Advantages of Solaris and OpenSolaris over Linux

I'm always being asked what are the advantages of using Solaris and OpenSolaris.   I'm a DBA and I am not a Solaris expert but I've been hearing a lot of great things about the key features in Solaris 10 so I wanted to share some information I recently received.  Here is some great feedback I got back from the community.  Thanks everybody for your contributions.  I'd also love to hear from people that have a preference for Linux.

OpenSolaris
Why use OpenSolaris if I already have Linux?

  • OpenSolaris has a very welcoming community where novice and beginners can easily find help. Community members are very co-operative and encouraging.
  • As engineers, our work is to __MAKE__ technology more "accessible" and "easy to use" and not look for technologies which __ARE__ "accessible" and "easy to use". OpenSolaris has made a big switch from being a server OS to Desktop OS and has very cool technologies built into it, but it might not be as easy to use as other OSes like Linux or Windows. And thus its an opportunity for the developers to work towards __MAKING__ these cool stuff of OpenSolaris more "accessible" and "easy to use" for general public.
  • Linux as a Desktop OS is quite mature and its difficult for a beginner to make a drastic difference in the community. OpenSolaris on the other hand is on its way to become a OS which would work perfectly out-of-the-box! So any help in this would be appreciated by the community.

Solaris versus Red Hat
Advantages of Solaris.

  • Solairs is free. Both Regular Solaris and OpenSolaris
  • Solaris with support is often less expensive than Red Hat with support on the same hardware.
  • Linux sometimes is faster than Solaris when running on the platform for which it was originally designed: A single 32-bit x86 CPU PC. When you get to multiple CPUs, multiple cores, etc. Solaris will usually be better. Even on the original Linux target platform, Solaris usually wins the speed battle.
  • Solaris 10 is secure and certified as secure.
  • If you have a problem with a part of Linux other than the kernel, you may end up at the short end of the "we don't support that particular add-on, but we're sending a request out to the community and we hope that the grad student who developed it three years ago will see it and respond" stick from your Linux vendor. With Solaris you contact Sun and we fix it.
  • ZFS is definitely something database people want. Faster and more reliable storage makes for better databases.
  • Dtrace is something database people want. If their production system is underperforming, being able to diagnose what's going on without having to shut it down is a good thing.
  • Containers are of interest to database people. Instead of needing to buy separate systems for their production, test, and development database environments they can put them in separate containers on one system.
  • Solaris is and has been tested in the most rigorous of enterprise environments.
  • OpenSolaris is ahead of Linux for an obvious reason, Linux is developed by lots of [smart] people on commodity hardware.  Solaris is developed on specialized hardware, unless you know lots of people who have a system with >200 cpu and 2TB memory and 1PTbyte File system. So yes Solaris is better on big iron and Linux is good on small hardware.
    Always about trade-offs, but since 2yr the hardware is moving up fast (i.e quad-core CPU's and 16core systems with far more underway by intel and AMD, 1.5TBdisks are cheap, 16GB on a small system is common, .. 10Gbit/sec appearing soon on most system boards, ... ). As you know rewriting software is not easy, so Linux is facing a lot of issues, which
    Solaris has solved years ago. Taking advantage of this large hardware will not be easy from the software side either, but then Solaris has Zones and Containers to consolidate this and divide a large box in an efficient way.

Very powerful features in Solaris for databases and application servers 

  • IPS make installation/maintain/update very easy.
  • ZFS snapshot/rollback your config/data/tables, add/remove your storage space.
  • Zones isolate your apps. clone your apps.
  • SMF  make your apps very reliable.
  • DTrace observe every thing, from the app to the kernel.

Great links on advantages of running Solaris 

Working With Multiple Boot Environments on the OpenSolaris OS
http://developers.sun.com/developer/technicalArticles/opensolaris/boot-environments.html

Some of these Sun Links are only available on Sun Internal Network.

