Former Sun, BEA executives forge grid venture

Former Sun, BEA executives forge grid venture

Former executives from companies such as Sun Microsystems, BEA Systems, and Oracle this week are formally launching a venture called Cassatt, which is endeavoring to automate IT operations, leverage commodity hardware and software, and govern network compute cycles in a grid-like manner.

The paradigm being pursued by Cassatt is the management and aggregation of horizontally scaled, commodity machines, said Rich Green, executive vice president of products at Cassatt and former vice president of Java and tools at Sun. Also part of Cassatt are Chairman/CEO Bill Coleman, who held the same positions at BEA, and Executive Vice President and CTO Rob Gingell, who was a chief engineer at Sun.

"The focus here is all about horizontally scaled systems out of commodity hardware, and to make that work requires technology that is not available in (existing) products," such as Computer Associates's Unicenter or HP OpenView, Green said.

Asked if Cassatt was pursuing grid computing, Green acknowledged that the term could be appropriate.

"Grid is a term that certainly could be applied here, but grid tends to be associated with the high-performance computing space," Green said.

The company's Collage Version 2 product, shipping now, is intended for running large-scale enterprise applications on commodity Linux servers, according to Cassatt officials. Key technology functions of Collages include the virtualization of storage, operational systems, and data. Web services technology also is a basis for Collage.

Version 3, due this winter, enables three-tier deployments and adds Windows as a supported platform. Tiers could include software such as databases, application and Web servers, and data transformation engines. Additionally, a system administrator with Version 3 can utilize service-level agreements to ensure, for example, that at least five servers are running copies of a Web server.

Cassatt's virtualization technologies enable scaling of machines and applications without having to make software or network changes, Green said.

Trend-wise, users are moving to commodity systems and the software market is moving from monolithic applications to Web services and service-oriented architectures, said Steve Levine, vice president of corporate marketing at Cassatt and former vice president of marketing at Oracle. The movement to Web services and SOA provides an opportunity for users to scale out both from hardware and software, said Levine.

"That creates an opportunity to provide an operations environment that makes it easier and more effective and reduces the cost (and) complexity of managing commodity servers," Levine said.

Collage can be thought of as virtual environment software, said analyst Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at International Data.

"It allows you to build applications that run on a collection of machines (on) high-volume, low-cost, industry-standard systems," Kusnetzky said. The software provides for workload failover and enables functions such as I/O to be done separately from the application processing, he said.

Collage provides benefits in management of a cluster of machines, to make them look like a single machine, Kusnetzky said. The software also can help ensure that systems are optimally used, he added.

Collage costs US$1,500 per node, with each piece of hardware on the network representing a node. While Collage currently is focused on systems linked in a single location, support for distributed systems over a wide area is a future direction.

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