Tuesday Nov 20, 2007

Sun is the greatest and most generous Opensource Company on the planet!

Oddly, it is the 1st Aniversary of the EU's publication of their report, "Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU". In this report, they identified Sun as the single largest corporate doner of open source code in the world. [.pdf...] Sun had contributed over three times the man hours as the second place company, IBM. This finding was before Sun open sourced JAVA.

 

Corporate contribution to FLOSS

 

Source: Economic Impact of FLOSS on innovation and competitiveness of the EU ICT Sector. (2006), published by the EU Commission.

NB The full report is 287 pages long.

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Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

Ultra SPARC T2 steps into the light

It's the middle of day two at CEC, and this morning, Jonathan spoke to us and then John Fowler, together with Andy Bechtolsheim and Rich Hetherington announced the launch of three new systems. They're all based on the new Ultra SPARC T2 processor, the T6320 Blade module and the T5120 and T5220 rack mount systems. This is covered well by Dave Tong in his blog and at sun.com.

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Tuesday Oct 02, 2007

On the way to CEC

I am in California at a pre-meeting for Sun's field premiere training event, Customer Engineering Conference, this is in Las Vegas and I shall be travelling there on Thursday. Its not the first time I've been there and I am looking forward to returning.

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Thursday May 17, 2007

Project Black Box, its real you know!

Yesterday, Sun's Project Blackbox Tour visited the Thames Valley at Sun's UK HQ Campus and today we have taken it to the National Army Museum so prospective customers, journalists and analysts can inspect it and 'kick the tyres', and I am one of the engineers answering the mediumly hard questions. The really difficult ones have been handled by Joe Carvalho, one of the designers.

 

Project Black Box

 

One of the difficult questions was "How come you can't look yourself in?". I took some pictures as did Andy Williams of Easynet and I have posted them in a set called "Project Black Box" at Flickr. (Now this should be a pretty good use of snap preview). Andy's are copyright to him, I have posted mine with my normal creative commons licence.

This is another article backdated to the time it occurred since it has taken the best part of a month to get Andy's permission and upload the pictures to flickr.  

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Friday Mar 30, 2007

Sun's Connected Customers

Steve Wilson led a presentation about the changing nature of Sun's connected customer response and where the provisioning and image maintenance tools now sit. This means that he's responsible for network support, subscription services and what's left of our N1 management suite.

At the centre of the proposed customer solution is the N1SM satellite server. (I say at the centre, arguably the centre is in Sun's Data Centres, at the centre of the customer deployment.) The next release due over the summer re-architects this. It has become multi-process, with a central core with proxy agents. This permits its deployment and operation within complex network topologies and so it can support complex data centre networks architectures. i.e. This introduces firewall support. Communication between the satellite and its proxies is over https/RSS. In my mind this is mega! Together, which Richard McDougall's insights, about host and guest properties (which I have not yet published) of the operating system there is an opportunity to continue to innovate the Solaris code lines to deliver huge benefit, to the discomfort of other os developers.

The remote connection will have discovery capability and will permit data centre managers to control their engagement with their support vendors. These are designed to upload limited information to Sun's Asset Portal. Today and tomorrow, the customer located technology will remain available as a technology i.e. it can be bought, and the last word in customer privacy will remain with the customer. The hope is that Sun's support will be more effective as we know more about the customer's supported assets and some ways, the conversational relationship is the same as explorer.

The third product talked about in detail was Sun MC, the management centre, this now includes container manager which is the "simple" GUI interface into the virtualisation technology. Its a technology Sun's had for a long time, and some long due maintenance is being undertaken. Version 4.0 will be released some over the long summer, and will include replacing Oracle with Postgres, and the expansion of the platforms supported to reflect the development of Sun's product line. This will therefore include the X86/x64 systems.

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Coming to a Desktop near you

Or near me anyway, and not necessarily all that soon!

This morning's presentation on the Sun Ray technology road map suggests we're planning to to do local VPN some time this year and Video next year. Its getting there!

The presentation covered a number of technologies showing Sun recommitting to the desktop and offering a number of Linux/Windows interoperability solutions. I may have a further look and write this up in more detail, but I may not be the best suited to do this. However, a couple of my blogging colleagues cover the desktop and you can easily check'em out.

Warning: these are mid range plans and may change, deadlines may be missed, features may be dropped.

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Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

The economics of open source in the world of storage.