Solaris Developer Center: http://developers.sun.com/solaris/index.jsp
Learning (New2Solaris): http://developers.sun.com/solaris/learning/new2/index.jsp

Solaris Developer site http://devtools.sfbay/editorial_content/

http://www.sun.com/bigadmin/hubs/documentation/

http://www.sun.com/bigadmin/home/index.jsp?baMainView=solaris&baSubView=solaris

Even though this pertains to the LDAP Diretory Server here is an example of why Solaris is a better OS:
http://blogs.sun.com/DirectoryManager/entry/why_run_the_directory_server

http://www.softpanorama.org/Articles/solaris_vs_linux.shtml

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=os_threeway_2008&num=5

http://globals.sfbay/accounts/oracle/SunOracleLinux/index.html  

Comments:

Would you recommend ZFS for large databases just yet? Isn't there still some performance issues, especially when the pool get fragmented?

Posted by Henkis on December 03, 2008 at 03:27 AM MST #

Henkis,
From Sun engineers they have customers running multiple terabytes, one is running four terabytes. They also said with scrubbing it will take care of your fragmentation. Also be aware that there have been a lot of new features with update 6 of Solaris 10 (10.08).

Posted by George Trujillo Jr on December 03, 2008 at 03:40 AM MST #

Henkis,
From Sun engineers they have customers running multiple terabytes, one is running four terabytes. They also said with scrubbing it will take care of your fragmentation. Also be aware that there have been a lot of new features with update 6 of Solaris 10 (10.08).

Posted by George Trujillo Jr on December 03, 2008 at 03:48 AM MST #

Also,

See my blog article and comparison chart of S10, OpenSolaris RHEL 5 and Windows 2003.

http://blogs.sun.com/jimlaurent/entry/comparing_solaris_opensolaris_red_hat

Posted by JIm Laurent on December 03, 2008 at 05:01 AM MST #

ZFS scrubbing is (at least currently) only read-only to check for errors. It doesn't re-write data so wouldn't fix fragmentation. Since ZFS is a file system like WAFL, there will always be fragmentation if you are performing updates. You may still want ZFS for databases because of the rich feature set, but it isn't necessarily going to win every performance bake-off, especially for something involving huge amounts of data for full table scans. OTOH, the hybrid approach with SSD might make ZFS a big win over standard data storage approaches that can't as effectively use SSD.

Posted by Bill Hathaway on December 03, 2008 at 09:14 AM MST #

http://www.top500.org/stats/list/32/os

Posted by guest on December 03, 2008 at 12:57 PM MST #

You need someone from Wikipedia to come over and slap a bunch of "citation needed" and "weasel words" tags on this...

Let's take just one point, scalability. You claim that Linux is developed mostly by hobbyists without access to big iron, and therefore Solaris must obviously scale better. Nevermind that this is a non sequitur in itself, the premise is also a big lie. Many people get paid to work on Linux, including some from SGI and IBM who have done a lot of scalability work, running Linux on 512 processors and more. Have a look at the top 500 supercomputers list. I just checked the top 10, 6 of those run Linux, 0 run Solaris. One of the Linux supercomputers is on Sun hardware, by the way: http://www.top500.org/system/9854 . It's got 3936 nodes with 4 sockets each. Have you tried running Solaris on that kind of hardware?

Checking the stats for all 500 systems at http://www.top500.org/stats/list/32/os there are 439 Linux-based supercomputers in the list and, uh, 1 OpenSolaris-based one. That puts OpenSolaris on par with Mac OS X, somewhat behind Windows (5) and way behind AIX (21). Linux? That's in a different league entirely...

Posted by Michael Goetze on December 03, 2008 at 05:43 PM MST #

I agree that ZFS, Zones, DTrace and SMF are all very powerful OpenSolaris features, but please don't tarnish the good names of these technologies by listing them alongside IPS

Posted by Lewis on December 03, 2008 at 06:19 PM MST #

I'm all for an honest system comparison but there is precious little of it here

> Solaris versus Red Hat

Now it's Red Hat not Linux. Linux is not Red Hat only.

> Advantages of Solaris.

> \* Solairs is free. Both Regular
> Solaris and OpenSolaris

It's free as in "included in the Sun hardware price". By this account Windows is free too with most PCs.

Support-less Red Hat is free, it's called CentOS, and incidently it does not require buying SUN hardware.

> \* Solaris with support is often less
> expensive than Red Hat with support on
> the same hardware.

