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Sun to open up N1 utility computing software

Sun Microsystems is planning a development kit for its N1 software that will let N1 work with hardware and systems management applications from other providers.

Sun Microsystems is working on a mechanism to connect its N1 utility computing software to existing systems management setups, in an early attempt to manage data center gear from other providers.


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The company is working on a software development kit (SDK) for its N1 software that will enable other technology providers to share information with N1-managed systems. The company hopes to complete the development kit in 12 to 18 months, said Hal Stern, chief technology officer for Sun's services division.

Sun's N1 software pools several machines, such as blade servers, into a single resource that can be shared by different applications. This "virtualization" capability is a common component in the utility computing initiatives from large companies, including Sun, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Veritas and EMC.

Virtualization is designed to help businesses make better use of their hardware investments. Corporations can define policies for how data center resources can be pooled and provisioned to meet a spike in demand, such as one caused by the quarterly financial accounting process or by a jump in Web site traffic.

The goal of Sun's N1 software development kit is to tie its virtualization software more closely with hardware and management software that companies already have in-house, Stern said. By publishing the connection points into N1, Sun will enable third-party system management products to share system performance information with N1. Third parties will also be able to write add-on applications that make use of the virtualization and provisioning tools in N1.

"We think of N1 as an operating system. It creates a virtual data center," Stern said. "All systems management products need to be integrated to N1."

N1 is also an important technical underpinning to Sun's such as managed and hosted services, Stern said.

Creating a link between established systems-monitoring software and a new breed of tools for automating data center operations is critical for utility-computing initiatives such as N1 to take hold, said Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst at Illuminata.

"It's very early days for these virtualization packages, but if you don't have a software development kit or published interfaces, then essentially, you have no way for an Oracle--or Veritas or EMC or other partners--to tie in," Eunice said.

As part of its Adaptive Enterprise initiative, Hewlett-Packard has built ties between its OpenView systems management package and its virtualization and grid software. IBM earlier this year created a software bundle to use its Tivoli Orchestrator software to work with its virtualized blade server package.

But the ability to have a single system to control virtualized servers and storage components from different providers is at least five years away, Eunice said. The problem is that no standards are rapidly emerging to address interoperability in virtualization.

"The whole issues of standardization or interoperability, which is what an SDK is all about, are really touchy issues in virtualization right now," Eunice said. "These problems will remain unresolved for the next two or three years, and we could be talking five or six years. That could delay implementations" at customers.