Sun Solaris 10

Sun Solaris 10

Summary: Significant performance, availability and feature enhancements make Solaris 10 an automatic choice for existing Sun customers. But as an alternative to Linux, it doesn’t yet deliver.

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  • Editors' rating:
    6.8
  • User rating:
    9.0

Pros

  • Enhanced performance and security
  • predictive self-healing
  • x86 platform support
  • built-in virtualisation (Solaris Containers)
  • DTrace debugging tool
  • Linux compatibility

Cons

  • Compatibility issues on x86 platforms
  • Linux compatibility, ZFS file system and other promised features not yet available

For Sun customers, upgrading to Solaris 10 is very much a 'no-brainer', and for several very good reasons. To start with, it's faster than any previous Solaris implementation, with a slick new IP stack just one of many performance enhancements. Plus it’s a lot more secure, featuring a new integrated cryptographic framework based on the Trusted Solaris product. The Role Based Access Control (RBAC) technology, introduced a couple of releases back, has also been extended to give fine-grained control over both users and processes, while applications and services can now be isolated within their own virtual execution space using Solaris Containers (formerly N1 Grid Containers).

Features
There are several notable advances on the availability front too, including 'predictive self healing', which enables the OS to identify and automatically recover from a range of hardware and software faults. And for developers there’s a new integrated debugging tool called DTrace that lets programmers and system administrators see exactly what’s going on while applications are executing. Solaris 10 also sees the official release of JDS 3.0, Sun’s Gnome-based Java Desktop System, and the resurrection of support for the x86 platform as well as Sun’s own UltraSPARC processors. Moreover, Sun has opted to make Solaris 10 available for free download and, with claims to be able to run Linux applications natively on the new OS, is clearly making a play for the corporate open source market. Unfortunately it’s at this point that the Solaris proposition starts to lose some of it lustre. Yes, you can download and install it just like Red Hat or SuSE Linux, but there the similarities end, making Solaris 10 far less of an obvious choice for companies looking for a Linux alternative.

Installation & setup
To begin with, it’s important to understand that you’re still dealing with a proprietary OS here. Sure, you can download and run it for free (if you’ve the time and bandwidth to download all four CD-ROM images!), but a full open source release is unlikely to appear for some time. And although Sun is keen to stress support for the whole gamut of x86 platforms, including the latest 64-bit AMD and Intel processors, the lack of all those open source developers churning out code means that hardware compatibility isn’t as universal as it is with most Linux distributions. We tried installing the software on a number of different systems -- from older Pentium III-based PCs to the latest and greatest Xeon server hardware -- and experienced lots of basic compatibility problems. These ranged from a clash between the install program and the CD-ROM drive to -- where we could get that to work -- a failure to recognise the network or storage adapters being used. We also experienced crashes when using USB devices and even had problems installing Solaris 10 in a virtual machine environment. However, we did eventually get it to work with the latest VMware Workstation 5 release which provides specific (if unsupported) Solaris support.

Linux compatibility
The famed Linux compatibility, based on a technology called Janus, doesn’t quite live up to expectation either. In its favour, Janus provides compatibility at the kernel level, which allows it to take full advantage of all the new features -- including container virtualisation. It also allows Linux applications to run natively with minimal performance overheads. Unfortunately the first release is limited to handling 32-bit applications, with compatibility only guaranteed for code written for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3. Worse still, Janus isn’t yet included as standard in the Solaris download, and other features slated for inclusion have also been left out of the first production release. Most notable of the latter is the Zettabyte File System (ZFS), which is designed to simplify storage management in large enterprises. On the plus side, the Sun software now doesn’t cost anything and security updates are also free to download. You can buy support for all platforms direct from Sun at a cost that compares well with Red Hat and other enterprise Linux distributions, and there's plenty of good documentation to be had, both embedded in the package and on Sun's Web site. Sun has gone further down the Linux route and bundled Apache, Tomcat, MySQL and other applications with its OS as well as StarOffice 7 for desktop deployment.

Conclusion
Despite all this, however, Solaris 10 has to be viewed as a proprietary product best implemented on Sun hardware, be it UltraSPARC or one of the AMD Opteron-based x86 boxes. Strides have been made towards embracing the Linux model, and an open source implementation is promised. But it’s not here yet, and Sun has a long way to go before it can claim to provide the same wide platform support that's available from the top Linux vendors. So if you’re a Sun customer, then go for it. Otherwise stick with Linux until the bugs have been ironed out and it does what it says on the tin.