This is true for list prices. Often. Who buys at list prices?

> \* Linux sometimes is faster than
> Solaris when running on the platform for
> which it was originally designed: A
> single 32-bit x86 CPU PC. When you get to
> multiple CPUs, multiple cores, etc.
> Solaris will usually be better. Even on
> the original Linux target platform,
> Solaris usually wins the speed battle.

This is complete misinformation.

For multiple-image systems, the proof is in the pudding and most of the top500 x86 clusters run Linux (including the Ranger system your SUN rep is so proud of. It's carefully papered over in the SUN slides, but it's easy enough to check it on the Ranger web site).

For single-image systems, it's easy to check on the TPC-H web site for example that SUN engineers get the best performance out of their iron using Red Hat as OS.

And that's limiting yourself to x86 SUN iron. Actual x86 big iron is to be found SGI-side and guess what, it runs Linux.

Also that's ignoring that Linux runs on all kinds of other architecture, most of them more powerful (and expensive) than x86.

The only third-party Solaris/Linux bench I've seen that gave a slight advantage to Solaris on the same hardware was running the SUN JVM without optimisations and tuning and without even looking at the IBM or BEA JVM alternatives. And since SUN has yet to publish a 64bit x86 Java plugin, that's not representative of the OS performance, more of the work that needs to be done to make Java work good on modern x86 iron.

> \* Solaris 10 is secure and certified as secure.

That's why it's currently being enhanced to include selinux which has been available for years Linux-side.

> \* If you have a problem with a part of
> Linux other than the kernel, you may end
> up at the short end of the "we don't
> support that particular add-on, but we're
> sending a request out to the community
> and we hope that the grad student who
> developed it three years ago will see it
> and respond" stick from your Linux
> vendor. With Solaris you contact Sun and
> we fix it.

This is intentionally confusing the x86 and the Sparc Solaris lines.

For Solaris Sparc, you have a ton of ISV support, but nobody independant will agree Solaris Sparc is a performance solution today (and in fact the Sparc line is conspiciously absent of any performance-oriented SUN presentation)

For Solaris x86, you don't have the performance gap (since after all, it's using the same hardware), but ISV support for Solaris x86 is miles behind their support for Linux x86.

A Solaris system with both good performance/price and large ISV support does not exist.

Besides, the three-year-old student development has at least a chance to run on the Linux system, on a Solaris system your sysadmin will just complain none of the userspace the addon was developed against is easily available on Solaris, and just refuse to look at it.

> \* Containers are of interest to
> database people. Instead of needing to
> buy separate systems for their
> production, test, and development
> database environments they can put them
> in separate containers on one system.

And the current virtualisation king is vmware, and it runs on a Linux kernel (and the Sun rep is careful to point out vmware support in its slides to avoid losing sales).

> \* Solaris is and has been tested in
> the most rigorous of enterprise
> environments.

This is vaporspeak.

> \* OpenSolaris is ahead of Linux for an
> obvious reason, Linux is developed by
> lots of [smart] people on commodity
> hardware. Solaris is developed on
> specialized hardware, unless you know
> lots of people who have a system with
> 200 cpu and 2TB memory and 1PTbyte File
> system.

Do you really think the IBM and SGI people working on Linux do not have access to huge systems (some of which can not be replicated with SUN hardware)?

SGI has been running and selling 1024 CPU single-image Linux systems since 2006, and their current lab setups have moved even further. So 200 cpu in 2008? That's not impressive.

> So yes Solaris is better on big iron and
> Linux is good on small hardware.

And we've just seen this is totally false and unsubstanciated.

I don't have the time to go over your other points, the FUD/facts ratio is pretty horrific, and the few correct points are lost in a sea of misinformation.

I'm afraid that unless the person in front of you is a Dilbertian PHB with little knowledge of the current software market, such an argumentation will only lose you any credibility.

(Unless you're a sale rep. We all know their job is to take liberties with reality).

Which is not to say Solaris is not a good system and there are not sometimes good reasons to choose it, but SUN has a lot of work to do before your current arguments come close to being the truth.

Currently Solaris' main advantage is people are used to it, which is an actual business argument, but not something that speaks well of the technical side of the equation.

