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Sun Grid Weathers DOS Attack

Posted by iNext - 2006-03-24

Sun's new on-demand grid computing service got smacked with a denial-of-service (DOS) attack on its first day of operation, prompting unease amongst potential users.

The new service is the latest part of the Sun Grid Compute Utility, which offers users access to CPU resources on a $1 per hour basis. Whereas Sun's earlier utility offerings were aimed at the enterprise market, the new service is targeted at smaller firms and individuals seeking access to grid resources via the Internet.

But yesterday, a pilot text-to-speech translation service offered on the grid was hit by a DOS attack, prompting the hardware giant to move the service and make it accessible only to registered users of its grid. Prior to the attack, non-registered users could also access the service.
Aisling MacRunnels, senior director of utility computing at Sun, tells Byte and Switch the problem has been resolved, adding that there was, "no degradation to service" for other users within the Sun grid.

Gary Kendal, director of financial software specialist CDO2, which was one of Sun's first named customers on the enterprise side of its utility grid, confirms that his operations were untouched by the attack.  "There are many security layers in place to prevent this type of thing affecting our service, and we haven't been affected at all," he says.

But other firms may take some convincing about using the Web to use Sun's grid systems. "I think it's difficult to plan for every contingency, but potential users must be seeking reassurance now," Dave Shearer, chairman of the U.K.-based Sun User Group, tells Byte and Switch.

Joe Clabby, president of analyst firm Clabby Analytics, says he was hardly surprised Sun was targeted, noting that sensible users will take a cautious approach to the public-facing grid. "I think that DOS attacks are inevitable," he says, adding that he expects prospective users to test only applications that aren't mission-critical on the grid.

Sun is currently vying with rivals IBM and HP for a slice of the utility computing pie, offering access to its own compute and storage resources in an attempt to reduce users' spiraling hardware costs. But despite Sun's DOS snafu, Clabby feels that the vendor still has the strongest offering in this space. "Sun owns the whole ball of wax: systems, operating systems, and Web services. That gives them the power to price it the way they want to."

HP, on the other hand, does not offer its own middleware and is subject to the pricing vagaries of its own software suppliers, according to Clabby. IBM so far has limited its public grid offerings to specific applications like Siebel and SAP.

Shearer, for his part, expresses frustration that the new service is only available in the U.S. "The concept is great. It would be a great service to have in the U.K.," he says. "I like the thought that an SME can know exactly what it is costing him, and have all that support."

Over at CD02, Kendal says the enterprise version of the grid has indeed made his life much easier. "There are no initial costs with setting the whole system up, and the ongoing costs are predictable."

Other users, particularly in the financial sector, have already expressed interest in Sun's clearly defined pricing models, which are designed to ensure that firms only pay for the resources they are using.

A spokesman for Sun says the new version of the utility grid will be extended to the U.K. over the next six months, and then the rest of the world.

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