Having described the rationale and context for the N1 Grid strategy, it is now appropriate to define the vision and strategy more rigorously. The N1 Grid vision provides the context for understanding today's service architectures and data center implementations, along with the benefits and problems inherent in them. This vision is the basis for asserting that collections of interconnected components within the data center (for instance, servers, network, storage switches, storage arrays, firewalls, and load balancers) constitute a new class of system. That system does not exist in isolation. It is still a part of the wider grid, or network of resources, both within an enterprise and beyond. The trend towards network-centric services and network-distributed workload goes beyond the data center.
The N1 Grid strategy is Sun's systemic approach to removing complexity in the data center, making it simpler, cheaper to manage, more efficient, and more agile. Given that the N1 Grid vision redefines the nature of a system within the data center, you can then:
Clearly define the value that such a system is intended to deliver
Describe the problems and solve them within the context of their root causes
Establish the principles of operation for the new system
These principles should include how the new system will function and how it will be operated. In the case of N1 Grid systems, this means a shift from managing traditional workloads and the servers they run on to managing network-distributed services that the business understands, such as a bookstore or an e-banking service. These are then managed by applying high-level business goals and policies, such as defining the average transaction response time or number of concurrent users for a specific transaction type.
Create an architecture that enumerates the sets of components required to build this system and the way they should be integrated
The system should be in some way better than the sum of the parts. That is the fundamental value of the systemic approach. A holistic architecture provides a means of identifying exactly where in the system certain attributes should be delivered and how and where components can be optimized. For example, a specific failure recovery approach could be implemented in a number of places within the hardware and software stacks within a data center. Error checking can be implemented as parity checking within a hardware component or can be implemented as some form of higher-level consistency checking within software. An understanding of the complete architecture and the interaction and properties of the components, coupled with experience, enables you to make sensible decisions as to where a given feature should be implemented. The point is that the holistic approach enables the right decision and compromise to be made.
Optimized components can also be more easily identified using this approach, enabling vendors to provide features in their products that provide greater value when that product is a component within an N1 Grid system. Thus, the N1 Grid strategy not only changes how systems are managed, but it will eventually change the very nature of the components that are managed.
This architecture-driven approach results in:
New products that fill gaps in delivered value today
Modifications to existing products so that they add more value and are differentiated from other products
These modifications ultimately enable Sun and other vendors to build new and compelling features into existing products and to differentiate their servers, storage, operating systems, clustering, systems management, and other infrastructure software from those of their competitors.
The N1 Grid vision is fundamentally strategic from Sun's perspective. It defines the context and architectural framework within which to develop many, if not all, of its infrastructure products (that is, its servers, storage, operating systems, clustering, and systems management software).
The N1 Grid strategy is Sun's systemic approach to removing complexity in the data center, making it simpler, cheaper to manage, more efficient, and more agile.
The N1 part of the name was never intended to be a product name or a strategy name visible outside of Sun. The name leaked out and stuck. It is the abbreviation for the original project name "Network-1." The SUN1 workstation was Sun's first workstation. It was designed specifically to be connected to the network. N1 Grid systems are the first systems intended to be built with the network at their core and be based on the principle that an IP-based network is effectively the system bus.