Sun Pushes ZFS Deeper Into Solaris

One of the key features of Solaris 10 is its Zettabyte File System (ZFS) that provides more storage flexibility and scalability to Unix. For the past four years, however, ZFS was not integrated into the deepest parts of the Solaris operating system — a shortcoming that denied administrators access to its advanced administration and recovery features.

That changed today, with the release of Solaris 10 update 10/08, which extends ZFS into the Solaris root. The update also provides better integration support for Sun’s legacy Solaris 8 customers .

The Solaris 10 update 10/08 is Sun’s latest attempt in the competitive market against Unix offerings from HP and IBM and the continuing pressure from Linux vendors as well.

“What we’ve done with this release is taken it down even deeper into Solaris and made this a root file system in addition to being a data file system,” Dan Roberts, Director of Data Center Software Product Management told “So, with this release, you can now run a single file across the board in a Solaris environment.”

ZFS is a 128-bit file system that provides advanced data scalability and recovery options, including “snapshotting” — creating space-efficient record of a previous system. When Sun first rolled out ZFS, it was limited to use as a data file system for wherever users were placing data.

Now with ZFS for Solaris root, the core of the operating system can now enjoy the major benefits of the file system, Roberts said. Administrators doing package updates, patches, fixes or system configuration changes will now have the same snapshotting, recovery and data-integrity capabilities as the data-centric parts of Solaris, for instance.

“You’re not going to be running petabytes of data in your root, and if you are, you’ve got a really bad architecture,” Roberts said. “So the ZFS features of scaling and size not as applicable at root level. What is applicable is the consolidation of administration and the data integrity.”

Previously, Solaris root ran the UFS filesystem, which has been the mainline Solaris file system for more than a decade. Roberts noted that migrating from UFS to ZFS is fairly straightforward in many situations. But it still isn’t a something that all users will need to do right away.

For one thing, Roberts noted that UFS is a proven, decade-plus-old underlying file system, so migrating immediately isn’t critical.

As for why Sun is now making ZFS available for the Solaris root, Roberts explained that it has always been part of the ZFS plan for to run across the whole operating system.

“It has been our intent that once we felt it was rock solid and ready for the root file system we’d do that, “Roberts said. “Clearly everyone want to deliver things sooner but we’re happy that we’re reaching this major milestone for our customers.”

The development also comes as Linux vendors are currently working on a filesystem called BTRFS that will include snapshot features as well.

Roberts said he isn’t concerned yet about competition coming from other file systems.

“At this point, we’re happy with our position in the file system space, but at the end of the day, competition is good it spurs more innovation,” he said. “And it’s open source competition, which is even better. We like to see additional open source value to come out for customers.”

With the Solaris 10/08 update, Sun is also making it even easier for its legacy Solaris 8 and 9 customers to migrate to a Solaris 10 system. In the update, Sun has embedded Solaris 8 and Solaris 9 container technology directly into the Solaris 10 operating system.

“It’s now part of the operating system, so you don’t need a separate set of configurations,” Roberts said. “And it’s easier to take a snapshot of a running Solaris 8 or 9 application and bring it over and have it run on Solaris 10.”

That news marks the latest move in Sun’s long history of throwing resources behind Solaris 8, which the company has supported for nearly 12 years at this point. Most recently, in the last Solaris 10 update that came out in April, Sun added Solaris 8 support in its container virtualization technology.

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