Brian Wong, one of Sun's Distinguished Engineers spoke this morning and stated categorically that the "Storage [Market] is right to be disrupted".

He argued that the general purpose OS (such as Solaris) offers massive developer economies of scale, by which we mean operating system develepor economics. He quoted an example of one of our disk controller operating systems which we have 31 developers and no community, where as for Solaris, Sun employs 1200 people with an extended community of tens of thousands. Even if fixing bugs was the only work that developers need to do, 31 is not a lot of people, but storage devices and hence their OS need to evolve to remain useful.

He claimed that there are a number of myths about the nature of a storage device operating system, the most prevalent of which is that it needs to be real time. Despite the fact that Solaris has a real time scheduler, Brian argued that storage doesn't need real time.

Furthermore, Solaris is well positioned because as large drives and larger drives come onto the market, Sun's portfolio of storage operating systems functionality which now includes ZFS, Solaris Cluster, the fault management architecture & SMF, together with the highly functional SAM-FS/QFS and Sun availability suit delivers storage functionality to storage administrators and architects. It may also act as very attractive platform for new entrants to the market as opensolaris is available under the Community Development and Distribution License which means that they do not inherit a duty to publish their innovations.

What with the industry leading science in tape devices, we have some interesting times ahead.

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Monday Mar 26, 2007

The Future of Solaris, by the man that makes it happen

Jeff Jackson, VP of Solaris opened our conference. He's now been in the job for a while and is beginning to stamp his own ideas on the future of Sun's implementation of OpenSolaris. He characterised his view as moving from function to velocity; velocity has a direction. He wants Solaris releases to meet a customer constituency rather than become the result of a race between his developers.

Another key direction, in meeting our "best on Solaris" goal, his different teams are being asked/told to align with each other, commit to and utilise each others products to ensure our most committed customers get synergy from our developers and development budget.

He announced that Sun is going to place more of its system software into open source, including both Sun Ray & Cluster and that this should be happening soon.

He spoke about the need to strategise around open source. I'm not a fan of the word strategy, it tends to be overused and is often very obviously about knowing what you want and measuring your actions against it. However it also means understanding your choices and their consequences; we need to know what are we looking for, how do the communities govern themselves, how do co-developers join in, how do we empower our customers and collaborators & how do we monetise the open source.

Jeff spoke to us about the consequences of the Sun/Intel agreements. Intel are going to OEM Solaris and they endorse it as the operating system of choice for mission critical applications. This would be less important if Intel weren't the source of the infamous white boxes. Its obvious that their competitors will need to respond and we should watch this space.

It's clear to me that Rich Green, who is interviewed here on www.sun.com is beginning to make a difference, we're finally fixing our arrogance, a fact re-inforced by Ian Murdock, who recently joined Sun, you can't have missed it and also spoke this a.m. He emphasised that he's hoping to help Sun learn from the Linux community because people still choose it and there remain some good reasons to do so. It worked for me; on reflecting what he said, I came to the conclusion we need to do better. Its about substance not presentation.

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Friday Mar 16, 2007

My Laptop Marathon, installing Open Solaris & liveupdate

After mixing it in a conversation about what Solaris needs to make me use it as my Laptop operating system of choice I was persuaded to trash my Linux build (Fedora 3.5) which was broken and unusable anyway, mainly because the update manager was completely shagged. (I'm in good company, see Eric Raymond's goodbye to Red Hat). I then can use the new space to create an up to date opensolaris build with liveupgrade, so I won't ever fall so far behind again. My Solaris build was Nevada 35 which has served me well as a Solaris platform for development and demonstration, but I had left it where it was because I am working on two projects which I wanted to finish before I caught up, however my colleagues have persuaded me to bite the bullet now.

My laptop is a Toshiba Tecra M2, with 1,6Ghz Intel Pentium M CPU, and 1Gb of RAM and 60 Gb of Disk. I planned to combine my Linux & Solaris partitions to give me 25 Gb for Solaris. I need two slices for Liveupdate and propose to place /export/home on a ZFS file system on a third slice. The lu slices are about 7Gb and the common data slice is about 11 Gb.

Firstly, I backed up my home user on the SNV 35 build, then I checked the disk partition table to create a new partition map on paper. I have two windows partitions, I can't remember why now, but I might have documented this in my Laptop Diaries articles and it probably relates to the windows skills available to me at the time. This isn't work I do often and so I generally ask for help. I also bookmarked on del.icio.us the wallpapers I had taken from art.gnome.org, I'm particularly fond of “Neon Night”.

