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Sun Rolls Out OpenSolaris 2009.06

Sun Microsystems has launched an update to OpenSolaris 2009.06. In short, OpenSolaris is Sun's transparent development tree for the next generation of the Solaris operating system. It's also quite useful as a developer/desktop GNOME-based OS. I spoke with Dan Roberts, Director Data Center Software at Sun, last week about this release, who told me about three main new features:

  • Crossbow, a new network stack
  • New storage framework and new protocol support
  • New support and critical support packages available including support for virtualization (LDOM and XEN).

Other enhancements include support for additional video cards, Nehalem support, new Sun Studio tools, a new VirtualBox package, updates to Timeslider (for time-based, automated backups), and new repositories.

Crossbow: A New Network Stack

Crossbow is about virtualization at the network layer, allowing you to assign dedicated network bandwidth to different applications or virtual machines. It also includes many improvements to network management and network performance. However, the big news with Crossbow is virtualization; it allows you to actually run a virtual machine that takes on the functionality of otherwise dedicated network equipment such as firewalls and routers. Instead, on one multi-core server, you can run multiple virtual servers, each with dedicated network bandwidth (guaranteed), and each performing its own dedicated functionality within your network architecture.

With Crossbow, you can use OpenSolaris to deploy entire network architectures on one physical server. This feature alone allows you to more easily test and deploy changes to network architecture, and save money on otherwise expensive dedicated, and often proprietary, network devices. In terms of resource management, when multiple guests run on a single system, you can divide network resourcs/traffic amongst them to avoid one guest swamping the physical machine, or starving other guests.

As a case study, Reliant Security has been an early-access customer for Crossbow, and has simplified the appliances they deliver to retail stores. Even a single system can have virtual servers with firewall-based security built-in.

New Storage Support

When ZFS was released years ago, interest gained in Solaris as storage platform, and today, OpenSolaris is the platform for Sun Unified Storage (Amber Road). Now, ZFS can handle hybrid storage pools (a combination of solid state disks and spinning platters). For instance, ZFS will automatically migrate data to the most efficient medium based on read and write statistics. Also, OpenSolaris servers can be placed into heterogeneous networks (i.e. with Linux and Windows servers), and not only interoperate but allow for overall storage management.The feature is part of Project COMSTAR, which provides fibrechannel support over iSCSI, allowing you to turn an OpenSolaris 2009.06 server into an iSCSI storage device or target.

New Virtualization Features

This version of OpenSolaris delivers new virtualization features with Solaris Containers, , LDOM support for chip mutli-threading (CMT) systems, and a Xen-based type 1 hypervisor for both SPARC and x86/x64 based systems. As a result, you can run OpenSolaris 2009.06 as a host/controller for both hypervisors. The result is a lightweight software-based virtualization solution that allows you to create virtual servers to consolidate potentially hundreds of dedicated, heterogeneous, servers in your data center. For instance, you can run Windows on xVM/OpenSolaris, and in turn control that virtual server's storage and network bandwidth. Further, other features of OpenSolaris, such as predictive self-healing, can be applied to these virtual servers and supply increased data integrity even to Window NTFS-based systems, when Windows is run as a virtual server on an OpenSolaris host.

OpenSolaris Support

Sun is now offering longer support plans for OpenSolaris including five-year, full lifecycle support. Also, there are two support levels that are now consistent with Solaris 10 support, offering three support packages (for one or two socket systems, regardless of cores) :

  • Basic: $324 per server, email-based support only
  • Standard: $720 per server, 5 days x 8 hours, telephone-based support
  • Premium: $1080 per server, with full 24x7 support.Cost reduction.

The Future of Solaris 10

With all of this work and new features continuing to go into OpenSolaris, you have to wonder: What about Solaris 10? It's been a few years now since Sun's flagship enterprise OS has seen a major upgrade (quarterly updates not withstanding). Additionally, major new features such as Crossbow are NOT planned for a Solaris 10 update. Roberts told me that although he could not give details, we can expect a major release to Solaris in the near future (where features such as Crossbow will be included).

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