Sun Updates Solaris 10 Performance, Security

Every six months, Sun updates its Solaris 10 operating system to include bug fixes as well as feature updates. That continues to be the case, even though it’s likely to be the last release before Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) becomes acquired by Oracle.

Today, the company officially released the Solaris 10 5/09 release, providing new Intel hardware support, IPsec security features as well as network performance improvements. The update also comes as Sun is working on its next version of Solaris in the OpenSolaris community.

Despite the fact that Sun is expected to be absorbed into Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) later this year as part of a $7.4 billion acquisition, it’s business as usual for the powers behind Solaris.

“Every three to five years, we do a major release of the operating system — we did Solaris 10 in January of 2005 — and we immediately start working on the next version of Solaris, which is still probably about a year out, ” Larry Wake, group manager for Solaris software, told “In between, we need to do things to help customers out, things like new hardware support, and that’s what the updates are about.”

The updates also enable Sun to add new features that enhance Solaris 10. With its last Solaris update version 10/08 in November, Sun introduced some support for Intel’s Nehalem chip architecture. With the new release, Sun has expanded that support to include more power management capabilities.

Teaming with Intel

That enhancement comes as Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is taking a greater role in Solaris’ future: Wake noted that the chipmaking giant is now the No. 2 contributor to Sun’s OpenSolaris effort, the open source community project through which the next generation of Solaris is developed.

In particular, Sun and Intel have worked together on what’s known as the Power Aware Dispatcher, which provides datacenter server power management capabilities for CPU cores. For example, Wake noted that if a datacenter has a big machine with 24 cores in the box, but its current workload is only using a third of them, the administrator can power down 16 of those cores by taking the workloads and moving them onto 8 cores.

Additionally, work has been done to support new Intel 10GbE network interface cards (NIC) and a technology called large-segment offload. The feature enables the NIC to process network traffic directly, without having to route it into the computer itself.

“It makes the networking traffic faster and it drops the workload that the system has to perform to deal with large volumes of network traffic,” Wake said.

Security improvements

The new Solaris update also includes IPsec enhancements that enable secure clustering of traffic over the public Internet. IPsec is often thought of as a VPN technology for remote users, but it is also used for securing site to site tunnels as well. Wake noted that the goal is to make IPsec, however it’s used, easier to implement and more integrated into Solaris.

“We have customers who will actually have redundancies across cities, so one system in one city and another in another city and there has to be a nodal interconnect between the two,” Wake said. “We now have capability to secure the clustering traffic that is taking place across the two cities.”

Sun is also improving its ZFS file system capabilities with a new cloning feature, designed to make the 128-bit filesystem — credited with providing advanced data scalability and recovery options — even faster at data cloning than before.

Solaris 11?

The next Solaris update is scheduled to be out in November, but several key details remain unknown. For one thing, while the next edition could be called Solaris 11, Wake cautioned that the nomenclature for the new release has not yet been finalized.

“We try to avoid calling it Solaris 11 because it has not been released yet and we don’t know the name,” Wake said. “The naming doesn’t get nailed down till the release comes out, but considering that we’ve had Solaris 8, 9 and 10, it is reasonable conjecture to call Solaris 11, or better yet, Solaris Next.”

To find out what the future holds for Solaris, one needs to look no further than what is going on in the OpenSolaris community. One of the key areas of improvement in OpenSolaris that might end up in Solaris 11 — whatever it’s called — is a new image packaging system (IPS). The new system makes migration from one version to the next significantly faster according to Wake.

OpenSolaris developers are also working on something called Project Indiana which is an effort to provide a Linux-like packaging system for Solaris.


Mulling what’s ahead for Solaris also certainly raises the question of what might happen to the release once the acquisition by Oracle is finalized. But Wake declined to comment about the deal’s impact on Solaris.

“Here’s the big secret that I can reveal,” Wake said. “All the concerns and problems that our customers have now that we’re trying to solve with Solaris will be utterly unchanged over the next 12 months. Everything that we’re doing today, I believe applies to anything that will happen over the next 12 months.”

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