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Oracle sneaks out Solaris 10 refresh

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Rather than wait two weeks for its own OpenWorld extravaganza, Oracle has snuck out the long-awaited update to the Solaris 10 operating system. The related Solaris Cluster clustering software and Solaris Studio development tools were also tweaked.

As usual, the release notes for the updated Solaris 10 have a little bit of information about the new features and a whole laundry list of bugs and errata that Oracle is aware of in the tweaked code. The Solaris 10 update 9/10 release notes and other documents can be found here. Oracle did not give any briefings about the Solaris 10 9/10 update, but John Fowler, executive vice president in charge of Oracle's Systems and Storage group, went over the update in a Webcast, which you can see here.

Fowler said that Solaris 10 update 9/10 included support for "exciting new hardware," but he did not say what that hardware might possibly be. (Oracle has not returned a request for further comment, as usual). The tweaked Solaris no doubt is ready to run any impending Sun Fire servers using the 16-core "Rainbow Falls" Sparc T3 processor, which was slated to be delivered at the middle of this year by Sun before it was acquired by Oracle and which could very well see the light of day at the OpenWorld event.

The Solaris 10 update no doubt supports the new Netra servers that Oracle just announced as well as the refreshed Xeon-based server lineup that Oracle kicked out at the end of June, but the two recent Netra boxes (The CP3270 blade and the X4270 rack) and the two Sun Fire machines using Intel's Xeon 7500 processors (the X4470 and X4800) have not been added to the Solaris hardware compatibility list yet. (You can see the Solaris 10 HCL here). But it is a safe guess - and you have to guess - that Solaris 10 update 9/10 supports these four machines.

Fowler said in the Webcast that Sun has in some way enhanced the physical-to-virtual conversions tools that made their debut last October in the Solaris 10 10/09 update. The exact nature of these enhancements was not explained, but the tool is clever in that it allows for Solaris 8 and Solaris 9 software stacks running on physical servers to be sucked up and encapsulated in a Solaris 10 container (a virtual private server) and plunked down on a different physical server.

This capability originally debuted in July 2009 with Logical Domain (LDom) 1.2 hypervisor for Sparc T series machines. This software is now known as Oracle VM for Sparc, and it now sports what Fowler called "increased reliability."

It is not clear if this P2V conversion works on other Sparc-based systems or on x64-based machines running Solaris, but clearly it would be desirable to do a P2V conversion on any Oracle server - provided you stay in the same instruction set, of course, and you end up in Solaris containers or LDoms. The LDoms can now have memory dynamically added and removed from domains without having to reboot the machine. LDoms also now have enhancements for virtual disk multipathing that allows a guest domain to keep running even if one of the service domains that feeds it data goes down.

Solaris 10 update 9/10 has been integrated with the networking features of Oracle's Real Application Clusters database clustering, and Fowler said that the performance of the Java runtime for Solaris has been goosed to make Oracle's WebLogic middleware run faster. The Dynamic Trace (DTrace) performance monitoring tool in Solaris 10 can now non-invasively peek into a working Java runtime environment.

The drivers for the FlashCache flash memory for servers and the Zettabyte File System (ZFS) have also been tweaked to coordinate with Oracle databases better, and Oracle's databases can now make use of the integrated, wirespeed encryption co-processors etched into the latest Sparc T2 and T2+ processors. (Solaris 10 update 9/10 also supports the AES-NI encryption that Intel baked into its "Westmere-EP" Xeon 5600 processors earlier this year.) There's a slew of new adapter cards that now have drivers in the updated Solaris as well.

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