and products that make deployment of Grids ‘easier, faster and cheaper’ are most welcome. However, the large systems vendors have yet to solve the key problem — how do you increase the universe of applications that can take advantage of the Grid infrastructure, and how do you get them on the Grid quicker and cheaper?”

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