Sun tweaks Solaris 9 performance

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No one has ever accused the top brass of Sun Microsystems Inc of having a shortage of wiseguys and smart-alecks,

writes Timothy Prickett Morgan

. If IBM is announcing a new release of its AIX Unix operating system, as it did

yesterday

, then Sun picked that same day to launch its updated release of the Solaris 9 operating system.

It's not a funny coincidence, but it is funny and it is absolutely intentional. Sun and IBM have been trying to steal each other's thunder for years, and this is just another example. While the improvements in Solaris 9 9/02 and AIX 5L 5.2 are interesting and valuable, they are not earth-shaking. So the amount of thunder stolen is minor. The days of big-bang operating system upgrades are more or less over, except for newbie operating systems like Windows and Linux, which are still playing catch-up to the many Unix platforms and proprietary mainframe and midrange operating systems when it comes to scalability and reliability features.

The September 2002 release of Solaris 9 - that's where the 9/02 comes from instead of a release number - includes a new feature called memory placement optimization (MPO), which is a feature intended for Sun's Sun Fire servers that use SMP clustering to tightly couple anywhere from 2 to 72 processors in a single system image. With MPO, data that is needed for a particular processor in an SMP machine is routed directly to the memory cards on each two-way or four-way cell board in the Sun Fire server. Servers built using a cell board approach each have their own local main memory and L2 cache and the memory subsystems in the machines allow any processor in the SMP cluster to access any memory location in the entire machine. There are obviously latencies involved in going off the cell board through this memory subsystem and then back again. MPO lets processors store information locally so it is there when they need it, without those latencies. Sun says that on preliminary benchmark tests using a datawarehousing workload on a Sun Fire 15000 server, the datawarehousing application got a performance boost of 12% by using the new MPO feature. A technical benchmark called SWIM, which is based on a weather prediction application, had a 41% performance improvement from using this code. As you might expect, the more parallel your application, the more likely that MPO will help performance. Sun has also added large memory page support for its Dynamic Intimate Shared Memory microcode for Solaris 9. Sun says that this support can improve performance for applications that are able to dynamically adjust their shared memory sizes.

While Sun did not deliver its so-called containers for Solaris, which are akin to logical partitions on rival IBM and HP servers, with this release of Solaris, Sun has integrated IP Quality of Service (IPQoS) management software into Solaris 9 9/02 that is a step in creating these containers. In general, QoS software allows service providers and data centers to provide different amounts of bandwidth and resources to different classes of customers. IPQoS allows network resources to be monitored and managed in realtime so applications, users, or organizations accessing Solaris resources can have network bandwidth allocated to them based on pre-set priorities and policies. The IPQoS software also allows organizations to do charge-back accounting on the use of network resources.

With Solaris 9 9/02, Sun has also decided to bundle a bunch of its Sun ONE middleware and developer tools with the operating system. Specifically, Sun ONE Portal, Web Server, Studio 4 (a Java IDE provided with a try-and-buy license), and Studio 7 (a collection of compilers, also only under a try-and-buy license) are included with Solaris 9 now.

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