The importance of Solaris 10

The importance of Solaris 10

Summary: Hot new intrinsic capabilities like DTrace, ZFS, and the ability to run Linux binaries are the realizations of deeper technological innovations like microstate accounting. Solaris 10 brings a lot

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TOPICS: Oracle
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Almost two years ago, in November of 2004, I did a piece for Linuxinsider with this same title: the importance of Solaris 10.

Last week Sun formally issued the latest point release, now including ZFS and PostgresSQL. So how do my opinions then, stand up now?

Here's part of my original comment and a list by Adam Leventhal:

 

Hot new intrinsic capabilities like DTrace, ZFS, and the ability to run Linux binaries are the realizations of deeper technological innovations like microstate accounting. Solaris 10 brings a lot of those out of the labs and into production environments where they'll receive the kind of intensive real world testing that will ultimately determine how important they are. Consider, for example, this list of Solaris 10 top new features put together by Adam Leventhal (one of the key developers behind DTrace):

 

    libumem - the tool for debugging dynamic allocation problems; oh, and it scales as well or better than any other memory allocator

     

  1. pfiles(1) with file names - you can get at the file name info through /proc too; very cool

     

  2. Improved coreadm(1M) - core files are now actually useful on other machines, administrators and users can specify the content of core files

     

  3. System V IPC - no more clumsy system tunables and reboots, it's all dynamic, and -- guess what? -- faster too

     

  4. kmdb - if you don't care, ok, but if you do care, you really really care: mdb(1)'s cousin replaces kadb(1M)

     

  5. Watchpoints - now they work and they scale

     

  6. pstack(1) for java - see java stack frames in a JVM or core file and through DTrace

     

  7. pmap(1) features - see thread stacks, and core file content

     

  8. per-thread p-tools - apply pstack(1) and truss(1) to just the threads you care about

     

  9. Event Ports - a generic API for dealing with heterogeneous event sources
Things like these are invisible to IT management and of little importance to the press, but this is the stuff on which technology revolutions like DTrace and ZFS are built. Thus their presence in this release signals the importance of Solaris 10, not as an end product but as a work in progress.

To me it seems that Sun is driving toward what I think of as Plan-9 compliance; not at the code level but in terms of system wide functionality. Plan 9, you may recall, is a kind of second generation Unix liberated from the single machine focus of the original design to make full use of multiple machines on a network. Originally Sun's marketing people said that "the network is the computer"; realistically, Plan 9 reverses that to make it: "the computer is the network" - and that's exactly what's going on with Solaris.

Adam Leventhal's list, above, reflects the achievements of people working to put in place the foundations for future software while the forthcoming Niagara and later SPARC designs do the same thing at the hardware level -putting the equivalent of a traditional 32-way SMP box into a single processor.

Today the first Niagara CPUs are in production and getting very positive reviews from users and testers alike. Dtrace has led to a revolution in applications debugging and is being ported to BSD and Linux, ZFS appears likely to establish a new standard, and "under the hood" stuff like microstate accounting and generic accelerator support is facilitating both Niagara2 (encryption and packet management) and Rock (an FPOA?) development.

Great, but do you know what I missed? From a sales perspective I missed the importance of Sun's effort to integrate and simplify the fault detection and correction stuff - critical in sales pitches to mainframers pretending to 100% uptime, but an absolute pain to work with and much less useful in real life than its adherents like to pretend.

What I missed of substance, however, was the importance of the OpenSolaris community and the "eat your cake and keep it too" licensing model - because that's driving adoption among the thousands of small developers now prepping the next great wave of application change to hit our industry.

 

Topic: Oracle

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  • Plan 9 from Outer Space

    Before its death, Solaris was a sales point for Sun's hardware. After its death, Solaris is useful to its prior users without being of advantage to others because of widespread adoption.
    Sun did draw inspiration from Ed Wood. With Jonathon Schwartz as Ed's dentist, who played Bela Lugosi by holding a cape around his face.

    To give an idea of the confusion of the plot, here's your description of Plan 9:

    "Plan 9, you may recall, is a kind of second generation Unix liberated from the single machine focus of the original design to make full use of multiple machines on a network. Originally Sun's marketing people said that 'the network is the computer'; realistically, Plan 9 reverses that to make it: 'the computer is the network' - and that's exactly what's going on with Solaris."

    Sun's marketing people were saying that the individual computer becomes an outlet. Your "the computer is the network" says that the outlet loses its connection to the network.

    You might want to rephrase that a bit...



