Sun kicks out 10/09 Solaris update

Many little nips and tucks

High performance access to file storage

Oracle minion Sun Microsystems has rolled out its 10/09 update to the commercial Solaris 10 operating system.

If you were expecting a lot of neat and new features, forget it - but the operating system has been tweaked to support new processors and to add useful capabilities, such as support for various flash-based solid state storage for the Zettabyte File System.

The Solaris 10 operating system is the commercial Unix offering from Sun - meaning it has been hardened for enterprise environments, tested for application compatibility for some 11,000 system and application programs, and is covered by Sun's for-fee tech support staff - and it tends to get an update twice a year.

Back in late April, Sun rolled out the Solaris 10 05/09 update, just two weeks after Oracle made its $7.4bn bid to acquire Sun and when the muzzle was put on Sun's aggressive PR machine. Once again, here in October, Sun has put an update out, but is not really talking to the trade press about it for fear that some executive at Sun will say something that might give the European Union's antitrust regulators reason to not allow Oracle's acquisition of Sun to proceed.

You can read the Solaris 10 update 10/09 new features guide here, and the release notes (really just a mammoth long list of things that are not working and another long list of end of support statements concerning various Solaris components) here (pdf). You can see all of the updates that Sun has made for Solaris 10 since it was launched in January 2005 at this link.

The physical-to-virtual conversion tools that came out in late July with the tweaked Logical Domain (LDom) 1.2 hypervisor for Sparc T series servers are now embedded in Solaris 10 update 10/09, and according to Sun's announcement can now be used to take physical servers running Solaris 8 or Solaris 9 and encapsulate these images using the P2V tools to drop these images into Solaris containers (Sun's implementation of virtual private servers, where multiple images share a single OS kernel and file system) or LDoms (Sun's implementation of a virtual machine hypervisor, where multiple whole OSes run side-by-side).

These P2V tools are obviously essential for server consolidation jobs. So is the ability to upgrade and patch many Solaris images simultaneously running inside containers or LDoms at the same time, and the 10/09 update allows admins to do this.

A lot of the tweaks in the 10/09 update to Solaris 10 have to do with storage. The 64-bit version of the Solaris 10 operating system can now support 2TB disk drives for booting the OS; with the prior Solaris 10 releases, the maximum boot drive size was 1TB. The larger boot disk capacity is not available on 32-bit versions of Solaris 10.

The Zettabyte File System, still one of the best pieces of code Sun has brought to market and something that the company has been trying to capitalize on for years, can now designate flash-based storage as a cache for ZFS pools. This flash cache support was put into the OpenSolaris 2009_06 release back in June.

Sun has also added support for SAS 2.0 disk controllers that are compliant with LSI's Fusion-MPT architecture, which supports both SAS and SATA drives and multipathing between servers and storage controllers. The AHCI driver in Solaris now supports SATA tape drives. Sun has also added a new driver for PCI-Express SAS controller host bus adapters, which supports the 6 Gb/sec SAS 2.0 protocol and which is used with the LSI MegaRAID SAS 92XX controllers and Sun's own StorageTek brand controllers.

On the networking side, Solaris 10 update 10/09 supports Broadcom NetXtreme II Gigabit Ethernet NICs based on the bmc5716c and bcm5716s chipsets. The update also has an interrupt remapping table for the VT-d I/O virtualization features of the "Nehalem" family of processors from Intel, which makes this I/O virtualization more rugged. Sun has also created drivers for Intel's 82599 and 82599 10 GE PCI-Express Ethernet controllers.

The Solaris 10 update 10/09 stack has relatively few system software tweaks, but the PostgreSQL 8.1.17, 8.2.13, and 8.3.7 database is now supported on Sun's Unix, and the Samba 3.0.35 Windows-compatible file server is also supported.

While Solaris 10 is distributed for free, support is not free. A basic service plan from Sun on a server with one or two sockets (using either Sparc or x64 processors) costs $324 for a one-year support contract. The basic service plan is not available on larger machines. (This is the same price that Sun is charging for support on the same boxes for its OpenSolaris developer release, should companies want to deploy it in production so they can get access to new features faster.)

With a standard service plan (where Sun offers 12x5 business hour support), it costs $720 per year for a machine with one or two sockets and $1,320 per year on a machine with three or more x64 sockets and. On Sparc machines, Sun charges more for the bigger boxes - $1,440 per year for a machine with three or four processors and $2,880 for a machine with from 5 to 8 sockets; but single- and dual-socket boxes have the same $720 annual support cost for a standard level of service. (Pricing is the same for the OpenSolaris distro.)

Premium 24x7 support for Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris is not cheap, but it is competitive with commercial Linuxes. On x64 iron, premium support (24x7) costs $1,080 per year on a box with one or two sockets and $1,980 for a machine with three or more sockets. On Sparc-based servers, it is the same $1,080 on a machine with one or two sockets, but costs $2,160 on a machine with three or four sockets and costs $4,320 on a machine from five to eight sockets. Sun does not publish prices for Sparc-based servers with more than eight sockets, but you can bet that it is not cheap.

While Sun says that it will be on hand with its Solaris marketeers and techies at the Oracle OpenWorld customer event in San Francisco this week, the one thing that the company will surely not talk about is the launch of the future Solaris 11 operating system. As El Reg reported back in late April, when Solaris 10 got its last update, Sun was quietly telling customers to expect Solaris 11 sometime around the middle of 2010.

Heaven only knows what the schedule looks like now, and it is likely that Oracle/Sun will not say anything until the EC antitrust regulators give the nod to the Oracle acquisition of Sun. ®

High performance access to file storage

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