Friday Oct 31, 2014

Solaris Containers (zones)

In 1939, Ernest Wright published a 50,000+ word novel without using the letter 'e', the most common letter in English.
The point here is that he had to TRY VERY HARD to avoid any mention of that commonly used letter.

Well, here we have an article on containers, Are Containers the Beginning of the End of Virtual Machines?, and NOT ONE MENTION of Solaris containers (or "zones", if you prefer), that have been in production for nearly 10 years. I can only assume that the author had to TRY VERY HARD to avoid any mention of this commonly used virtualization technology!

Monday Aug 04, 2014

Oracle Solaris 11.2 for Cloud Computing

When Oracle released Solaris 11 back in 2011, I blogged about it here:
Even at that time, Solaris 11 was fully capable of meeting the operating system requirements for building scalable and elastic cloud infrastructures. Now, with the recent release of Oracle Solaris 11.2 there is more reason to seriously consider Solaris-based private cloud computing, both on Oracle's Intel/x86 servers, and especially on SPARC servers.
New in Solaris 11.2 are additional cloud-enabling features such as the Elastic Virtual Switch and support for OpenStack. Add to that the benefit of running your private cloud infrastructure on the fastest and most scalable SPARC servers, and you really have no excuse to overlook Oracle's cloud technologies!

Monday May 05, 2014

Oracle Solaris 11.2 Virtualization Options

Wow! What an amazing collection of new features in Oracle Solaris 11.2! You can read and hear about it here

I would like to focus on one small but important new feature that allows you greater choice in Solaris OS virtualization: Kernel Zones.

You create and manage Kernel Zones much like other zones the way you did it on Solaris 10 or earlier Solaris 11 releases. But now on 11.2 you can run different Solaris 11 kernel versions within non-global zones, similar to the earlier branded zones idea for Solaris 8 and 9. Solaris 11.2 now provides a platform for Type II hypervisor like support for different Solaris kernels.

This means that you now have two choices for virtualizing multiple Solaris kernels on the same physical server. Use Logical Domains (LDoms) on the T- and M- servers to provide fully separated Solaris kernels running directly on allocated SPARC cores, or use lighter weight kernel zones hosted on a single Solaris 11.2 global zone. And this provides intriguing variations and combinations of virtualization-within-virtualization: zones within LDoms, for maximum flexibility of application containment and deployment.

Check out Marcus Flierl's video on Solaris 11.2 virtualization here, and start thinking about all the new ways to deploy test, dev, and production applications in virtualized Solaris environments.

Monday Feb 03, 2014

Nebulous Analogies

Having done my doctoral research on analogies, including their benefits and misuses, I am often amused by the analogies that crop up in the field of computing.

Starting long ago with von Neumann's "The Computer and the Brain" [1], computing analogies have both illuminated and confused many important IT concepts. The use of the term "memory" for persistent data storage, for example has a fairly clear and beneficial connection to human recall concepts. Less clearly helpful are analogies to thinking and consciousness common in AI research, as well as the current discussions around "cloud" computing. The corresponding characteristics of meteorological clouds and modern distributed computing are imprecise and misleading. It’s not clear how that analogy helps understand the critical technical concepts.

Now we have yet another unhelpful analogy, “Fog Computing” [2]. Attempting to characterize the “Internet of Things” [3] as an all-pervasive, obscuring “mist” explains nothing about the nature of ubiquitous, embedded computing services. And of course, computing vendors will jump at the chance to exploit the latest analogical buzzword to promote their products [4].

It’s difficult to communicate anything without using analogies, since that’s how the human brain works — we think using analogies [5]. But we should be careful in selecting the source analogs when trying to explain complex concepts. Poorly chosen sources can confuse and limit thinking and can hinder solution development. Surely there are better source analogs than clouds and fog. The “web” is clearly better than the “cloud” in conveying the idea of connectivity. But what is the ideal analogy for computing services that will eventually fill every corner of our daily lives, using our always-connected devices like smartphones and tablets, and the embedded services in our homes, cars, businesses, and social media? I don’t think it’s atmospheric phenomena. And I’m not sure it’s the “invisible computer” analogy either [6]. It’s probably more like oxygen [7], although that implies that we can’t live without it.
Hmmm…maybe we can’t.


