Sun Grid hit by network attack

Public computing service was hit by a denial-of-service attack that took down its text-to-speech service.

Sun Microsystems' Grid, a publicly available computing service, was hit by a denial-of-service network attack on its inaugural day, the company said Wednesday.

To let people try out the Sun Grid, the company made a text-to-speech translation service publicly accessible for, for example, turning blog entries into podcasts. "It became the focus of a denial-of-service attack," Aisling MacRunnels, Sun's senior director of utility computing, said in an interview Wednesday.

In denial-of-service attacks, numerous computers--often groups of compromised PCs called botnets--simultaneously attack a target on the network. In this case, the attack took down the text-to-speech service.

Dealing with the issue was relatively easy: Sun moved the service to be within the regular Sun Grid, which requires authorization to use. "We had to defend against a bunch. There were too many coming against us, so we moved it inside," MacRunnels said.

The attacks didn't disturb the regular grid, Sun said. "There was no degradation to performance for users inside the Sun Grid," spokesman Brett Smith said.

The Sun Grid is one of several visionary ideas that the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company hopes will restore status and revenue that tapered away after the dot-com bubble burst and its own hardware and software lost much of its cachet.

The Sun Grid authorization process requires a person to agree to legal terms and export control terms, and users must share their addresses. Payment requires PayPal or another Sun-approved mechanism, and PayPal users must be verified, MacRunnels added.

"That gives us a level of knowledge about the user. They have to have a bank account on file with PayPal and a home address. Those make us feel more comfortable," MacRunnels said.

That position dovetails with one long held by Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy. "Absolute anonymity breeds irresponsibility," he said in a 2003 interview. "Audit trails and authentication provide a much more civil society."

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