Posted by Nicolas Mailhot on December 03, 2008 at 11:11 PM MST #

Coming from a Linux user/admin/devel perspective, OpenSolaris doesn't always seem so open. Phrases such as "Some of these Sun Links are only available on Sun Internal Network" don't build comfort about this issue.

Also, in terms of support, you note that "With Solaris you contact Sun and we fix it" -- but that's also the case with any proprietary software, you contact the vendor and [trust that] they [will] fix it -- only the vendor can provide support for the most demanding issues. The flipside is that many enterprises are now realizing that Open Source enables competition among support providers, so that "you contact XXX or YYY or any competent support provider, and they fix it, and if they don't do so to your liking, you switch support providers". There's only one company that I know of that has Solaris kernel hackers on staff (as there is only one company with Windows kernel hackers on staff), but a number of companies with Linux kernel hackers.

Posted by Chris Tyler on December 04, 2008 at 12:15 AM MST #

Just a quick response to this:

> "It's free as in "included in the Sun hardware price". By this account Windows is free too with most PCs.
> Support-less Red Hat is free, it's called CentOS, and incidently it does not require buying SUN
> hardware."

Which is, as we all know, completely false. OpenSolaris is Free. As in FREE. As in go download it and install it on whatever hardware you happen to have lying around (x86) or install it in a VM (Virtual Box, VMWare, or Parallels on a Mac, for instance) and run in.

Does NOT require buying Sun Hardware. Support-less Red Hat is called CentOS. Support-less OpenSolaris is called OpenSolaris.

Posted by David Simmons on December 04, 2008 at 01:21 AM MST #

Way too much FUD.

> \* Solairs is free. Both Regular
> Solaris and OpenSolaris

Is it really free and open? Is the Solaris and OpenSolaris completely free of proprietary code? Sure?

Posted by Anonymous on December 04, 2008 at 01:29 AM MST #

@David

>>> \* Solairs is free. Both Regular
>>> Solaris and OpenSolaris
>> "It's free as in "included in the Sun
>> hardware price".
> Which is, as we all know, completely
> false. OpenSolaris is Free. As in FREE

You seem to have missed the way the article insisted there was no difference between Solaris versions on this regard.

Posted by Nicolas Mailhot on December 04, 2008 at 03:25 AM MST #

@Nicolas Solaris is free too. You don't need to buy Sun hardware to get a free copy, you just go and download it.

If you're running hardware from Dell, IBM or Sun, then Solaris+support almost certainly is cheaper than Red Hat+support and I'm definitely not talking list.

Somewhat disingenuous to state that Linux must scale really well since you can build a 4000-node cluster, by the way; they're certainly not single-image.

As for your comment about selinux, I have no idea what you have been smoking to come to that conclusion.

Posted by Ceri Davies on December 04, 2008 at 05:42 AM MST #

Lewis: Anything in particular you don't like about IPS? Is it because it's emerging technology compared to the likes of DTrace and ZFS? While I agree it still has some way to go, the mix of IPS and ZFS is \*freaking awesome\*. If you haven't played around with it, then I'd encourage you to do so.

Posted by Glynn Foster on December 04, 2008 at 10:00 AM MST #

@Ceri

http://www.sgi.com/company_info/newsroom/press_releases/2006/june/altix4700.html

(june 2006, not-a-cluster single image system, 1024 CPU)

Posted by Nicolas Mailhot on December 04, 2008 at 08:41 PM MST #

No, support-less Red Hat is not called CentOS. It's called Fedora, which is developed primarily by Red Hat employees, and which RHEL is based on. CentOS is just a fork of RHEL that tries to maintain 100% binary compatibility, but doesn't necessarily.

Posted by Aaron Toponce on December 06, 2008 at 10:34 PM MST #

"If you have a problem with a part of Linux other than the kernel, you may end up at the short end of the "we don't support that particular add-on, but we're sending a request out to the community and we hope that the grad student who developed it three years ago will see it and respond" stick from your Linux vendor. With Solaris you contact Sun and we fix it."
If you're using third party stuff developed by above mentioned student and not maintained by your vendor then it's your own fault, not your vendor's. Every single vendor (Red Hat, Novell, even Sun and Microsoft) would tell you "this app is not supported, you're on your own".
Red Hat will fix every app it distributes as part of its distro, same for Novell, same for Sun.
Your sentence is just pure misinformation and populism.

