Part I: SunGrid “The Beginning”

Albert Einstein said “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

The Sun Grid projects started in earnest more than 2 years ago under pretty different pretenses. Sun's Sales organization was struggling with the high levels of efforts and residual expenses associated with letting Scott McNealy visit with a customer. He couldn't help but tell them about this Ultra-Thin Client device which could save on power, operational expense, and even allow for hot-desking to reduce real-estate burdens - in fact Sun saved more than $27M in the first year of the program alone. And so Scott would go on to promise each CxO level executive a SunRay that Sun would come and install for them as a trial.

Alamo PlantThe Technical Sales Organization (TSO) first setup a blueprint and demo kits, but we weren't as fast as Scott's plane. Someone (Brian F.) had the fantastic idea, to put a Desktop “Service” on the Internet, and now we could just parachute a SunRay to each of these executives, and they just plug it into their home broadband router, and they are running... coined “CxOnet” the plant has been running for about 2.5 years (thanks Brian), which grew up to become Project Alamo, and now “Sun Grid”.

I believe that this was a precipitating event in realizing Scott McNealy's long term vision of the Big Friggin Webtone Switch as well as Greg Papadopoulos' predictions around the demise of shrink-wrapped software, and the emergence of next generation utility data centers, and of course to Jonathan Schwartz who acted as a catalyst in moving towards subscription/utility software models. (Obviously a lot of credit has to be given to the Networking Infrastructure Providers who, during the great build out precipitated by the DotCom boom laid a tremendous amount of Bandwidth around the country, and brought substantially more reliable/redundant networks to every business and most every home.)

This new value proposition, of not having to “run” your own data center is obviously still in it's adolescence, but I think that the very patterns for multi-tenant secured computing across a computing mesh - not unlike the power grid, offers scale, reliability, consistency, and affordability that will be difficult to match. The multi-tenant isolation - has been the critical tenant of security design, and many will herald this as a return to mainframe computing. Let's just remember that mainframes had to be multi-tenant because of the cost of the physical plant, they had multi-tenancy engineered into the very Operating System (as does OpenSolaris today, I might mention). In today's horizontal compute fabrics, the very networks that connect computers lay challenge to this tenant, and the Sun Grid architecture is designed to enable a network operating system of similar control, and yet the economics of running it are rarely brought into question... The question being, what is the cost of low utilization (a lack of true multi-tenant virtualization) on your operating expense, and potentially on your needs for complex compliance legislation.

Sun Grid is not perfect, it never will be, but I believe that this is a monumental step towards more affordable computing for end-users and corporations alike.

I would like to take this time to thank the whole Sun Grid Team who has worked around the clock for months as we have been transiting the final hurdles towards release, and the many experts throughout Sun who have provided invaluable insight and assistance towards this shared goal! Thank You All!

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