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Sun's new mantra: Call us the 'cloud company'

With its official entry into the cloud-computing arena, Sun gets ready to give Amazon and Google a run in what it hopes is a lucrative new market.

Update 8:49 a.m. PDT: Sun has made its official announcement and provided a link to its cloud computing site.

During the Internet bubble era, Sun Microsystems profited as one of the big suppliers of networking computing technology to IT. Now it's hoping to similarly benefit from another tech trend as the computer industry slowly migrates toward cloud computing.

On Wednesday, Sun will announce its entry into the cloud-computing business with a public cloud service aimed developers, students, and start-ups. It will also detail its plans for an open cloud-computing infrastructure, for public or private clouds.

Sun will be making the announcement at its CommunityOne developer event taking place in New York City.

As part of the announcement, Sun plans to release a set of open application programming interfaces as part of its positioning that--and here I'm quoting from the official press release--"Sun is fostering collaboration and interoperability among other clouds and cloud-based applications."

At the core of the Sun Cloud Compute Service are the Virtual Data Center (VDC) capabilities acquired in Sun's purchase of Q-layer in January 2009, which provide everything an individual or team of developers needs to build and operate a datacenter in the cloud. The VDC provides a unified, integrated interface to stage an application running on any operating system within a cloud, including OpenSolaris, Linux or Windows. It features a drag-and-drop method, in addition to APIs and a command line interface for provisioning compute, storage and networking resources via any Web browser. The Sun Cloud Storage Service supports WebDAV protocols for easy file access and object store APIs that are compatible with Amazon's S3 APIs. By leveraging pre-packaged Virtual Machine Images (VMIs) of Sun's open source software, developers will be able to easily deploy applications to the Sun Cloud.

PR spin or not, it's still a bold change of pace for Sun, which will now be competing against the likes of Amazon and Google, a couple of companies that have fast established their bonafides as successful suppliers of cloud-computing services. But this shouldn't surprise anyone. Actually, Sun has been signaling plans to enter the cloud business for several months now. In fact, the company formed its cloud-computing business last summer and has been preparing the ground with periodic briefings for press and analysts.

In an interview, Dave Douglas, the senior VP of cloud computing at Sun, acknowledged the looming clash with the established names in cloud computing but suggested there was ample room for a number of competing offerings to coexist.

"I really believe there will be very many clouds tuned up for particular industries, and niches or countries," he said. "We're basically giving developers their own development data center."

Douglas said that Sun's cloud offering will feature a service payment model but said pricing details would not be immediately available until later in the first half of the year.