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Sun Hands Out Sneak Peaks For Solaris 'Next'

In keeping with its open-book development strategy, Sun Microsystems has released the latest features making their way into its next generation Solaris operating environment.

Under the guise of "Solaris Express," the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker is high-quality snapshots for download of the very latest Sun Solaris technologies for both SPARC and x86 systems.

The early access program is an unsupported model with no traditional 1-hour support. Similar to how the Linux community offers a public review of its future kernel builds, Sun says the benefit of Solaris Express is that customers and even competitors can put the sneak peak software on their systems (not for production use) and test it out on their own servers.

The download includes four CD's worth of packets with an installer and a language aspect. Sun says the idea is for its developers to get feedback and find out what works and what doesn't. The approved builds are then slated for future Solaris releases, whether it is Solaris 10, 11 or beyond.

Features being considered for future releases go through about a five week test period -- two weeks of testing, three weeks of documentation and then what Sun calls 'soak time' where Sun Labs makes sure its products work well and play well with others.

New to this round of releases is the debut of DTrace, a diagnostic tool with its own scripting language and is capable of letting an admin turn on trace points in the kernel, collect data, and then turn it off without having to shut down the system.

DTrace comprises three main parts: a set of at least 25,000 dynamic probes in the software; a framework that activates and deactivates those probes and gathers information from them; and a simple scripting language (called "D") that is used to control and automate the collection and enable the display of the system data.

"It's like a flight recorder for your computer," Sun Product Line Manager Jackie Bao told internetnews.com. "It lets you see the kernel state and the user state."

Nowhere was this as prevalent as when Sun tested it on its own networks. The company was working on installing some GNOME software when it found it was getting a tenth the amount of users over its Sun Ray servers. Using the DTrace tool, Sun found a stock ticker application that was eating up resources like mad.

In addition to DTrace, Sun is revealing a new Basic Audit and reporting Tool (also known as BART) for file security monitoring. The company says the application helps administrative users track integrity.

"It's like a lightweight Tripwire," Bao said. "Now they can manifest the state of those files and create a report versus the old way of slumping though a raw text file."

Sun is also taking the wraps off its RC4-HMAC, a part of its Arcfour Crypto for Solaris, which is an additional encryption model for security. Sun says its December release for Arcfour will add in the Kerberos security architecture based on the same encryption used by Microsoft's Active Directory.

Preparing for the next version of the Web, Sun said it is adding IPV6 Functionality during the Solaris installation including IPV6 Temporary Addresses, which it says enables system administrators to hide a service instead of revealing an entire address. Then there is Sun's addition of LibLDAP/SASL, which the company says improves security over the client and tying them into a wide variety of encryption methods.

Overall, Sun Group Manager Solaris Product Manager Bill Moffitt said response for the Solaris Express advancers is growing at a breakneck pace.

"We have about 2,500 downloads of Solaris Express since we've launched it earlier this year," he said. "That's up from the 1,600 we reported last month and that number is growing."

Going forward, Moffitt says Sun is working on its next generation of Solaris containers, currently code-named "Zone", which should come out early next year.