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Top 7 Cool Things About the New Oracle Solaris 11 Express Release


At last, it is here: After lots of waiting, speculation, community self-help efforts, future directions, anticipation and more, we’re now holding it in our hands: Oracle Solaris 11 Express is here (no link, page no longer exists)!

While you’re testing/installing/upgrading to this new release, let’s check out the following top 7 cool things about Oracle Solaris 11 Express:

#1: Upgrading From OpenSolaris to Solaris 11 Express is Easy!

In fact, Oracle Solaris 11 Express is the one and only technical successor to Sun’s OpenSolaris distribution. While the name, the branding and the licensing (no link, page no longer exists) changed, the development path didn’t. And so, it’s actually no surprise that you can upgrade from OpenSolaris 2009.06 to Oracle Solaris 11 Express the same way you would to any other release of OpenSolaris.

The Oracle Solaris 11 Express upgrade process is well-documented (no link, no longer exists) and there are two changes compared to the traditional OpenSolaris upgrade process that reflect the branding and licensing changes:

  • The repository has changed to (no link, page no longer exists),

  • You need to accept the new license by adding --accept to the pkg image-update command.

But again, the upgrade documentation (no link, no longer exists) will walk you through all the necessary steps.

Notice to Solaris 10 users: While a direct upgrade from Solaris 10 is not supported at this time, you can use the new Oracle Solaris 10 Containers (no link, no longer exists) feature to wrap your existing Solaris 10 installation inside a Solaris 11 system, comfortably living in its own container.

#2: Oracle Solaris 11 Express is Production Ready

You heard that right. This is not beta, this is not just a play thing, this is a real OS and you can use it for production, if you have a support contract. Check out Oracle Premier Support Options now (no link, page no longer exists).

Of course, Oracle itself uses Solaris 11 Express in production: From countless internal deployments to the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliances (no link, page no longer exists), which derive their Firmware out of the Oracle Solaris 11 Express codebase, to Oracle’s Exadata Database Machine and Exalogic Elastic Cloud products, which are announced to be powered by Solaris 11 Express (no link, page no longer exists).

#3: Oracle Solaris 11 Express is Free for Development and Evaluation

Check out question #14 of the Oracle Solaris 11 Express FAQ Document (no link, page no longer exists): “Yes, you may use Oracle Solaris 11 Express for evaluation and development without a support contract under the Oracle Technical Network perpetual license.”

A number of people contacted me with the question whether it’s free for use as a home server or as a laptop system. My own personal interpretation (and I’m not a license lawyer so please decide this on your own) is that a home server that you use to test/develop stuff falls under this category, as well as a laptop that you use to test Solaris 11 features with.

The rule of thumb is: If you use Solaris 11 Express to make money, you should buy a support contract that gives you a proper license to do so. That’s your way to share your profit that you got out of Solaris 11 Express. After all, the Solaris 11 Express development team has rents to pay and kids to feed, and you’ll get first-class enterprise-grade support, so your money will be well spent.

#4: Solaris 10 Containers!

With any major release of an OS or other critical piece of software comes a “Gretchenfrage“: How can one redesign a major part of the core without breaking backward compatibility?

In the case of Solaris 11 Express, the question becomes: “How can we redesign (read: fix) the Packaging, Install and Patch process without breaking upgradeability?”

The answer is Solaris 10 Containers (BrandZ to the initiated), which allow you to have the cake and eat it too: Migrate your existing Solaris 10 installation into a Container, and host it inside your shiny new Solaris 11 Express installation. This means you can have Solaris 11 Express and keep Solaris 10, too!

This feature is modestly called “Solaris 10 Containers (no link, no longer exists)”, but it is an incredibly powerful way to effortlessly and risklessly upgrade your existing Solaris 10 installations to Solaris 11 without going through traditional upgrade hassles.

#5: ZFS Encryption!

And here’s the other major big thing we’ve all been waiting for: ZFS Encrypted Datasets. Darren Moffat, the main architect behind this feature, has written a series of blog entries around this feature: Introducing ZFS Crypto in Oracle Solaris 11 Express, Assured delete with ZFS dataset encryption, Having my secured cake and Cloning it too (aka Encryption + Dedup with ZFS) and Choosing a value for the ZFS encryption property.

My home directory on my work laptop is now a nicely encrypted ZFS dataset :).

#6: Lots of Oracle Solaris 11 Express Videos to Watch

To learn more about Oracle Solaris 11 Express, there’s a wealth of videos with developers and other cool people explaining key features that Deirdré Straughan has put together. Here’s a list of videos available to date:

And those were just the recently released Solaris 11 related videos. There are many, many more videos available on the Oracle Solaris Video blog.

#7: Read More on Oracle Solaris 11 Express

After you’re done with the videos, you can learn more by reading some of the following:

  • The official What’s New (no link, page no longer exists) document.

  • The full Oracle Solaris 11 Express Documentation (no link, page no longer exists), System Requirements (no link, page no longer exists) and FAQ (no link, page no longer exists).

  • Brian Leonhard’s Solaris 11 Express is Here blog post on The Observatory (no link, no longer exists).

  • On Crossbow, NUMA I/O, Exadata, and more… by Nicolas Droux

  • Alan Coopersmith‘s detailed account of X11 changes in the 2010.11 release (no link, no longer exists).

  • Jörg Möllenkamp‘s list of What’s new for the Administrator in Oracle Solaris Express 2010.11 (no link, page no longer exists) with deep dives into selected topics.

Your Own Experience With Oracle Solaris 11 Express

I hope the 7 cool things above will help you get started with Oracle Solaris 11 Express. But now it’s your turn: What are your favorite Solaris 11 tips, tricks and resources? What are your experiences? Do you like it or what would you like to see fixed?

Leave a comment below and share your take on Solaris 11 Express!

Update (2012-03-19): The links to Sun’s blogs have changed from to, with the old URLs no longer working. I have therefore updated the URLs and they should now work again.


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This is the blog of Constantin Gonzalez, a Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services, with more than 25 years of IT experience.

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