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Exclusive Q&A with Dave Douglas, SVP of Cloud Computing at Sun

Exclusive Q&A with Dave Douglas, Sr. Vice President of Cloud Computing, Sun Microsystems

"Sun's strategy is to become the leading provider of technology for both public and private clouds," declares Sun's Sr. Vice President of Cloud Computing, David Douglas, in this Exclusive Q&A with the Conference Chair of Cloud Computing Expo in New York, Jeremy Geelan. "We bring a wealth of technology and experience in systems, software, and datacenters," Douglas continues, "as well as the ability to reach the two major customer segments we address on a daily basis: our large community of developers and our enterprise customers."

Cloud Computing Expo: You’ve been known to claim that Sun has been “Anticipating Cloud Computing for 20 Years” – can you unpack that for us?

David Douglas: Cloud computing is the embodiment of Sun's vision: the Network is the Computer. The Sun Cloud builds upon more than 20 years of network computing innovation, more than 4,000 developers, and open source users that number in the hundreds of millions worldwide. The Sun Cloud leverages our extensive portfolio of technologies and is built on top of open source platforms ranging from ZFS and Java to MySQL and OpenSolaris.

Cloud Computing Expo:
The announcement of the Sun Open Cloud Platform created a great deal of interest: tell us what the overall vision is there?

David Douglas: Sun's strategy is to become the leading provider of technology for both public and private clouds. We bring a wealth of technology and experience in systems, software, and datacenters, as well our the ability to reach the two major customer segments we address on a daily basis: our large community of developers and our enterprise customers. We bring cloud computing to these two markets by building the Sun Cloud - a public cloud for developers, students, startups and divisions within larger companies - and the technology behind it, the Sun Open Cloud Platform, as a resource for enterprise customers who want to take advantage of the cost efficiencies of cloud computing but need to keep their data behind their firewall in the form of a “private cloud.” Sun in uniquely positioned with this two-pronged strategy - each part of which supports and extends the other.

Cloud Computing Expo: So interoperability and openness are the key characteristics of a successful Cloud ecosystem, as far as Sun is concerned

Douglas: As cloud adoption takes off, users will be looking to be able to move applications and data from a private to a public to a hybrid cloud and from one public cloud to another. The Sun Cloud is built on the Sun Open Cloud Platform, which leverages the best in world-class open source technologies like Java, MySQL, OpenSolaris and Open Storage to deliver breakthrough efficiencies in cost and scale, and easier and faster software development to help developers build their own open clouds. We envision a world of many clouds – public and private -- that are open and interoperable, which is why we also announced the release of a core set of Open APIs under the Creative Commons license -- which no one else has done. By opening the Sun APIs and other technologies as part of our ongoing commitment to drive open communities, the Sun Cloud will be at the center of an open ecosystem of developers and partners benefiting from these open clouds. We will be making the technologies and architectural blueprints developed for the Sun Cloud available to customers interested in building their own clouds -- enabling private clouds or non-Sun owned and operated public clouds to interoperate with each other.

Cloud Computing Expo: Backing up a moment, what are the main business drivers for this overall technology trend? Is it cost-driven, efficiency-driven, what are the top three drivers?

Douglas: Companies are looking to cloud computing for a number of reasons related to cost, agility and flexibility. Developers are drawn to the flexibility, the ability to self-provision and the speed at which they can acquire compute or storage capacity and get their applications up and running without involving IT. Both the startup and enterprise communities like the economies of cost and scale that clouds deliver. There is alot of underutilized compute and storage capacity out there, and under a cloud model, customers pay only for what they use.

Cloud Computing Expo: And how about from a specifically Sun perspective – how are you leveraging Sun’s breadth of Enterprise IT experience, for example what verticals are leading the adoption of the Cloud?

Douglas: We just announced our first cloud – the Sun Cloud – our public offering focused on the developer, startup, student communities and departmental level deployments within bigger companies. Sun's entire portfolio of open source technologies and systems are being leveraged as part of the Sun Cloud Storage Service and Sun Cloud Compute Service, including VirtualBox, OpenOffice, Open Storage, Java and MySQL. For example, Sun's Open Storage products enabled Sun to build a storage cloud at a lower cost and larger scale than those based on traditional, proprietary storage. And Sun's services and support bring expertise in building some of the largest data centers in the world – extremely valuable in designing and managing the Sun Cloud.

