Monday Mar 28, 2011

Solaris Online Forum on April 14

For all of you that are interested in what's happening with Solaris 11, we've scheduled a half-day of online forums on Thursday, April 14.  I'll be on for 45 minutes with my pal Bart to talk about deployment; other colleagues will be discussing the Solaris strategy, virtualization, and other features of Solaris 11.  We'll also have a live on-line chat where you can get one of us to answer your questions.  For the full details, see the registration page.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday Oct 19, 2010

Oracle Solaris Summit and BoFs @ LISA 2010

As the release of Oracle Solaris 11 Express is getting closer, we're having a bunch of information sessions at the the upcoming USENIX LISA conference in San Jose: an all-day summit on Tuesday, November 9, and evening BoF sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.    It's important to note that you do not have to register for LISA to come to the summit on Tuesday, but you do need to register for the summit itself.  See my colleague Terri Wischmann's blog post, Oracle Solaris Summit at LISA conference 2010, for the full lineup of events and links to registration.  We hope to see you there!

Wednesday Sep 15, 2010

See You at Oracle OpenWorld 2010?

Blowing the dust off the ol' blog to note that I'll be at Oracle's OpenWorld/JavaOne/Develop extravaganza in San Francisco next week.  Two things I am scheduled to be doing:
  1. A webcast with OTN's Rick Ramsey at 10:30 AM (Pacific) on Tuesday
  2. A session at the "Unconference" at Hotel Parc 55 at 3 PM on Tuesday
Both of these sessions are on Solaris 11 deployment.  Webcast will probably be pretty high-level, hopefully a bunch of Q&A.  At the unconference session I'm planning to dive into the Automated Installer a bit, especially the changes since the OpenSolaris releases.

I'm planning to be generally hanging around the conference on Monday.  @dave_miner on Twitter will be one way to find me if you like.

If your main interest is Solaris, I should note that my friend Deirdre has kindly posted a schedule of the Solaris Unconference Sessions at Oracle Open World 2010.

Friday Dec 18, 2009

Big 2009 Finish for OpenSolaris Installation

As the end of 2009 approaches, there are a bunch of recent developments in the OpenSolaris installation software that I want to highlight.  All of the below will appear in OpenSolaris development build 130, due in the next few days.

First up is the addition of iSCSI support to Automated Installation (or AI).  You can now specify an iSCSI target for installation in the AI manifest.  It'll work on both SPARC and x86, provided you have firmware that can support iSCSI boot; on SPARC you'll need a very recent OBP patch to enable this support.  Official docs are in the works, but the design document should have enough info to piece it together if you're interested.

Next is the bootable AI image, which allows use of AI in a number of additional scenarios.  Probably the most generally interesting one is that you can now install OpenSolaris on SPARC without setting up an AI server first, by using the default AI manifest that's included on the ISO image.  One caveat is that the default manifest installs from the release repository; due to ZFS version changes between 2009.06 and present, this results in an installation that won't boot.  You'll want to make a copy of the default manifest and change the main url for the ai_pkg_repo_default_authority element to point to and put it at a URL that you can supply to the AI client once it boots.  Alok's mail and blog entry have more details.

Building on bootable AI, we've extended the Distribution Constructor (or DC) with a project known as Virtual Machine Constructor (VMC).  Succinctly, it extends DC to construct a pre-built virtual machine image that can be imported into hypervisors that support OVF 1.0, such as VirtualBox or VMware.  Glenn's mail notes a few limitations that will be addressed in the next few builds.  Anyone interested in building virtualization-heavy infrastructures should find this quite useful.

Finally, one more barrier to adding OpenSolaris on x86 to a system that's multi-booted with other OS's has fallen with the addition of extended partition support to both the live CD GUI installer and Automated Installation.  You can now install OpenSolaris into a logical partition carved from the extended partition.  Jean's mail has some brief notes on how to use this new feature.  I should also note at this point that a couple of builds ago the parted command and GParted GUI were added to the live CD, so the more complex preparations sometimes needed to free up space for OpenSolaris can now be done directly from the CD.

I'd like to thank my team for all the hard work that went into all of the above; they accomplished all of it with precious little help from me, as I spent most of the past three months either traveling around talking to literally hundreds of customers or working on architecture and design tasks.  Speaking of those, the review of the installer architecture is open, and I've also just this week posted the first draft design for AI service management improvements.

What's next?  Well, that will be the topic of my next post in early January.  It's time for a vacation!

Wednesday Nov 25, 2009

Safe upgrades coming to Fedora?

Catching up on my reading, this item caught my eye:

[Phoronix] Fedora 13 May Support Btrfs System Rollbacks

Nice to see Fedora planning to add features we in OpenSolaris take for granted!  I'd certainly be more inclined to use Fedora for the occasional times I need Linux if this came in, as I've suffered in the past from RPM disasters.  It does look like they've got some design work to do yet on the file system organization, as for rollbacks like this it's critical to ensure that system software state, operational data such as logs and audit trails, and user state are separated.  Though this is something we haven't yet completed satisfactorily in OpenSolaris, either.  We mostly do well on user state since home directories are outside the boot environment section of a root pool, but separating the invariant parts of /var (logs, mail queues) out from the variant parts is a problem we still need to resolve.

