Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Sun's Solaris 10

In addition to running on 32- and 64-bit SPARC hardware from Sun, Solaris 10 supports x86 and x64 hardware. That means the OS will run on commodity Intel x86 architecture machines, as well as on AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon 64-bit systems.

Solaris Container Commands
Click to Enlarge

In testing the new code on Sun Fire 280R SPARC and v20z AMD Opteron machines, I found Solaris 10 functions and commands to be identical on each platform. Letting Solaris run on different platforms should provide a boost for Sun--as things stand now, Sun's SPARC processors are lagging behind those of other vendors.

Dev Focus

Dynamic tracing, or Dtrace, is an application that has no predecessors--there's nothing like it in any OS. Dtrace lets you trace every aspect of a process running on the Solaris kernel. Systems administrators traditionally have used truss, strace and a host of other utilities, but these are applicable only per individual process and require the admin to collate the data retrieved. Dtrace does the work for you and can peer into functions of the kernel that are not just system call-related, but include kernel and user space and per-process or systemwide views.

Dtrace uses very structured language and complex command-line syntax, so take your time and learn it--you'll be glad in the long run. With Dtrace, developers can find performance bottlenecks in their application and rewrite codes to better utilize available resources. It might even bring back the good ol' days when software developers wrote efficient code instead of relying on faster hardware to run inefficient software.

Cost-Effective Zones

Administrators are often boggled by how to get maximum utilization out of their resources using current technology, but they must address the problem. After all, it doesn't make financial sense to have a machine with four processors and 8 GB of RAM using just 25 percent of its resources, and for only 90 percent of the time at that.

Good
• Supports 32- and 64-bit SPARC and Intel/AMD processors
• Solaris containers allow better CPU and memory utilization in confined software environments

• Higher performing, completely rewritten TCP/IP stack

Bad

• ZFS not available until Q3

 

Solaris 10, price ranges from free RTU license to $360 per CPU per year for premium service. Sun Microsystems, (800)USA-4SUN. www.sun.com

Solaris 10 introduces OS virtualization, called Solaris Containers or zones, which lets you create isolated software environments on one Solaris kernel. Creating multiple containers in a single piece of hardware with multiple applications each within a zone will increase the load across all processors, resulting in better hardware utilization.

Rather than creating hard partitions of hardware, all zones share the same hardware from one global Solaris kernel. To test this, I created two zones in both the 280R and v20z. Zone creation was straightforward--I named the zone, set it to start automatically and gave it an IP address. Zone start-up and shutdown were lightning quick--less than 15 seconds in all my tests. Zones make server consolidation more feasible, ease administration and improve utilization across all hardware platforms.

Network Traffic

In earlier versions of Solaris, TCP/IP across multiple CPUs suffered efficiency problems because of its streams-based implementation and excessive context switching between CPUs. It also lagged behind the faster-performing TCP/IP stack on versions of Linux. Solaris 10 includes a completely rewritten TCP/IP stack, which increases performance for all network applications.

Other improvements include a service-based start-up facility, SMF (Service Management Facility), which removes the rc start-up script conventions in Solaris and creates a more Windows-like services framework. SMF lets multiple services start up concurrently, reducing the boot time of a Solaris 10 server dramatically.

Security

Solaris 10 now includes ipf (IP Filter), an open-source, host-based firewall that replaces Sun's SunScreen firewall service. NFS has been updated to version 4, and is a welcome improvement in security and file locking. Shared memory, semaphores and other System V InterProcess Communication (IPC) configs are now dynamic--no more /etc/system edits requiring a reboot. The mail system has been updated to Sendmail 8.13, including support for the mail filter interface milter.

Overall, Solaris 10 offers much-needed improvements to Sun's flagship operating system, but should you upgrade all of your Sun machines next month? Probably not. Although Dtrace, Solaris containers and the many other improvements make it tempting, I'd wait until ZFS is integrated and the enthusiasts work out the initial bugs.

Christopher T. Beers is lead Unix architect at Syracuse University.