Looking specifically at verticals, we see different application domains driving differences in hardware and software architecture. To that end, we expect to see many clouds catering to different needs crop up along the lines of HPC, Intelligence, Financial Services, Analytics, etc.

Cloud Computing Expo: How big an issue is security for enterprises who wish to migrate toward this kind of an infrastructure wholly or in part?

Douglas: There has been a lot written about security and privacy related to the cloud. It's important to realize that clouds will have different levels of security and providers need to be honest and accurate about what that level of security is with their users. Data privacy is a cornerstone of Sun's approach to compliance with complex, demanding international data regulations, as well as escalating policy and process oriented requirements imposed globally. We've built our business on working with large enterprise customers to ensure the safety of their data. We also have the most secure operating system on the planet, OpenSolaris. Recently, Sun named Michelle Dennedy as the Chief Governance Officer for Cloud Computing. Formerly Sun's Chief Privacy Officer, she now works with Sun's business, technical and legal teams to develop and adhere to the best data governance policies and processes possible for cloud computing to build trust for cloud environments.

Cloud Computing Expo: How crucial is the distinction between Private Clouds and Private Clouds?

Douglas: There's a difference in the particular requirements from organization to organization, which is exactly why we believe in a world of many clouds. The Sun Cloud is ideal for those customers who are unencumbered by regulatory constraints and certain security requirements. For those customers who can't use a public cloud due to regulatory, security or other business constraints and need to keep their data behind their firewall, we'll help them build their own private clouds based on our Sun Open Cloud Platform.

Cloud Computing Expo: And how about management and deployment? Tell about the acquisition of Q-layer. What does this indicate about the future trajectory of Sun’s cloud offerings?

Douglas: The Virtual Data Center (VDC) capabilities enabled by Sun's Q-layer software provide drag-and-drop provisioning of resources, making the Sun Cloud incredibly easy to use. The VDC model significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to create virtual machine images and a virtual data center from hours to minutes. When customers sign up for Sun Cloud, they each are given their own “virtual data center”. The VDC serves much the same purpose as a regular data center but with much greater capabilities and at much lower cost. Using a simple browser or their own software, customers dynamically add virtual servers, networking components, and storage as they are needed, paying only for what they use. Designed for both individuals and teams, users can easily deploy pre-configured virtual applications or popular software stacks based on the operating systems of their choice (Linux, OpenSolaris, or Windows).

Cloud Computing Expo: What does Cloud Computing have to offer to SMBs?

Douglas: It's about economics, not technology. For startups and small departments, the kind of capital expenditures it takes to put a service online may be inconvenient or simply impossible. They don't have the resources to build a datacenter, hire an IT operator or invest in IT equipment. Cloud computing provides a quick on-ramp with low barriers to entry. Customers only pay for what they use. Additionally, choosing a public cloud from a vendor like Sun can deliver physical security, reliability and availability that exceeds what an SMB could cost-effectively provide on their own.

Cloud Computing Expo: You’re not only Sr. VP of Sun’s Cloud BU, you’re also Sun’s Chief Sustainability Officer – what’s the main connection between the Cloud and the trajectory of Greener IT right now?

Douglas: Energy efficiency and cloud computing are synergistic. The cloud enables higher levels of utilization, driving an overall increase in datacenter efficiency. That's good for business and good for the environment.

Cloud Computing Expo: 2009 is a year of obvious challenges, from both a CapEx and an OpEx perspective, for anyone involved with Enterprise IT. Finally, what’s your top tip, as a seasoned software executive, to those other CTOs and VPs of Technology out there right now – especially those working at embattled start-ups who may be looking for some magic bullet to ensure they’re alive (and well) as a company in 2010?

Douglas: Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz likes to say that “innovation loves a crisis.” If you look back at history, it’s evident that new ideas and new industries are formed during times of crisis. I like to flip that a bit and say “crisis loves an innovator.” It’s not just one person, rather it’s a community of people that come together to tackle problems. It speaks to the power of communities. My advice for companies big and small is to continue to look for opportunities to drive innovation. And, it's more important than ever to be clear about what problem you are solving for your customers. If you can find a cost-savings component that's great, but don't over-rotate on cost. The best companies are still looking for strategic advantage.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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