Posted by Azrael on December 08, 2008 at 01:26 AM MST #

@Nicolas Mailhot: Just as a comment ... under the hood Linux on the Altix systems is less single-image than you might think ...

Posted by Joerg M. on December 10, 2008 at 03:23 AM MST #

@Aaron: your facts on Centos and Fedora are plain false.

Fedora is a different product than RHEL.

Centos is for all practical means the same content as RHEL, without the support. (And Centos is just the main RHEL clone or derivative, there are many others such as Oracle Linux with different support/target options)

Fedora has long passed the stage when in was developped primarily by Red Hat employees. More like 50/50 nowadays (actual split depends if you count in packages, overall contributions, assign weights, etc)

Posted by Nicolas Mailhot on December 13, 2008 at 06:25 PM MST #

" o If you have a problem with a part of Linux other than the kernel, you may end up at the short end of the "we don't support that particular add-on, but we're sending a request out to the community and we hope that the grad student who developed it three years ago will see it and respond" stick from your Linux vendor. With Solaris you contact Sun and we fix it."

Be careful.

We're adding lots and lots of packages to new contributed package repositories. Those are not supported unless integrated into /release, and then the level of support for extraneous, non-core FOSS will often be of the "we'll update to the latest" and "we'll work with the upstream community and fix it when they do" varieties, rather than "we'll fix it come hell or high water" (but note: there's \*much\* non-Sun-originated FOSS in OpenSolaris that is "core" (or close to it) and is, of course, supported "come hell or high water").

Our current approach is that someone in the OpenSolaris community "owns" any given bit of FOSS that's been integrated into /dev (and thence, /release). It is that owner's responsibility to work with upstream communities to get bugs fixed if need be, and to update the FOSS in OpenSolaris as new versions come out. And, of course, Sun will put forward employees as such owners if need be in the case of paying customers.

Posted by Nico on December 30, 2008 at 04:56 AM MST #

As someone writes, about Linux on the super computing list, and Linux used on large number crunching clusters - as "evidence" that Linux scales well. Clusters are not evidence for good scaling, they are just a bunch of machines. Not one single Big Iron machine running one Kernel - which Solaris does.

"We're not talking about clusters. We're talking about single-system-image big iron, where _one_ kernel runs on a single machine with > 16 CPUs in a cache-coherent shared-memory system. The most cost-effective machines for cluster-building, in CPU power per dollar, are dual-socket quad core Intel Core2-based machines. i.e. 8 cores per node. That's great if you have a workload that has some coarse-grained parallelism, or is embarrassingly parallel, e.g. processing 100 separate data sets with single-thread processes that don't depend on each other. That's not so great if you have a lot of processes that need fine-grained access to the same shared resource. The canonical example here is a database server handling a database with a significant amount of write accesses. Otherwise you could just replicate it to a big cluster and spread the read load around. Locking for write access in a big cluster, even with low latency interconnects like infiniband, is still _way_ higher overhead than you'd get in e.g. a 4 or 8 socket quad-core machine. Even NUMA big iron is better suited for this than a cluster.

CLUSTERS DON'T COUNT AS BIG IRON. They're just a pile of normal machines. They do have their uses, though."

And rumours say SUN is about to release their new machine with 2048 threads. I doubt Linux can handle that. Linux recently had trouble scaling beyond 8 CPUs:
http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid39_gci929755,00.html

Posted by Kebabbert on February 14, 2009 at 09:14 PM MST #

I cannot agree with the argument that Solaris is better than Linux. I have used Ubuntu for quite some time and I totally don,t regret. It is fast, reliable and secure. Secondly Ubuntu is much favored by many desktop users and it is gaining ground fast on server edition. I ordered for OpenSolaris LiveCD early 2008.It is good but I have not yet really become quite familiar using it. Linux and Solaris have a lot in common(they are like cousins)and I would prefer if we hit on Windows or Mac rather than Linux.

To put it short, I find it unwise trying to 'sell' Solaris by hitting on GNU/Linux. Kindly look for a better argument coz a lot of Linux user do not buy it.

