Sun Microsystems (JAVA) is preparing a new utility computing platform designed to compete directly with Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services. The new service is code-named Project Caroline, and will be formally unveiled at the JavaOne conference in May, according to The Register. Sun appears to be positioning the service to be more accessible to startups and small businesses than its current cloud offering at Network.com. Here’s Sun’s description of the project:
Project Caroline is a hosting platform for development and delivery of dynamically scalable Internet-based services. It is designed to serve an emerging market of small and medium sized software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Anticipating needs driven by new SaaS business models and processes, Project Caroline helps SaaS providers develop services rapidly using high-level programming languages like the Java(tm) programming language, Ruby, Python, and Perl, to update in-production services frequently, and to automatically flex their use of platform resources to match changing runtime demands.
Sun Distinguished Engineer Bob Schiefler is scheduled to make a presentation about Project Caroline at the JavaOne event, which is available online and provides developers with some details on how the service will work.
There have been a number of voices in the tech blogosphere wondering why Amazon (AMZN) has been able to establish such a high-profile in utility computing without a more direct challenge from the big tech companies that have been fishing in these waters for years. IBM, Microsoft and Sun have all been pitching the merits of the concept for years, albeit with different terminology – ranging from utility computing, cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS) and even “software plus services.” These commenters sometimes seem to be unaware of existing services and programs, or not consider them comparable to Amazon’s AWS platform. Still, there’s no doubt Amazon has grabbed a ton of mindshare in this niche.
“Sun spends a ton of time trying to woo start-ups and internet-savvy companies with its hardware and software,” writes The Register’s Ashlee Vance. “Given past utility efforts, you might have expected Sun to be the first company to offer these types of clients similar hardware and software as a service. Instead, a company that sells books, toasters and diaphragms beat one of the world’s main computing infrastructure vendors to it. Go figure.”
It’s certainly not due to Amazon’s marketing or branding. Elastic Compute Cloud? Mechanical Turk? Instead, Amazon has focused on developers. Sun’s move suggests that Amazon’s success may be influencing the evolution of utility computing, at least in convincing rivals to nudge their clouds a little lower to the ground.