Sun forecasts end to 'Frankenstein' computing

Sun's CTO says software innovation will start to dominate within services that customers access from the Internet.

In the next few years, a "phase change" will take place as companies stop running their own customized computing infrastructure, Sun Microsystems Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos predicted Thursday.

Naturally, Sun believes it has the answer--buying processing power from the company's standardized computing grid. But in San Francisco at an annual Sun meeting with analysts, Papadopoulos laid out his reasoning for why he believes the trend is more than just a Sun Grid sales pitch.

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The basic reason is that innovations in software are beginning to arrive not in the form of a CD of digital bits that a customer installs but rather in the form of a service that a customer uses over the Internet, Papadopoulos said. "Every business plan I've seen at software start-ups is 'We want to be the Google of...' It means they're going to create one of these services."

Selling software as a service rather than as bits means swifter innovation, he added, because deploying improvements within a single service is faster than distributing it to innumerable customers who must then install and test it. "You eliminate a tremendous amount of time and complexity," he said.

The result: Information technology executives realize that designing and operating their own equipment costs more than paying a company that specializes in doing so, Papadopoulos said. And computing infrastructure will become a financial liability.

"In 2010, if you're a big custom IT shop with thousands of employees, that's going to look like as differentiating a value as showing how big your pension plan is today," Papadopoulos said.

Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy disparaged companies that assemble computing systems out of a hodgepodge of components.

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"'Best of breed' is now code for Frankenstein. I've walked into more than a few data centers where I said, 'Whoa, where did you get that thing?'" McNealy said. "They've got body parts from every supplier you can imagine. There are big bolts sticking out everywhere and stitch marks."

Sun's goal is to sell the hardware and software that companies use to supply such services, and it's succeeded with some, such as eBay, which hosts auctions, and, which hosts customer relationship software. But adoption of the idea so far hasn't been enough to stem Sun's market share losses or consistent profitability.

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