Next I borrowed a snv 58 bootable image from Chris. I booted the system using the bootable image and up came the solaris installer with its good old CDE look and feel. Sadly it didn't do very well with recognising the graphics chip set but we got the install done. Defining the partition table with the installer was a bit exciting because of the poor visibility and sharpness. This is not a mind-share winning experience; the install is all. Anyway at this point we have a bootable image on the first slice of the disk with Nevada 58. This took about 45 minutes.

We ran lu to make the bootable image part of live update and create a second boot environment.

Now I needed to reconfigure Solaris to be updated using liveupdate. There is a curses based program called lu that runs from an xterm, but not a gnome-terminal. This is menu based so that seemed to work OK. Now I turn my attention to the third file system which will be a ZFS file system.

I issued a “zpool create” command which failed. This is because while we unmounted the disk slice from its mount point in the live image, the zpool command was aware that the disk was mountable from the second bootable image. The BE was deleted using luremove/ludelete.

zpool create ${devicename}
zfs create ${poolname}/export
zfs set mountpoint=/export $poolname/export

I then repeated this for /export/home, /export/home/${USER}, /export/home/${USER}/Documents & /export/home/${USER}/Desktop

This gives me separate file systems and hence snap shot for each user, their documents and desktop.

I next installed three essential utilities, frkit for power management, inetmenu to manage the NICs and punchin to access the companies applications behind the firewall.

I now need to force Gnome as the default login manager, in a root

svcs disable cde
svcs enable gdm
shutdown

Now the line "SystemMenu=true" needs to be inserted in the [greeter] section of /etc/X11/gdm/custom.conf. Gdm now handles RBAC authority. Previous versions i.e. At about nv 35, this had to be fixed using usermod.

Lastly, I prepare for the nv59 upgrade

lucreate -n nv59 -m /:${devicename}:ufs

this creates the boot environment and prepares the file system for a bootable image. I then find there's a pretty shitty bug in zfs in nv58 so I need to move forwards to build 59. Here's how I did that. I copied the new bootable image to ${ZFS_POOLNAME}/os/nv which I declared as zfs file system, then,

isofile=$(lofiadm -a ${ZFS_POOLNAME}/os/nv/${ISOfilename})
mount -F hsfs ${isofile} /mnt

then update the liveupdate packages

yes | pkgrm SUNWluu SUNWlur
yes | pkgadd /mnt/Solaris11/Product SUNWluu SUNWlur

then perform the liveupdate itself

liveupgrade -u -s /mnt -n nv59

and release the resources.

umount /mnt
lofiadm -d ${ZFS_POOLNAME}/os/nv/${ISOfilename})

then activate the update. I used lustatus before and after the activiate and rebooted using init 6. The command to reboot is important init 6 and shutdown work, while reboot is not to be used.

luactivate -n nv59
init 6

This didn't work for some reason, basically the boot archive wouldn't work and the system came up on the previously installed disk. I checked the menu.lst at /etc/lu/, came to the conclusion that the menu.lst had been changed an then,

#$ bootadm update-archive

this required no parameters because the first partition was the current boot partition. NB the first partition is the lower of the two slices used as live update partitions.

Reboot the system, and I am offered my five old entries plus four new ones created by the liveupdate process; select nv59 and up it comes, actually with snv59. xwindows dumps core the first time and the zfs file systems fail to mount because the live update process has created the directories and zfs mount points. This is fixed as follows:-

cd /export/home
rmdir \*
cd ${ZFS_POOLNAME}
rmdir \*

and copy thegdm customisation

#$ zfs mount nv58 /a
#$ customfile=/etc/X11/gdm/custom.conf
#$ diff /a/${customfile} $customfile
< SystemMenu=true
#$ cp /a/${customfile} $customfile
#$ diff /a/${customfile} $customfile
#$

Reboot and we're there!

Read Chris Gerard's blog article on automating zfs snapshots (every minute?), or you can check everything he's written about snapshots by going to his blog and using the search box with the search argument snapshot. I installed his scripts in my user area and set up a cron job to snapshot every hour.

I then created a top of desk panel, created the inetmenu and punchin buttons and assigned some other frequently used applications to the top panel. I pulled down some wallpapers from my static content site, and my del.icio.us/davelevy/wallpaper+gnome list.

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Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

Acrobat 7 on Solaris

Getting a modern version of Adobe Acrobat running on a Solaris Laptop has always been difficult. Running it in a Linux Zone is now possible as shown  to me during the lunch break by Richard Jenner.