Monday Aug 31, 2009

OpenSolaris Update, BigAdmin Q&A

Two things going on that I thought worth mentioning:

 - The OpenSolaris update to build 121 was released a couple of days ago.  We hope recent quality problems are behind us so that updates will be back on the regular cadence.

 - As part of our continuing efforts to educate the community about OpenSolaris installation, the BigAdmin guys asked me to spend a week answering questions as part of their XPert series, starting today.  If you have a burning question you haven't seen answered, fire away.  I must also say that Rick is (or at least was, we've both aged a bit) a better basketball player than he admits

Wednesday Jun 17, 2009

Upcoming user group meetings

A couple of user group meetings next week in the northeastern US.  For those in New England, NEOSUG is meeting on June 23.  I won't be there, though, as I'll be in New York for some customer events and will also be speaking about the OpenSolaris deployment technologies at the NYC user group meeting on June 25.  Hope to see you there!

Friday Apr 10, 2009

Creating OpenSolaris USB sticks from Windows

A utility like this has been on my list of things to do forever, and I'm \*really\* happy to see that someone in the community has done the work.  Just a caution that I haven't tried it out yet, so no comment on how well it works.

OpenSolaris Live USB Creator (Windows/.NET) ‎(PID0.ORG DevZone)‎

If you do try it out, I recommend build 111, which we just released a couple of days ago.  It's getting pretty close to the end of development for the 2009.06 release, so we'd love some additional testing.

Anyone up for doing a similar tool for Linux (and adding a GUI to the OpenSolaris tool)?

Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

Constructing an OpenSolaris Distro

In recognition of today's official launch of OpenSolaris 2008.11, I thought I'd write a bit about the new tool used to build the various images you can download, known as the Distribution Constructor (DC for short, of course).

Solaris releases, including SXCE, are built using a Sun-internal toolkit known as the CDkit (the name is subtly humorous now that we're no longer releasing CD's for SXCE due to media size issues).  It's a complex beast, with requirements for raw disk slices and other odd bits of configuration that make it forbidding to all but the most determined user.  That might not seem like a big deal at first glance, but one result of its (earned) reputation is that almost nobody actually builds their own Solaris installation images.  Most projects that affect the installation environment end up doing their testing by hand-modifying netinstall images.  The predictable, and all too frequent, result over the years has been breakage of the installer as projects or bug fixes were added to the product.  When we started work on Caiman, it was clear that a course correction would be required to help us keep a consistent level of quality in the installation software.  Our decision to build the OpenSolaris distribution as a redistributable, remixable package base led to the requirement for a construction tool which shared those characteristics, too.  Finally, we've long had Solaris customers who needed to build their own customized installation images.  That wasn't a function provided by the product, so the need was met with various semi-official blueprint documents with instructions on building derivatives for private use, but this was far from ideal since those would usually lag behind changes to the product.

The starting point for DC was the Live Media toolkit that Moinak and I hacked on as a side project for most of 2006 and 2007, which was derived from his early work on BeleniX.  That was really just a single script that could build a live CD or DVD (depending on the list of packages provided to it), and we used a version of it modified to use IPS packages to build the preview releases and the 2008.05 release.  Over the summer, DC's development reached the point where it could take over this task, and we switched to it for building the images in September.

The basic function of the DC is pretty simple: given a set of packages as input, produce a bootable, installable media image as output.  Flexibility, however, is a requirement, as Sun is no longer intending to build just a single Solaris product out of the source base, but instead a range of related, specialized products, such as xVM Server; there's obvious advantage to sharing tooling across them. And there's the previously-mentioned requirements to support both public and private derivatives.  Thus, the core of DC is a build engine that uses an XML recipe to install a set of IPS packages, and then runs a series of steps, known as finalizer scripts (though there's no requirement that they actually be scripts) to transform that basic package image into the various product images, which at this release consist of two different live CD ISO images, corresponding USB flash memory stick images, and an ISO image that's used by the automated installation setup tools to configure an automated installation service.

If you were to ask the developers on the Caiman team to name the single thing they like best about DC, the landslide winner would be its checkpointing feature.  Simply, the DC uses ZFS snapshots to save the progress of the construction process at key points along the way, allowing the process to be paused and restarted at the various checkpoints.  This is a huge productivity boon for distribution developers because the construction process can be quite time- and resource-intensive, and is a great example of how basic technology like ZFS can be exploited to make other products better in ways that would be difficult, if not impossible, to do without it. The DC is not strictly dependent on ZFS, as it will work on a UFS file system, but in that case you lose checkpoints.

At this point in time the DC is purely a command-line tool, and requires you to edit the XML manifest to customize the produced images.  As noted, it's a resource-intensive process: you'll want to have good bandwidth to an IPS package repository, fast processors (at least a dual-core 2 GHz processor), and perhaps 8 GB of disk space for DC's work area.  You'll need to start by installing the SUNWdistro-const package, then use the shipped example manifest (/usr/share/distro_const/slim_cd/slim_cd.xml for the primary languages image or /usr/share/distro_const/slim_cd/all_lang_slim_cd.xml for the global image) as a starting point.  Note that you'll have to run the distro_const(1M) tool as root in order to successfully construct a distribution.  Once you've installed the DC package, you can try building your own copy of the primary languages ISO with the simple command:

$ pfexec distro_const build /usr/share/distro_const/slim_cd/slim_cd.xml

It'll take a while, but if all goes well you'll have your very own OpenSolaris.iso in /rpool/dc/media.

