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Sun heading into the cloud

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz sheds some light on Sun's plans to become a provider of infrastructure services for the cloud and its JavaFX strategy.

SAN FRANCISCO--While an interview with Neil Young has been my big highlight of JavaOne, I also managed to hook up with Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz for a video interview. We talked about Project Hydrazine, a new cloud computing initiative with services similar to what Google and offer. We also discussed JavaFX, Sun's competitor to Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight, and Project Insight, which is designed to gather instrumented user action data via JavaFX and provide it to developers.

JavaFX, which includes a runtime, scripting, and a media framework, could have a hard time competing with Adobe and Silverlight, which means attracting developers to the platform could be a challenge. But Sun has a powerful platform accelerant--85 percent of cell phones, 91 percent of desktops, and 100 percent of all Blu-ray Disc players run Java and can be automatically updated to run JavaFX.

Project Hydrazine is slated to deliver immersive, creative experiences in the cloud via services. Rich Green, executive vice president of software at Sun, told me that a storage service, similar to Amazon's S3, would be available later this year. The company is also working on tools to make it easier for developers, as well as consumers, to mash up applications.

Sun CTO Robert Brewin described the emergent Project Hydrazine as a combination of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, Microsoft Live Mesh and Google Analytics.

Green also said that e-mail, calendaring, and messaging services would be available as cloud services this year. While Sun isn't widely known for its e-mail services, the Sun Java Communications Suite powers companies such as Verizon.

Project Hydrazine will run on Sun's platform, which is mostly employed as pay-per-use computing infrastructure for high-performance computing applications.

Sun has to be both an arms dealer to the Amazons, eBays and telcos of the world, and also a direct supplier of infrastructure services.

"It's important for us to be a neutral technology supplier to developers and to operate as a service for those who don't have the wherewithal to buy their own infrastructure," Schwartz told me off camera. " is the backplane for everything we build--servers, MySQL, JavaFX, tape storage, and the software stack." It's the latest instantiation of Sun's slogan, "The network is the computer."

As an example of its arms dealer persona, Sun announced this week that it is partnering with Amazon to offer OpenSolaris as an on-demand service Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Sun has the elements to provide high performance and reliable infrastructure. Now, Schwartz needs to show that his company can intercept the increasing demand for the hardware and software required for the wired planet.