 

Acrobat 7.0 on Solaris

 

 He and Kieth Glancey were demonstrating Solaris 10, and the Brandz demonstration was just part of what they demo'd. [Screenshot 1400x1050]. Richard used Centos as his Linux implementation.

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Monday Mar 12, 2007

Is this a technology vendor?

Richard Barrington kicked us off and introduced firstly a video of Jonathon Porritt, talking about climate change and the need to act. Richard is very articulate on this himself arguing that the key policy for both the public polity and the private is to consume less power. If we can do that, we still have a chance of avoiding disaster. It was interesting to me that this was one of the central themes of the opening session. Today's Guardian reported on the Government's announcement that the carbon reduction commitment of the UK ( 60% reduction by 2050) is going to become law, Brown & Cameron are having a duel by press release to prove their green credentials and George Monbiot nails the Channel 4 documentary based on the countervailing view from last week. I missed the news that Curry's are going to stop selling incandescent bulbs.

The opening key note speaker, Steve Nunn from Accenture also picked up on the climate change commitments that governments are making and importantly added the system utilisation dimension. The easiest way to reduce the demand for power by data centres is to drive up utilisation using the co-hosting, consolidation and virtualisation policies, and retire and reduce the number of systems required to perform the work. The final part of the jigsaw is that the acquisition costs of computer systems continue to fall, but the cost of power will increase. Today, there are many systems which will cost more to power during their working life then they cost to buy, and data centre managers need to adopt policies to manage this expanding part of their (or their employer's) budget.

As an aside, he stated that he didn't believe that windows systems could achieve more than 55% utilisation, even with virtualisation. I wonder if we could build a more performant solution with Solaris as the OS and using windows as a guest in some way.

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Fantastic Day

OpenSolaris: Innovation Matters I'm just setting off to Sun Live, and I'll be dropping in to the London Open Solaris User Group (losug) at about 6:30 pm at the Westminster Central Hall.

Sun Live, is tag lined as "Evolution + Innovation = Revolution" and the revolution starts here. I always thought is was Electrification + Soviet Power; but we live and learn.

I publish on San Francisco time, the event is taking place on Tuesday 13th. 

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Monday Feb 12, 2007

Designing both sides of the coin!

At Sun' we've just returned to profitability with our third quarter of revenue growth in a row and as some very famous economist said, three data points are a trend. One of the insights underpinning our strategy is that Sun innovates and monetises intellectual property. We are also one of the last technology companies to own the design and engineering of both CPU and operating system.

Solaris/SPARC is and will remain a key driver of innovation and competitive advantage in the data centre, because we can design both sides of the coin! To us it is obvious...., but what do others think?

Sun sponsored IDC to write a White Paper, Sun's Solaris 10 for x86: A platform for Enterprise Applications, which is hosted on http://www.sun.com/solaris. This is a very good and short statement about the techical capabilities of Solaris and the attractions it has for applications developers and ISVs. In the summary panel, they state that applications enablement is key and that Solaris and Windows have the advantage over Linux; they both have more applications available.

Another IDC paper is hosted by Fujitsu, entitled Linux & Solaris : A marriage in the Data Centre states i.e. predicts that UNIX ( from which they exclude Linux) will consolidate and that Solaris will be a survivor. This paper is dated March 2003, but it also undertakes a functional comparison and comes to the conclusion that Solaris is functionally superior to Linux as a server operating system.

However, one of the best pro-Solaris endorsements occurred last month with the announcement of the Sun Intel alliance. The Intel Web Site has a series of resources, including a press release, in which Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel says

"We're thrilled to be working with Sun to make Solaris on Intel Xeon processors a great solution for our enterprise customers worldwide," said Paul Otellini, president and CEO, Intel. "Bringing together the best technologies from both Sun and Intel will result in innovative products for years to come."

While Paul is not an analyst, his views of the market's developments should be respected. Additioanlly Intel have endorsed Solaris as their mission critical operating system of choice and agreed to become a Solaris OEM. The ROI calculations for an organisation like Intel are not calculated over a 12 month period. However, we can hear more from Paul as Intel have posted Jonathan and Paul's press conference as a podcast [html page]. This is really interesting and  is just short of 40 minutes long, at about 11:15, Paul Otellini, states

"Solaris is evolving as a mainstream operating system."

