Sun exec pushes cloud to leery data center managers

Sun Microsystems' CTO evangelizes cloud computing to data center managers unprepared to embrace ethereal ideas in a bad economy.

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LAS VEGAS -- Although a Sun Microsystems executive this week said data center facility managers should "get in front of that parade" for cloud computing, no one appears to be queuing up quite yet.

Greg Papadopoulos, the chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems Inc., discussed cloud computing and what it means for the future of data centers at the AFCOM Data Center World conference.

Papadopoulos told managers that this is the time to lead and embrace technology. But the reality is that in a difficult economy, data center managers don't seem as inclined to embrace the cloud as they might a fluffy pillow. According to a November 2008 survey of AFCOM members, 77% of respondents said they don't plan to increase the use of cloud computing.

"We've talked about [cloud computing]," said Baldemar Olivarez, a data center unit supervisor for CPS Energy, a municipal energy company owned by the city of San Antonio. "But the powers [that] be will have to decide whether it will be feasible."

Papadopoulos discussed why developers often turn to external cloud computing vendors such as Amazon. He also encouraged companies to follow the model of Amazon, Google and others to build an internal cloud to satisfy the needs of users and developers.

He outlined three branches of cloud computing: Software as a Service, or, SaaS, an example of which is Salesforce.com; Platform as a Service, or PaaS, such as Google App Engine; and Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS, such as Amazon Web Services.

An internal cloud would also consist of all three: the hardware and data center as the infrastructure; Oracle, SAP and other middleware as the platform; and a company's own software as the software.

Of course, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun has a horse in this race. Earlier this year, the company said it would buy Q-layer, a Belgium-based company that builds internal, private clouds for customers. But internal clouds are far from common. An October 2008 survey by the 451 Group, a consulting firm, revealed that 84% of its IT clients have no plans to deploy internal cloud computing.

Papadopoulos said companies typically react to a sour economy by spending less on innovative technology, and often those companies fall behind when the recovery begins.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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