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Topics: Operating Systems, Reviews, Servers

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73 comments
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  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 9.0

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    Sorry, but I think the reviewer's unwillingness to actually review the main features of the product totally disqualify him from reviewing it.

    Additionally, it's an unfair characterization that it has "large compatability" problems with x86 hardware just because it didn't work on the systems it was tested on. It's worked fine so far on every system I own, so take what the reviewer says with a canister of salt. Also, hardware compatability is fairly well documented on the BigAdmin HCL list and the reviewer shouldn't be complaining about problems on systems that aren't listed as supported. A complaint in general about the need for expanded hardware support would have been a better valid criticism.

    The reviewer also failed to mention how much of a panacea for development Solaris 10 is compared to the current Linux distributions. My company has been working with RedHat Enterprise Linux since it's early versions and so far we've found Solaris to be a much better documented and robust product. For a lot of development shops Solaris does deliver, and equally well compared to Linux. This is greatly in part due to SUN's developer friendly focus and mountains of documentation that they have available on the system.

    They also fail to mention that many businesses can run Solaris 10 for likely half the price RedHat wants...
    anonymous
  • 9.5

    anonymous
  • 9.5

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 8.0

    As a Windows MCSE I earn my living on the "other side" so I have no axe to grind. I keep an old AMD K7 450 with 256MB and a 10Gb HD to install a guest OS from time to time at home to play around with. I had no problems with the install at all. It took a while was the only criticism I had of it(but then the Hardware ain't up to much). It was easy to network and a whole lot easier than the Fedora, SuSE, Mandrake, BeOS that I have played around with before.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    Run on a Sun V20z gives outstanding performance.
    anonymous
  • 7.5

    anonymous
  • 5.0

    I've tried it on 3 x86 machines and 1 ultra 10. Problems start from the beginning-- won't pickup the network card on one. One doesn't pick up DHCP. The 3rd and 4th CDs fail to install on another one. On all 3 x86 machines X will not start (this is a very common problem).

    I was very excited in the months leading up to the release... but how can I test it out if I can't get it to run on anything?!?!

    Linux is also free, has a huge support community, and works out of the box every single time. I'll stick to it for now.
    anonymous
  • 9.5

    anonymous
  • 9.5

    Hardware compatibility should not be the reason one chooses an OS, unless you are more concerned with the hardware you are running on than the services and applications you look to provide. As a system manager of both Linux and Solaris due to the features, ease of administration, upgrade compatability, rock-solid stability and large ISV support causes me to choose Solaris over Linux in many situations. The hardware choice is secondary to the OS.
    anonymous
  • 9.0

    It took a while for Sun to comlete the architectural underpinnings of Solaris, but now that's done they're really starting to advance the state of the art.

    Solaris 10 is based on standards, has binary compatibility going back years (15 years or more on sparc), is pretty fast, as cheap as it can get, and packed with features.

    We love zones and SMF (even though the latter takes a while to get your head round; we love the renewed energy around x86 - although Solaris has always been a fine OS in that space anyway.

    We're disappointed - like many - that ZFS and Janus aren't there yet. But they're coming along, as is OpenSolaris.

    Solaris is excellent already, and it's going to get even better.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 10.0

    anonymous
  • 9.5

    anonymous
  • 9.5

    Facts:
    Solaris 10 is a High Performance OS
    -fast TCP/IP stack
    -extremely secure architecture
    -really multi-threaded
    -ideal for databases like Oracle with Terabytes of Data

    Solaris 10 works well on the hardware that is currently listed on the Sun Hardware List

    Solaris 10 will be available as OpenSolaris (open source Solaris 10) in the next few months

    Solaris 10 has the best security architecture available in any operating system in the market today (containers, cryptography framework, RBAC, etc.)

    Solaris 10 is cheaper than Red Hat today

    Bottom line: If you were/are a Winblows MCSE and want to "try" a Unix-like OS just so you can get familiar with Unix, go check Linux. If you are the Sys Admin for a bank and you want an OS you can really depend on, an OS that's reliable, fast, scales and secure while doing all this at the same time, then Solaris 10 should be on the top of your list. Don't be fooled by these "experts" that write these reviews. Ask real sys admins what the banks and the telecoms are using.
    anonymous
  • 10.0

    Check netcraft for the history of zdnet.co.uk.
    anonymous
  • 9.5

    anonymous
  • 7.5

    Despite so much bloatware creeping into the latest release, the operating environment is still quite fast. Hardware support is still sketchy, but anyone experienced on the Solaris X86 platform should be used to that by now. Some of the new features like the service administration facility are quite a radical departure from any other Unix/Linux on the market that this release is DEFINITELY worth investigating.
    anonymous