Sunday Jan 05, 2014

Repost from Washington Post: 5 Myths About the Cloud

Interesting article in the 5 JAN 2014 Washington Post, 5 Myths About the Cloud. Some funny survey results from the tech-challenged public, and some good points about cloud security, reliability, and environmental impact. And 2014 looks to be a very "cloudy" year, with more companies and government agencies deploying mission critical applications and data in both public and private clouds. And although many potential cloud computing customers still don't think of Oracle as a major player in this growing technology services market, they will if they do their homework.

If you want to play around with your own Hadoop-based cloud, be sure to check out these How-To articles on the Oracle Technology Network:

Hey! You! Get onto my cloud!

Tuesday Nov 05, 2013

Brendan Gregg's "Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud"

An outstanding new text on UNIX & Linux system performance by one of the best experts.[Read More]

Friday Aug 02, 2013

READ_ME_FIRST: What Do I Do With All of Those SPARC Threads?

New Oracle Technical White Paper: READ_ME_FIRST: What Do I Do With All of Those SPARC Threads?

Executive Overview

With an amazing 1,536 threads in an Oracle M5-32 system, the number of threads in a single system has never been so high. This offers a tremendous processing capacity, but one may wonder how to make optimal use of all these resources.

In this technical white paper, we explain how the heavily threaded Oracle T5 and M5 servers can be deployed to efficiently consolidate and manage workloads using virtualization through Oracle Solaris Zones, Oracle VM Server for SPARC, and Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center, as well as how to improve the performance of a single application through multi-threading.

READ_ME_FIRST: What Do I Do With All of Those SPARC Threads?

Thursday Jun 27, 2013

Ginormous...the new Oracle T5-8 SPARC SuperCluster! other way to describe it...the new Oracle T5-8 SPARC SuperCluster...2000+ fast CPU threads, massive memory (DRAM & Flash), 1.2 M IOPS, HUGE storage and bandwidth...WOW! Wanna build a SPARC Cloud? This is it! Multiple virtualization technologies (VM Server for SPARC, and Solaris zones) for elasticity and resource pooling along with Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center 12c providing full cloud management capability.

Check it out!:

Monday Mar 25, 2013

Join Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison & VP John Fowler for a live web event: Tues., Mar. 26 @ 3pm CT

Join Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison & VP John Fowler for a live web event: Tues., Mar. 26 @ 3pm CT Register: HERE

Wednesday Jan 16, 2013

NIST Cloud Computing & Big Data Forum, Jan 15-17 2012

NIST Cloud Computing & Big Data Forum, Jan 15-17 2012

On the second day of the NIST Cloud Computing & Big Data Forum, we had a real treat...the keynote speaker was Vint Cerf, Google's VP and Chief Internet Evangelist. Allocated a mere 30 minutes, he actually spoke for more than 45, detailing his thoughts on Cloud Computing, Big Data, and related topics. He highlighted some of the security issues concerning cloud computing, like the problem of "leftovers" (data remaining after a virtual service has been deprovisioned), and the need for strong authentication of both user identities and trusted identifiers. He also emphasized the need for non-proprietary inter-cloud communication and collaboration protocols, and mentioned a bit about Google's cloud services including a comment about their current 100Gb OpenFlow-based infrastructure and their potential need for Terabit connectivity in their data centers.

One interesting Big Data comment he made concerned the problem of feeding data fast enough into today's powerful multicore processors, and suggested the memristor as a possible technology solution.

Later in the conference at a panel on Big Data Use Cases, Veterans Affairs CTO Peter Levin gave a briefing on the VA's Blue Button system for accessing veterans' health care records, and its potential to grow to thousands of terabytes as genetic data is included, just one of many examples of Big Data projects discussed today. Presentations from the conference will be posted on the NIST Cloud Computing Web site.

Friday Nov 02, 2012

Meet the co-author: Solaris 11, at Oracle OpenWorld 2012

Meet the co-author: Solaris 11, at Oracle OpenWorld 2012:

Sunday Sep 23, 2012

ReBlog: So You Want To Build a SPARC Cloud

In case you missed this on Steve Wilson's Blog:
So You Want To Build a SPARC Cloud

Thursday Sep 06, 2012

The first Oracle Solaris 11 book is now available

The first Oracle Solaris 11 book is now available:

Oracle Solaris 11 System Administration - The Complete Reference
by Michael Jang, Harry Foxwell, Christine Tran, and Alan Formy-Duval

  • The book covers the Oracle Solaris 11 11/11 release; although the next OS release will be available soon, the book covers major topics and features that are not expected to change significantly.
  • The target audience is broad, and includes Solaris admins, Linux admins and developers, and even those somewhat unfamiliar with UNIX.
  • The coauthors include practitioners and developers from outside of Oracle, emphasizing their field experience using Solaris 11.
  • The book complements the extensive Oracle Solaris 11 Information Library, and covers the main system administration topics of installation, configuration, and management.

