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Join the Solaris 11 Launch Party!


In about a week, on November 9th, 2011, the long-awaited final version of Solaris 11 will be launched. If you happen to be near New York that day (and assuming there’ll be no power outages), you’re invited to join the official Solaris 11 launch party!

Solaris 11 has been in the making since 2005, when Solaris 10 was launched. In fact, every major Solaris release is just a fork of the ongoing Solaris development train, so the very first uber-pre-release of Solaris 11 was actually generated only weeks after Solaris 10 hit the shelves.

Since then, Solaris 11 (or: Project Nevada as it was called) has seen a lot of OS history: An open source adolescence called OpenSolaris, growing adoption and community work, a broad range of ground-braking new features, long overdue re-writes, brand new concepts, controversial discussions, a major acquisition, rules changed and rules kept, siblings and offsprings, lots of investments, entire companies built on top of its source code, generations of processors and hardware, lots of systems in production, the Cloud and what not.

And all that before it was even born. Quite an achievment, eh?

So when you finally hold that DVD in your hand… Nah, DVDs are last century. Let me try again.

So when you finally finish that download, here are a few things about Solaris 11 to try out and dig into:

Brand New Package Management, a Brand New Root File System and a Brand New Installer

This is perhaps the biggest change from Solaris 10 to Solaris 11: The way Solaris is installed in the first place. Over time, the old System V package manager and patching system has become quite a burden, so it just had to be re-written:

  • A modern, network-based, finely-granular package manager called IPS (no link, no longer exists).

  • No more patching, just updates of existing packages.

  • No more entanglement between installation and configuration.

  • A new, powerful concept for root file systems: Boot environments.

  • Everything is neatly integrated with ZFS.

  • A new, network-centric installation mechanism that works hand in hand with IPS and ZFS: Automated Installer (AI) (no link, no longer exists).

  • Backward-compatibility with existing System-V packages.

I know some people had their issues with the new ways things are handled with IPS, boot environments and AI, but I’m sure they’ll eventually get over it: Every change is difficult at first, but when the power of the new concepts start shining through, we’ll all be glad we did it. And over time, and with more experience from the installed base, I’m sure that the Solaris team will iron out any missing bits.

Learn more about this by visiting the Installation and Packaging Community (no link, no longer exists) on

A Brand New Way to Support Existing Installations

Whenever a new release of Solaris came out in the past, it always took a long time until it would finally be adopted in production. The reason was simple: Migration. Granted, there’s a 100% binary compatibility guarantee with Solaris that (technically, not legally) dates back to the ancient times of Solaris 2.6 and that only one competitor can remotely compare itself with (can you name it?), but still there was quite some work involved in moving a Solaris release to its successor, plus formal certification, of course.

Now, with Solaris 11, we’ll get Solaris 10 Containers: Automatically pack your existing Solaris 10 installation into a Solaris 10 Container, then import into Solaris 11 as a branded zone, done. “Brand” new, indeed. Sorry for the pun.

No need for re-scripting stuff. No need to re-certify. No need to re-install or re-configure. Take the existing stuff and run unchanged, with a new OS under the covers. Migration heaven.

Yes, there may be the occasional detail to observe, but for the utter majority of existing installations, I expect the migration process to be smooth and slick: Containerfy, then import, done. A huge step in terms of ease-of-migration, and one that I expect will greatly help adoption of Solaris 11.

More about Virtualization in Solaris 11 is available in this OTN feature (no link, page no longer exists).

Brand New Networking

Solaris 10 changed the way Applications and Services are run and introduced virtualization at just the right level and with no friction: Zones.

Now, Solaris 11 will do the same to the network: Thanks to Project Crossbow, Solaris 11 users can enjoy limitless network virtualization including virtual NICs, virtual switches and routers, a built-in load-balancer and including full resource management.

Check out this introductory article with examples by Sunay Tripathi to get a better feel about Crossbow.

And if you’re looking for 10x faster latency and 4x more bandwidth, then check out the new Infiniband stack that is included with Solaris 11. This will give your Exadata and Exalogic (and any other Infiniband based hardware) a nice, OS-level upgrade. Catch up with Ted Kim’s Weblog if you want to learn more about InfiniBand in Solaris 11.

A whole new way of looking at networks.

Brand new Storage

Solaris 11 comes with a brand new version of ZFS, including two new major, much anticipated features: De-Duplication and Encryption, plus lots of new and improved stuff under the hood.

But there’s a lot more to discover: The new COMSTAR framework (no link, no longer exists) will turn any Solaris 11 system into a first-class block-based storage engine citizen, be it on a SAN, an Infiniband or an Ethernet network: Create arbitrarily large volumes in seconds with ZVOLs, export them via FC, iSER or iSCSI, then enjoy the beauty of ZFS data integrity, snapshots, deduplication and storage replication with easy administration. Better than the big storage boys, but without the cost.

If you happen to be at the DOAG 2011 Conference (no link, page no longer exists) in Nürnberg, Nov. 15th-17th, feel free to show up at my talk on “Neue ZFS-Funktionen in Solaris 11” (no link, page no longer exists) on Tuesday, Nov. 15th, 15:00.

More DTrace

Solaris 10 brought us the ultimate X-Ray tool for the kernel and the rest of the OS: DTrace. more than 30,000 probes for your observation and analytical pleasure.

With Solaris 11, DTrace extends to the whole stack: With a total of 77982 probes (at least on my plain vanilla system, give or take a few dozen), you’ll be able to observe your application throughout the whole stack: From kernel to OS to the web server, middleware (including Java and PHP) up to the browser.

Full stack observability, at run-time, in production, without any code change. What more can developers and administrators ask for?

If you want to refresh your DTrace know-how in time before Solaris 11 comes out, check out this postfrom the Observatory with a real-life use-case of DTrace, including an example on how to analyze a web application with MySQL DTrace probes.

Of course, the real authority in terms of DTrace literature is Brendan Gregg‘s and Jim Mauro’s book DTrace: Dynamic Tracing in Oracle Solaris, Mac OS X and FreeBSD (Oracle Solaris Series)* which is highly recommended. If you want to get a preview, here’s a series of cool videos about the DTrace book and its content. Their favorite DTrace scripts are included in every Solaris 11 copy in the /opt/DTT directory, and this is where you’ll get much more!

More Security

Similarly to DTrace and ZFS, the new security concepts from Solaris 10 have been enhanced in Solaris 11. Most notably, root is no longer the all-powerful user (though you can still make it so if you want), but just a role. This introduces accountability to the way sysadmins handle root passwords: No more anonymity by “just becoming root for a while”.

We already saw encryption being part of the ZFS overhaul and in addition, Solaris 11 includes more and better implementations of common and new encryption algorithms, plus TPM support and of course support for hardware encryption in new processors, both from Intel and from Oracle.

Finally, Security is now deeper ingrained in other sub-systems such as SMF, IPS, Kerberos, Networking and Trusted Extensions.

Here’a a short overview of some new security features in Solaris 11 (no link, page no longer exists).

Tune In and Follow the Launch

I’m sure the Solaris people have a few more good news to share during the November 9 event, so make sure to tune in and register for the event, be it in-person or through the live webcast.

Your Take on Solaris 11

What are your expectations about Solaris 11? Which new feature do you expect to deliver the biggest benefit to you and your organization? What are your plans for Solaris 11? Drop me a line in the comments and get yourself heard!

Update: Added a reference to the DTrace book. How could I have forgotten? Sorry, was a late night post…

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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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