We'll be continuing to develop and enhance DC in future releases; if you're interested in participating, come pitch in on the Caiman project!

Saturday Nov 22, 2008

OpenSolaris 2008.11 RC2

Late yesterday we released the second release candidate for 2008.11, see the announcement mail for the links and so on:

[indiana-discuss] package repository update (build 101b/RC2)

Combing through the message, you'll find several noteworthy changes, including:
  • Memory requirement for installation is back down to 512 MB.  See bug 3597 for the gory details of what we did to get there.  We intend to keep the memory requirement there going forward.
  • Lots more man pages.  You'll no longer see that frustrating boilerplate page which showed up on so many basic man pages.
  • Much better support for installing under xVM Server.
  • The ISO image used to set up the automated installation preview.
There are lots of other changes and new packages, including things which others probably find more noteworthy than my list, but I'll leave those for your discovery!

Saturday Nov 08, 2008

OpenSolaris 2008.11 Release Candidate

Last night we posted the first release candidate build for the 2008.11 release.  The announcement message has the details on how to get it and so on.  One very important limitation to point out is that this image will not install when booted in a system (or virtual machine) with 512 MB of memory.  Several of us are working on getting this resolved prior to the official release.  The announcement message specifies 768 MB of memory, since that's the next likely number found on real machines, but I'd expect installation to be successful with somewhere around 580 MB with this image, for those of you using virtual machines of some sort.

One notable change is that we've decided to start releasing pre-built images for USB flash memory devices.  You will need to use Solaris/OpenSolaris to create them, as the usbcopy script used to transfer them uses some Solaris-specific interfaces.  Contributions to make this work on other platforms would be welcomed, of course.

The installer has changed very little since 2008.05, as our installation efforts have been spent on building the Automated Installation preview, the Distribution Constructor, and adding zones support to the Snap Upgrade boot environment management code.  Though I should mention that there are some nice new graphic billboards during the install process itself!

Please give it a try and help us get the last bit of polish on this release before it goes final.  If you find bugs, check out the notes on how to report bugs

Thursday Aug 14, 2008

OpenSolaris ISO's for build 95

We've just pushed the repository update and ISO's  for build 95, see the announcement. As with build 93, the ISO's are available via torrent, though I'd expect genunix and others to mirror shortly for those using non-P2P download technologies. Note that there's one issue with the ISO's mentioned in the release notes, which is that svc.configd complains about being unable to backup the SMF repository; that's bug 2824.

I'd also like to mention a discussion that I started late last week on about how to put the primary languages ISO on a diet, which I'd foreshadowed in my post about build 93. The ISO needs to lose about 70 MB by the time we release 2008.11. If you've got something to contribute to the discussion, feel free to join in, though I'd appreciate some reasoning or, even better, competitive analysis along with any suggestions you make.

Tuesday Jul 29, 2008

OpenSolaris build 94 in the repo, but no ISO's

As David Comay announced a short time ago, the OpenSolaris repository has been updated to build 94. Unfortunately, as soon as we started releasing ISO's again, we were forced to stop, due to an unfortunate interaction between IPS and the live CD construction. See bug 2716 for the gory details. With any luck we'll resume releasing images with build 95. It looks like the fix will be a somehat significant change to the live CD layout, so those who are interested in that topic will want to follow along on the bug.

Thursday Jul 24, 2008

OpenSolaris on SPARC progress

One of the principal whines about the OpenSolaris distro from the existing Solaris community has been that it doesn't support SPARC. As we discussed in the roadmap presentation last month, it's planned for future releases, and one of our interns has recently published his work this summer on porting the distro to SPARC. Chris did a really great job on this, and while it's a ways from being done enough to release, his blog entries about the work are a good read. Check 'em out!

Wednesday Jul 16, 2008

OpenSolaris build 93, with ISO's

A belated note that, along with the repository update to build 93, we've resumed releasing ISO's of the live CD. David's announcement has the details. Though we chose this time to make them available only via BitTorrent, our friends in the community have provided HTTP mirrors at and Blastwave in the US and China. I see that our friends over at Phoronix wasted no time in providing a review. But guys, a bit of inside info: none of us calls this upcoming release "Jericho".

You'll note that the primary language ISO is actually too large for a CD; if you have to burn to CD media, then use the "all languages" image. Both ISO's have put on 50 MB of weight since the 2008.05 release, I'm in the middle of analyzing where that space went and putting together a diet proposal. Watch for that in the next week or two.

I'm the architect for Solaris deployment and system management, with a lot of background in networking on the side. I spend a lot of my time currently operating Solaris Engineering's OpenStack cloud. I am co-author of the OpenSolaris Bible (Wiley, 2009). I also play a lot of golf.


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