It’s big, it’s secure, more scalable, easier to manage, cheaper to run and has so many features that it should last for the next 10 years. Solaris 10 is a major functional rewrite, not just the usual bug fixes with a few new, ‘nice to have’ features thrown in. And you don’t need a big expensive Sun-badged box to run it on – it’s already supported on 270 different hardware platforms including Dell, Fujitsu, IBM and HP.

Virtualisation
However, if you are in the business of consolidating your servers then Solaris 10 really does come into its own. Solaris Containers, first introduced in v9, have been enhanced and extended. These isolate applications from each other while running on the same system so a rogue application won’t bring the whole box down. New tools also manage the resources – CPU cycles, physical memory and network bandwidth – that each application needs, and their use can be extended to general system health monitoring and capacity planning, as well as for billing and charge back. A single copy of Solaris can be partitioned into more than 80,000 containers, fully isolated and secured from each other with firewall software and independently rebooted using Instant Restart.

Administration
From the IT admin’s point of view, DTrace – Dynamic Tracing – has to be a godsend. Finally, a tool exists that can run on a production system to diagnose and resolve problems in hours and minutes rather than days and weeks – and it’s always available, sitting in the background with no need to keep rebooting. DTrace allows little probes – any of 30,000 programmable sensors that are scattered all over Solaris – to be selectively turned on. These gather the data and report it back to the admin in real time. No more waiting for the log file to dump before analysis can begin. For those intermittent problems that are a nightmare to detect DTrace is certainly going to save time and money, not to mention the sanity of many an operator.

Coupled with the Predictive Self Healing feature set that detects, manages and compensates for hardware or software faults as they occur, Solaris 10 is starting to resemble a robust operating system. Unfortunately, the useful hardware element of Predictive Self Healing is only available as part of the firmware on some Sun systems. It will be interesting to see whether the uptake of Solaris 10 influences other manufacturers to design this feature into their hardware.

ZFS file system
Solaris 10 also has a new file system – ZFS. Designed from scratch, ZFS removes many of the limitations of current file systems. Eliminating many of the complication storage administration concepts that have grown up over the years as storage has become larger, cheaper and more widely used, ZFS removes the need to partition storage into slices, volumes and file systems. Disks can simply be added to a single storage pool, which is then shared by multiple file systems.

Every piece of data written onto disk is protected by a 64-bit checksum that detects and corrects any silent data corruption, even across mirrored and RAID configurations. As the first 128-bit file system it’s been designed to provide 16 billion billion times greater capacity than the current 32- and 64-bit file systems – that’s an awful lot of storage. No doubt, somebody, somewhere will still want more, but for the moment it should suffice.

ZFS is supported on both SPARC and x86 platforms and a neat trick is that it really is hardware independent – you can swap disks between platforms without worrying about migration issues. The disk will fire up and the data will be there.

Security
Much is said about the increased security available in Solaris 10 with its military grade security features. As we do more complex things that involve the connected world, it’s essential that security becomes a standard part of our operating systems. Solaris 10 includes extra layers of protection in its container technology, the extensive cryptographic services employed, stronger user rights management and a stronger IP filter. These additional security capabilities have been available for government use in special versions of Trusted Solaris, it’s good to see them becoming mainstream now.

Solaris 10 is a single source OS, optimised to run on multiple platforms – SPARC, AMD64 and x86 platforms that has been strategically placed, and priced to give Linux some serious competition while Sun capitalises on the growing $30 billion entry-server market.

So, if you are looking for a cross-platform OS that will make better use of your hardware, reduce system admin time and have a fully integrated storage features all with military grade security, download a copy of Solaris 10 now.

But if you want support, then you have to put your hand in your pocket and pay for it. Nothing is really ever free.

OUR VERDICT

It’s not often you get something for nothing, and certainly not when it cost over half a billion dollars to develop and incorporates 600 new features. But if you want a copy of Solaris 10, you can download the early access version now or wait until the end of January for the release version.