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Next Solaris prepped for 2011

Solaris-10-like technology leap promised

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The words "OpenSolaris" did not pass his lips once during Oracle's systems strategy update, executive vice president John Fowler in charge of server and storage did talk a little bit about the future of Oracle's Solaris Unix variant.

It has been more than five years since Solaris 10 was launched, and Fowler said that next year's Solaris 11 will feature "a major set of upgrades" for key components of the operating system, and would represent the kind of leap in technology that Sun Microsystems did with its operating system when it moved from Solaris 9 to Solaris 10 in January 2005.

Every aspect of the operating system will get improvements, from the networking stack and file systems, to kernel tweaks to support more scalability and threads, and all the way out to the maintenance and packaging systems that are used to create and support a Solaris stack.

The changes to the guts of Solaris with version 11 are necessary to prepare Oracle's Unix platform so it can support the very high transaction volumes that the company expects to have running on Sparc iron between now and 2015. The current top-end system being developed by Oracle (and perhaps in conjunction with long-time Sun partner, Fujitsu) will have 64 sockets, 128 cores, a stunning 16,384 threads, and 64TB of main memory. And, Fowler said, it will take a substantially reworked Solaris 11 to make that hardware run.

Fowler said that Solaris 10 updates will continue this year, adding new hardware platforms and adding other unspecified software integrations. An early adopter program for Solaris 11 will start soon, Fowler said, and once Solaris 11 is out the door — it looks like it's due in the second half of 2011, if the Solaris roadmap is drawn to scale — Solaris 11 will be updated with a regular annual cadence.

On that Solaris roadmap, the initial Solaris 11 release will focus on scalability, networking, security, and software lifecycle management. The first update at the end of 2012 will have high availability, memory scalability, and virtualization enhancements, followed by a second update at the end of 2013 that will be centered on I/O scalability and system management. The big update comes at the end of 2014, when Sun prepares for that heavily threaded — and as yet unnamed — future Sparc box due around 2015.

Solaris 11 will support both x64 and Sparc architectures, just as Solaris 10 and Solaris 8 did. Solaris 9 did support x86 processors, but Sun slapped a license price on it instead of providing it for free as it did with Solaris 8 and did not offer tech support for the x86 version, because Sun was trying to drive Solaris customers away from x86 gear and towards more expensive Sparc iron.

On the server virtualization front, Oracle intends to keep its entire current crop of virtualization tools, including its Oracle VM implementation of the open source Xen hypervisor for x64 iron, which supports the x64 version of Solaris 10 as well as Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle's clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Windows is also a supported operating system on the Oracle VM hypervisor, of course. Oracle VM has been tweaked to work in conjunction with Oracle's Clusterware high availability clustering software on x64 boxes. Clusterware is the underpinning of Oracle's Real Application Cluster (RAC) database clustering.

Oracle has slapped the Oracle VM brand on the collection of dynamic- domain (for UltraSparc and Sparc64 processors) and logical-domain (for Sparc T chips) virtualization technologies.

But don't be confused — Oracle is not dumping these Sparc technologies and porting Xen hypervisors to Sparc. And Solaris containers, which are virtual private servers that run atop the Solaris kernel and use a single file system on either Sparc or x64 machines, will continue to be supported. The much-loved VirtualBox hypervisor for PCs and servers is still kicking as an open source project and a supported Oracle project, as well.

The news is that Oracle will be using the Oracle VM management console to bridge the different x64 and Sparc server virtualization technologies to mask the underlying differences in the virtualization approaches, and to make it easier for system administrators to manage all of them from a single pane of glass.

The Sun OpsCenter tool will become the single provisioning tool for physical servers and will integrate with Oracle VM Server and Oracle Enterprise Manager to allow administrators to control physical hardware, virtual servers, and applications and middleware in an integrated fashion.

Bootnote: This story originally said that Solaris 9 did not run on x86 iron. Of course it did. What Solaris 9 lacked was a freebie distro like Solaris 8 had and technical support from Sun, like the Sparc versions of Solaris 8 and Solaris 10 had. ®

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