He continues

[ is to be ] the mission critical UNIX for Xeon....feature sets people, buyers are focused on, availability, reliability, demand based switching and virtualisation .... can be [only] unleashed from the microprocesser through the operating system.

He also makes the point that Sun designs the OS and system and that this is of value to customers and to Intel.

Jonathan also makes the point that only if an operating system exposes the functionality of a CPU can it be utilised and its clear that for some of Intel's ideas of the future, they expect Solaris to do this best.

I'm curious that one of his last statements is that

"We'd love to have Solaris on Itanium"

I wonder if that'll happen? 

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Tuesday Nov 21, 2006

blackbox is a video star!

Jonathan announced Project Black Box at the end of last month. Its a Data Centre in a shipping container and expanded on its unique value in his blog article "A picture's worth.... Jonathan said that customer reaction has varied with

Jonathan:Equal measures of a) nervous laughter, b) incredulity, c) profound curiosity and a recognition that we're working on the right problems for the future of datacenters. And we have an enviably beefy pipeline of customers and integrators wanting to talk to us, which is the right starting point.

As part of the reaction by customers in the UK I have been asked to talk to two major UK based customers and have thus checked out the YouTube videos published by Sun (& others; the link queries Youtube for "sun+blackbox" tags). I have also uploaded the customer presentation I use to our media caster [.pdf]).

Its clear after some research that the big advantages are it can supply & cool 25Kw/rack, so racks can be full of modern space efficient computers; you don't have to spend your space budget on cooling. With a footprint, of 30'x15', and capable of hosting 250 n-way systems with between 1000 & 2000 cores, we claim it can save 80% of your space costs, and reduce the demand for space by 50%. The land is cheaper; it doesn't have to be air-conditioned, doesn't need a raised floor, etc., and Sun Blackboxes can be stacked, if you have the headroom!

 

Rack'em + Stack'em

 

All you need is power, networks and chilled water.

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Monday Nov 20, 2006

Interviewing Brendan O'Neill

At CEC last month, Brendan O'Neill (BO'N) submitted his video record [.mov]of the conference and was one of the two prize winners. I (DL) have recently interviewed him about his time at CEC 2006 and how he produced the video.

DL: What do you do and where do you work live? BO'N: I am a Partner SSE with General Dymamics IT in the Northern Virginia area. I am currently assigned to the Sprint/Nextel account in Reston/Herndon, Va. I live in Reston, Va and have since Aug 2005. I relocated from Central New Jersey after GDIT found me and offered me the job.

DL: What got you into making videos, or was it the prize? BO'N: This is my first ever attempt at making a video. I headed out to CEC 2006, as a first timer, and got the bug after hearing about the prize and after hearing that the conference was "interactive". I am a Mac user and Mac's just make everything easy, so I thought "what the heck". The video "we" made was a last minute decision @ CEC. A co-worker from GDIT, Dave Moseke had the idea and pitched it to me, asked if I would use my Mac to help make a video. We exchanged some quick ideas and off we went...

DFL: What technology do you use? (Camera, Editing Software ,Platform?) BO'N: Like I said before I am a long time Mac user. I currently travel with a 14" iBookG4 running OS X (10.4.8) with a 1.2GHz PowerPC proc and 768MB DDR SDRAM. This is a great little set up, but maby not enough for video rendering if yer in a hurry. My background is in audio engineering. After college I ended up working with a few touring rock and roll bands doing production managing and live audio engineering all over the US, blending my love for audio manipulation and my ever growing love for computers and like technology I ended up getting my MCSE and jumping around a few jobs with small IT companies in the NY/NJ area. Retired form the audio world to pursue a newfound love for Unix. The video is honestly my first ever attempt at video editing, but with ProTools and Digital Performer (audio editing software) experience it was an easy go at it. The mini dv camera used was a JVC GRD271. Software used was iMovie HD 6.0.3 and the platform was Apple Macintosh OS X/iBook G4.

DFL: Have you tried using Solaris? BO'N For video editing? NO. I do use a Dell Latitude D610 for business/email use and dual boot that laptop with Windows XP Pro and Solaris 10. The Dell, running Solaris 10 is my main/daily device for interfacing with servers while working at Sprint/Nextel, and I do run an FTP server with music and videos for a bunch of friends on a Sun Blade 100 running Solaris 8 (may upgrade to 10 soon). I also have some older hardware (ultra 5 and sparc station) running Solaris 6 and 8 more for playing around with than anything else.

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