    You also speak nostalgically of how Solaris might have driven sales of hardware while making money itself:

    "From a sales perspective I missed the importance of Sun's effort to integrate and simplify the fault detection and correction stuff - critical in sales pitches to mainframers pretending to 100% uptime, but an absolute pain to work with and much less useful in real life than its adherents like to pretend."

    If it's not really important or useful, then you're saying that Sun is making substantial effort to allow people to continue their mistaken attitudes.
    So it seems you're saying that Sun is working hard to help people remain misled. That's an accusation.


    And finally you're asserting that Sun will benefit from the work of developers who will write "the next great wave of application change".

    Okay, except what's going to drive the next great wave of Solaris adoption? The fact that users who had prior versions of Solaris are now getting it free?

    Seems a chicken and egg problem to me: no applications for Solaris without a market, and no great market without applications. All that freeing the program accomplished in itself was a loss of revenue.

    The only scenario I can see helping is wide Solaris adoption, with the concomitant aggravations of switching to Solaris from something else, by large organizations which can afford their own code readers and writers. Who have expertise in the outfit's existing software.

    Should one believe that freeing Solaris is going to cause that rvolutionary change while application writers wait and watch for it to happen?

    That's the real revolution.

    Quoting the argument:

    "What I missed of substance, however, was the importance of the OpenSolaris community and the 'eat your cake and keep it too' licensing model - because that's driving adoption among the thousands of small developers now prepping the next great wave of application change to hit our industry."

    Seems that the biggest change on the Unix side is switching to cheaper, easier to maintain software, such as Linux on servers. And finding less expensive ways to do maintenance.

    And, as in that HP CIO plan, pushing more discretion to users. Who won't be programming Solaris.

    This revolution appears to have a lot of momentum in another direction to overcome.


    You could even be right about the possibilities. But I think the first requirement is a plausible scenario for accepting and using them.
    Is Plan 9 a plausible enough scenario even for Ed Wood?
    Anton Philidor
    • ummm...

      I'll try to answer your core argument next week.
      murph_z
  • OpenSolaris in Google

    I think the bellwether for the new dynamic with Sun and Solaris is the work being done at Google with it.

    "Google Inc. is experimenting with the open-source version of Sun Microsystems Inc.?s Solaris operating system as apossible prelude to running it alongside Linux in its massive global network of servers, according to sources." - ComputerWorld

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=264346

    That is powerful testament to the success of opensourcing Solaris--and a real measure of the importance of Solaris 10.

    John C.
    jcawley
    • Agreed - minor semantic difference

      I think the Niagara2 prospects at google look great and that the work you refer to demonstrates the value of open-sourcing Solaris 10 - but not its importance.

      That's a minor semantic distinction - projects like this show that big players value the power of open source - but what I wanted to get at was the importance of Solaris 10 as a place holder in the evolution of operating systems. - and what I missed back then was the fact that open source and the CDDL allow many people who otherwise would not be using Solaris 10 to both form and get on the bandwagon.
      murph_z
  • Yawn

    NT
    TonyMcS
  • The CDDL is everything!

    From a proprietary developers stand point anyhow. I have clients that want *nix. They liked the idea of Linux for low cost, but developing on Linux and the GPL gotchas meant we had to stay a good distance from it. (We are not in the business of building code for free. Sorry folks, it if that is what you want then fine, but I choose not to play.)

    With Solaris10 that is no longer an issue and the folks that want *nix have nothing but good words for Solaris. In fact many will tell you it is simply the best *nix on the planet. (Far more stable and scalable than Linux.)

    Fire up a VM for Solaris and we are off to the races for little or no cost to our clients and at the same time no one is copying our proprietary code. It's the perfect combination...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Agreed (NT)

      <P>
      murph_z
    • How much did you pay Sun...

      ... for running Solaris?
      If use of the software were linked to purchase of Sun hardware, Sun would see a return on investment.

      Would your clients have paid for Solaris(?), even if the amount they were willing to pay were less than Sun had been charging.

      Did the availability of applications have anything to do with the decision? Obviously, having more applications would not increase Sun's revenue by itself, but if Sun had been charging for Solaris, wouldn't a greater number of applications be more reason to pay?
      Applications can be encouraged by means other than making software free, as Microsoft continues to prove.

      Almost seems to me that if Sun can't lose money on a product by any other means, they'll give it away. Your endorsement of the quality of the work only adds to the likelihood of lost revenue.
      Anton Philidor
      • And once you rely on Solaris

        for so many of your applications, would you start paying for 24/7/365 support? F. yes!
        Roger Ramjet
        • Here too (NT)

          .
          Erik Engbrecht