Posted by joseph on May 10, 2009 at 05:59 AM MDT #

This link

http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid39_gci1286507,00.html#

and the respective Crimson Consulting Group white paper ("The Solaris 10 Advantage: Understanding the Real Cost of Ownership of Red Hat
Enterprise Linux") at

http://www.sun.com/software/whitepapers/solaris10/solarisvs_linux.pdf

provide interesting reading on real-world experiences with scalability/admin/etc. for Solaris versus linux.

The advantages of a Sun-type company contributing to the splendid open-source OpenSolaris operating system are obvious. The user-related Linux experiences
quoted in the white paper make it obvious that Linux is not ready for broad "prime-time" use.

People should not forget that while Linux was growing from someones bedroom during early 1990's, Sun was developing operating system technology from late 1980's leading to the Solaris product line. Solaris had to have real-world readiness as it was a commercial product used in commercial scenarios and had to perform under warranty. In contrast, Linux' early growth was from the "back door" as there was no entity to take up serious warranty issues and this is no surprise as IBM had not seen the "light" yet; pity IBM did not open-source OS/2.

Posted by Cade Foster on May 18, 2009 at 04:44 PM MDT #

Posted by Kebabbert:
"And rumours say SUN is about to release their new machine with 2048 threads. I doubt Linux can handle that. Linux recently had trouble scaling beyond 8 CPUs:
http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid39_gci929755,00.html"

That article is from 2003... Let's pull some solaris 9 data from 2003 as well?
They even say linux is pretty good at scaling... so... ?

There is only 1 supercomputer/cluster listed on top500 as opensolaris and none as solaris. Even if most of the 300+ linux machines on there are clusters, just a couple computers is still more than just the 1 solaris box.

So at the very least, don't use solaris for clustering? ....

Posted by Mike on July 20, 2009 at 03:13 AM MDT #

In addition to what Kebabbert had said ....

Linux has flourished on Intel/AMD portion of the CPU sector while (Open)Solaris has foundations in SPARC arena and later added Intel/AMD to the mix.

To the Linux people, you have to ask yourself where Intel-type CPU has ventured and then compare with where the SPARC CPU has ventured (concernng the corporate/commercial/scentific/engineering landscape). Then you'll realise the experience in the design behind the (Open)Solaris operating system.

(Open)Solaris's lineage is from the server-side and has been able to morph into a decent desktop OS while maintaining it's server background.

While Linux grew from it's desktop origins, Solaris was satisfying real world constraints through real world warranties. Back when I was doing my doctorate in the 1990's, the School had purchased a ~ 2 million dollar ion-microprobe device (for metallurgical/materials research) and it was Sun's Solaris that was driving the whole show. You would not trust an operating system like Linux to run important gear especially if that operating system cannot achieve a UNIX accreditation.

It is a bonus that an open-sourced real UNIX exists (i.e. (Open)Solaris)
and that it originated from a well integrated/innovative company (Sun).

Remember, SGI's big iron linux is not Red Hat's, Suse, etc. linux.
Solaris was 64-CPU big-iron scalable back in 1996.
Where was Linux back then with SMP ?

(Open)Solaris is a single operating system (unlike Microsoft's home/workstation/server operating systems) that works fine for the desktop/workstation and scales well for the server end of the market.

Posted by Cade Foster on September 02, 2009 at 04:32 PM MDT #

I must said this thread have been very enlightening about the level of ignorance of Solaris people about Linux. Fortunately for SUN its vendors are not that self-blinded, or they'd be laughed out of their customer premises (speaking as someone from the OS group of one of SUN's top accounts in my country, in a company which has been using Solaris for a long time, and Linux for more than 10 years, and is now re-evaluating its Solaris/Sparc Linux/x86 mix. Last year's Solarista's back-guard battle rally point was "look, we've found one app that didn't run badly on TSeries, it's not as bad as people say after all" (we manage thousands of apps every year).

Posted by Nicolas on October 21, 2009 at 06:25 PM MDT #

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This blog is my perspective of Sun in relation to Oracle, MySQL, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Education and Virtual Reality platforms. The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

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