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November 29, 2005

Sun broadens storage utility offerings

Hoping to steal a little thunder away from rival Hewlett-Packard Co, Sun Microsystems Inc made some of its own utility computing announcements yesterday. While HP put out a broad announcement outlining new utility computing services, Sun fleshed out its existing storage utility offerings.

By CBR Staff Writer

Specifically, Sun announced that customers in the UK would be the first to get their hands on two new services that will eventually be available worldwide, called Sun Grid Remote Backup and Restore (RBR) and Sun Grid Remote File Vault (RFV).

The first service is similar to other remote backup services that IBM Corp, Evault, LiveVault, and others have launched to help companies backup data on their laptops, desktops, and servers over the Internet rather than onto local tape or CD storage devices. In fact, for the RBR offering in the UK, Sun is partnering with InTechnology Plc, which has already built the infrastructure to provide remote backup services in Britain.

The RBR service is intended to be used to create an initial snapshot of data files and then move the incremental bits of files that change over the virtual private network linking a machine to the RBR service; the software that performs this backup, including encryption and data compression to speed transmission and provide security, apparently comes from EVault, in fact.

The RFV service is intended to me a much longer term storage option, and it is really designed for companies with very large data sets–like seismic, geophysical, or molecular data sets–that are used in conjunction with applications on a frequent basis and are too big to be moved around easily.

While the RFV service does not require customers to use the Sun Grid Compute Utility–Sun’s network of Linux and Solaris machines for running workloads on a pay-per-use model–it is designed to work in conjunction with the Sun Grid. The RFV service is based on Sun’s own QFS/SAMFS parallel file system and the Solaris 10 operating system, and the infrastructure behind it will be hosted by Sun’s partners.

The RBR service costs 5 pounds per GB per month, while the RFV service costs 2 pounds per GB per month. You might be wondering why short-term backup costs more than long-term backup. It’s an issue of how many times you need to move the bits around. The more times you mess with data, the more costly it is to store it. Perhaps there is also a volume discount: the more data you store (which customers with the RFV service will presumably do compared to the RBR service), the lower the price? That seems counter intuitive, but arguable.

Sun also announced that one of its customers on the Compute Grid, Virtual Comp Compute Corporation, a utility computing provider based in Houston, has bought its second million CPU hours of compute capacity because its own customers have chewed through the first million CPU hours it bought in no time at all.

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vCompute sells manages its own data centers, aimed at number crunching applications in the oil and gas and life sciences industries, and is using the Sun Grid to cope with peak capacity demands from its customers.

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