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Sun Microsystems now has a firm plan to eliminate its data centers by 2015, which would bring the reality of on-demand computing to a company that has been focused on it for years. Brian Cinqe, Sun’s data center architect, said in his inaugural blog entry yesterday that Sun would cut its data center square-footage in half by 2013, and eliminate it completely by 2015.
This falls in line with CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s vision for Sun (JAVA) to become a company that makes standardized hardware and open-source software to deliver computing power as a utility. I heard Schwartz speak back in 2005, when he compared the utility computing model to delivering electricity. Later, Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos said the company could make a profit delivering the commodity boxes required by on-demand computing much like GE still makes money delivering more efficient power stations (though the comparison isn’t as apt as it seems, since GE doesn’t rely solely on its power-generation business to make money.)
While utility computing isn’t new — Hewlett-Packard, IBM and even British telco BT already provide on-demand computing services — Sun’s announcement is likely to get a big publicity push thanks to the debut earlier this week of Nicholas Carr’s “The Big Switch.” In the book, Carr compares the current shift to utility computing to the dawn of electric power. This is an inevitable shift, and Sun’s announcement (and eventual attempts to rely on utility computing) means the company is willing to practice what it preaches. Unlike, say, the new AT&T when it comes to telecommuting.