Solaris Inside

When you choose an OS for your laptop, many things affect your decision: application support, availability of drivers, ease of use, and so on.

But if you were developing a storage appliance, what would you want from the operating system that runs inside it?

The first thing you notice is all the things you don't care about: graphics cards, educational software, photoshop... none of it matters. What's left, then?  What do you really need from a storage OS? And why isn't Linux the answer?  Well, let's think about that.

You need something rock-solid, so it doesn't break or corrupt data.

You need something that scales, so you can take advantage of all those cores the microprocessor folks will be giving you.

You need really good tools for performance analysis, so you can figure out how to make your application scale as well as the OS does.

You need extensive hardware diagnostic support, so that when parts of the box fail or are about to fail, you can take appropriate action.

You need reliable crash dumps and first-rate debugging tools so you can perform first-fault diagnosis when something goes wrong.

And you need a community of equally serious developers who can help you out.

OpenSolaris gives you all of these: a robust kernel that scales to thousands of threads and spindles; DTrace, the best performance analysis tool on the planet; FMA (Fault Management Architecture) to monitor the hardware and predict and manage failures; mdb to analyze software problems; and of course the OpenSolaris community, a large, vibrant, professional, high signal-to-noise environment.

The other operating systems one might consider are so far behind on so many of these metrics, it just seems like a no-brainer.

Let's put it this way: if I ever leave Sun to do a storage startup, I'll have a lot of things to think about.  Choosing the OS won't be one of them.  OpenSolaris is the ideal storage development platform.

Comments:

Now I see where you're driving with this. I should've known when reading the previous entry. All those people who take Linux with XFS and ship storage appliances must be really making you jealous, eh? Seriously though, if you ever leave Sun to do a storage startup, you might want to talk with George Cameron.

Posted by Pete Zaitcev on April 10, 2007 at 07:44 AM PDT #

Oh my god, how the FUD flows from SUN.

Posted by Michael on April 10, 2007 at 10:48 AM PDT #

How do these multiple spindles hook up to this storage appliance? At the low end they may well hook up via USB, at which point its game over. You'll get 30MB/s (if you're lucky) over a USB bus (and these low end devices give you one bus, no matter how many ports they offer). With this sort of pathetic IO, everything else doesn't matter much. I've no idea what happens at the high end, but the most serious problem at the low end is not the OS holding things back but the lousy lousy hardware. If these things came with at least two independent eSATA300 connectors it might be a different story.

Posted by Maynard Handley on April 11, 2007 at 01:23 PM PDT #

You could use FireWire or Firewire 800 to get somewhat better performance. I’d be very happy to see ZFS and Firewire based storage appliance for the home user.

Something along the lines of Drobo, but without the silly limitations (2TB volume size) and maybe a tad smaller price.

I just wonder who will make it, it’s not enterpricey enough for Sun. Not flashy and cool enough for Apple. Not conventional enough for Lacie. Buffalo? Infrant? Anyone? Pretty Please.

Posted by Jussi on April 11, 2007 at 11:27 PM PDT #

I built just such a storage appliance... for my home use. Its a Via Eden C7 1.5GHz, dual SATA drives, gigE, and dual eSATA external ports. I did it all in a microATX form factor (I could have gone miniITX, but its hard to find decent miniITX cases that can hold more than a single drive.) I run Solaris 10u3 and ZFS on them. Total cost: ~$500. And guess what, it just beats the pants off anything else I can find for half that price. Both in NFS performance, and in power savings. But the real kicker, is that its running a real OS. So I can run nameservices on it, use it as a netinstall server (yeah, I'm a kernel hacker, so I often need to reinstall client systems), etc. For now, it is even running NIS, though that might change to LDAP if I can ever figure out someway to configure an LDAP server that doesn't require me going back to get another 4 year college degree. What I'd really like to see, is is someone adding a cheapie battery to one of these setups so that I could even ditch the external UPS. (Think laptop style battery.) Disclaimer: I work for Sun now, but I set this all up before I cam to work for them... prior to that I was at Tadpole, where I hacked on Solaris, NetBSD, and Linux. And vastly preferred Solaris.

Posted by Garrett D'Amore on April 12, 2007 at 01:14 PM PDT #

I can't understand why some one who work for sun can't talk about solaris. Don't get me wrong I'm not a solaris user, nor linux because win xp is more than enough for me cause I'm a java developer. And I'm here to see whats up for a good server OS (since now solaris. The only show stopper is a decent email server which is open source because of my budget). Why linux leaders can talk about linux but some one who is working for sun on solaris can't talk about solaris? And he probably is a solaris fan. And about FUD. What was wrong with the reasons of bonwick? Be honest with yourself and suppose linux is in position of solaris and vise versa. meaning sun have an operating system which want to compete with a rock solid OS, proven, with dtrace, zfs and etc and still free. Give me a reason some one might choose sun product. Now thats the answer why some people want to use linux. Actually I think IT community suffers from linux syndrome. Also no offense but can you compare creator of linux with creator of solaris? I think it's like comparing history of Persia or Egypt with a new born country like Australia (please compare just the history).

Posted by dave on April 13, 2007 at 07:11 AM PDT #

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