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Sun Spurns Reboots with Solaris Upgrade

Sun Microsystems Tuesday released new software changes destined to make their way into the next release of its Solaris operating system.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker has been making a steady stream of software builds available to the public on a monthly basis as part of its Solaris Express platform. The latest upgrades are available for download for both SPARC and x86-based platforms and are slated for Solaris 10.

Solaris Product Manager Bill Moffitt said the latest round of upgrades is designed to prevent system administrators from having to spend all day rebooting their Solaris servers.

"Rebooting has been a problem in that over the years people have gotten into the habit of taking down systems for maintenance and upgrades," Moffitt told internetnews.com. "If you are looking to keep your system up 99.999 percent of the time and a reboot takes a minute, you have just spent all of your time for that year on that one system. There are unpredictable things like viruses and worms that you have to deal with, so we keep looking for ways to avoid having to reboot the system at all cost."

To that end, the two major items on the Solaris Express menu are Sun's Dynamic Resource Pools (DRP) and Expanded Disk Set Support in Solaris Volume Manager (SVM).

For example, Sun says the DRP lets a system administrator automatically move CPU, memory, and network resources without the usual need for a restart. The system is defined through what Moffitt says are "performance goals" for Solaris resource pools (processor sets, enabled by the Solaris Resource Manager integrated in Solaris 9) and have the system between those pools to meet those performance criteria.

"For Solaris containers, you have shares and you have pools," Moffitt said. "Shares are dynamic, but you can't lock them down. The pooling mechanism lets you assign so many resources to this application or that application. If you have a container that you run 22 hours a day and at midnight it kicks off to processes the data, you can schedule an extra gigabit to help it process the data faster and get the system back online."

Sun said the system administrator sets all changes but does not need to be in the server room to make sure they take place. Moffitt said a log file of all changes is kept in reserve just in case of a mistake.

Likewise, the Expanded Disk Set Support in the Solaris Volume Manager lets system administrators move and even re-arrange physical disks within named disk sets without affecting the behavior of mounted volumes. Sun said the new "metaimport" command uses the device ID to import disk sets even if they were created on a different system.

"When you take a disk or a RAID array out of the system, for whatever reason, it remembers where the disks were kept so you don't have to import the information for this or that volume," Moffitt said.

Sun is also adding in some advanced features that are preparing for the IPv6 revolution. Moffitt said the set of library calls is based on RSC 2292 (a request for change for IP standards) and lets a developer take one of the most commonly used API sockets and build services based on the next generation of Internet protocols.

"We've had the basic software structures for IPv6 since Solaris 8," Moffitt said. "The features are particularly popular in Asia, which is struggling with a diminishing number of IP addresses,"

Among the upgrades that Solaris 10 and beyond will enjoy, Sun is trumpeting its DTrace administration tool; "Fire Engine" TCP/IP stack; its "military grade" security as standard; and its ZFS (Zettabyte File System) OSIX-compliant Unix file-system.

Moffitt said the most anticipated change, which he said should come in about a month or so, is Solaris Zones (known in some circles as Project Kevlar). The next generation software allows for high isolation partitions in Solaris. The idea here is that they can be individually rebooted, dynamically created and even break down outside the kernel without impacting the other zones. Sun has said its next generation of UltraSPARC processors should have features designed into the chip itself that let it take advantage of the Zones feature.