A typical network consists of thousands of heterogeneous computers, each running their own operating system and managing their own peripheral devices and file systems. The computers share a common network with common services, but they are independent machines that have been extended to use the network. The customer can easily hop between machines. Logically, the network is thousands of independent machines hooked together with a common communication interface. To each machine, the network is just another peripheral communication device.
Now consider a network of thousands of heterogeneous computers, but under one network operating system (NOS). The network is the computer. All physical devices hanging onto the network, either CPUs or other peripherals, are network resources. Logically, the network is one computer that happens to have thousands of machines, peripherals, and services.
A customer authenticates to the NOS and is granted capabilities. A capability represents the permission to use a resource. The customer has control of all shared resources on the NOS, including a vast collection of services. Where the services are located is invisible to the customer. A customer's job may be run on a variety of available computers. From the customer's perspective, the desktop machine is transformed into a very powerful computer with a vast reservoir of resources.
Each desktop machine has a native operating system plus an extension that brings the native operating system into the NOS. This extension is a new network transport layer called principal to principal (PTP) that is layered on top of the existing TCP and UDP network layers, providing principal to principal communication. This layer provides a secure, authenticated, authorized, and private communication between two principals. A principal could be a person, a computer, or an application.
Along with the PTP transport layer is a NOS finder. The NOS finder is the boot application that knows how to find all other NOS applications.
A family of new protocols should be established that provide the underlying support for the NOS. These new protocols might include support for process management, virtual memory management, locks, events, transactions, and peripheral management to name a few. The NOS is message-based.
A desktop computer can be connected to the network in several ways. As a foreign desktop computer, the network looks like a traditional network providing basic network services and transport layers of communication. Nothing has changed from the more traditional view of a network.
As a secure desktop computer, only secure access to a gateway NOS machine is available. The secure desktop computer only needs encryption software to establish a secure link over traditional TCP communication. The secure desktop computer establishes a secure link to a known NOS machine. This known NOS machine now can act as a gateway for all other NOS services.
The NOS desktop computer is a peer member on the NOS. The NOS desktop computer requires a full installation of the PTP transport layer and the NOS finder.
There are a collection of core computers which provide the services of the NOS. A NOS consists of desktop computers under the control of the customer and a vast reservoir of resources provided by the core infrastructure NOS machines.