Sun shake-up hits execs, grid service

At least one high-level Sun executive is leaving the company after a shake-up also involving the Sun Grid project.

Stephen Shankland
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At least one high-level Sun Microsystems executive is departing after a shake-up that also is affecting Sun Grid, a service to let customers pay by the hour to use its computers.

Larry Singer, the senior vice president and strategic insight officer who joined Sun in 2003, is leaving the company, sources familiar with the situation said. And Stuart Wells, the executive vice president for utility computing who joined in 1988, is losing his position leading the Sun Grid project, though it's not yet clear whether he's leaving Sun altogether, sources said.

Sun is revamping Sun Grid, which has attracted more hype than paying customers. Sun is moving the grid away from its current incarnation as a stand-alone service, the sources said. Instead, it's becoming a facet of the operations of existing hardware and software business units.

The hardware and software groups will have responsibility for bringing Sun Grid to market, and the long-term hope is the move will make it easier for customers to seamlessly link to it, the sources said.

Sun declined to comment for this story.

The changes aren't the first since Jonathan Schwartz took over as chief executive in April. Schwartz named David Yen head of storage and John Fowler head of all server products in May. And shortly before that, when Schwartz still was president and chief operating officer, Sun promoted Don Grantham to lead a merged sales and services group.

The company touts the Sun Grid project as evidence of its ability to divine where the computing industry is going. Sun executives argue that it's better to rent computing hardware and software from others with expertise than to assemble and run the technology on their own. The rental price for the Sun Grid service is $1 an hour per processor, so running a financial simulation that takes a day on 100 dual-processor computers would cost $4,800, for example.

But Sun Grid has been a difficult project for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based server and software company. The company announced in 2005 that the grid was live but didn't launch it fully until more than a year later with a third design.

Sun has announced a handful of partners and customers for Sun Grid. Chipmaker and Sun supplier Advanced Micro Devices signed up last week to use computing power when its internal grid system can't keep up with demand.