More Oracle Solaris 11 info here

Friday Aug 31, 2012

New Book: Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud Handbook

Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud Handbook, by Tom Plunkett, TJ Palazzolo, and Tejas Joshi, Oracle Press.

The well-known characteristics and tiers of cloud computing have spawned myriad implementations by a host of vendors and system integrators. One of these, Oracle's Exalogic Elastic Cloud, part of Oracle's family of Engineered Systems, is a key component of Oracle's public and private cloud computing solutions, providing critical PaaS (Platform as a Service) features for cloud developers. These developers need guidance to take advantage of Exalogic's extensive capabilities, and the Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud Handbook, written by three highly experienced Oracle technologists, provides that guidance.

Part One of the book covers Exalogic's hardware and software components, and includes a very useful chapter on deployment examples, describing best practices for scalabiity, availability, backup and recovery, and multi-tenant security, including integration with other Oracle Engineered Systems and products such as Exadata and storage subsystems.

Part Two is a thorough guide to Exalogic installation features, configuration and monitoring, packaged application software management, and scalable application development.

The book also provides an extensive list of online resources, including pointers to Web sites, whitepapers, instructional videos, and other Oracle documentation.

So, if you're planning to implement Exalogic as part of your cloud infrastructure, or are considering such, you'll find lots of sage advice and best practices in this handbook.

Tuesday Aug 28, 2012

The Growing Importance of Network Virtualization

The Growing Importance of Network Virtualization

We often focus on server virtualization when we discuss cloud computing, but just as often we neglect to consider some of the critical implications of that technology. The ability to create virtual environments (or VEs [1]) means that we can create, destroy, activate and deactivate, and more importantly, MOVE them around within the cloud infrastructure. This elasticity and mobility has profound implications for how network services are defined, managed, and used to provide cloud services. It's not just servers that benefit from virtualization, it's the network as well.

Network virtualization is becoming a hot topic, and not just for discussion but for companies like Oracle and others who have recently acquired net virtualization companies [2,3]. But even before this topic became so prominent, Solaris engineers were working on technologies in Solaris 11 to virtualize network services, known as Project Crossbow [4].

And why is network virtualization so important? Because old assumptions about network devices, topology, and management must be re-examined in light of the self-service, elasticity, and resource sharing requirements of cloud computing infrastructures. Static, hierarchical network designs, and inter-system traffic flows, need to be reconsidered and quite likely re-architected to take advantage of new features like virtual NICs and switches, bandwidth control, load balancing, and traffic isolation. For example, traditional multi-tier Web services (Web server, App server, DB server) that share net traffic over Ethernet wires can now be virtualized and hosted on shared-resource systems that communicate within a larger server at system bus speeds, increasing performance and reducing wired network traffic. And virtualized traffic flows can be monitored and adjusted as needed to optimize network performance for dynamically changing cloud workloads. Additionally, as VEs come and go and move around in the cloud, static network configuration methods cannot easily accommodate the routing and addressing flexibility that VE mobility implies; virtualizing the network itself is a requirement.

Oracle Solaris 11 [5] includes key network virtualization technologies needed to implement cloud computing infrastructures. It includes features for the creation and management of virtual NICs and switches, and for the allocation and control of the traffic flows among VEs [6]. Additionally it allows for both sharing and dedication of hardware components to network tasks, such as allocating specific CPUs and vNICs to VEs, and even protocol-specific management of traffic.

So, have a look at your current network topology and management practices in view of evolving cloud computing technologies. And don't simply duplicate the physical architecture of servers and connections in a virtualized environment…rethink the traffic flows among VEs and how they can be optimized using Oracle Solaris 11 and other Oracle products and services.

[1] I use the term "virtual environment" or VE here instead of the more commonly used "virtual machine" or VM, because not all virtualized operating system environments are full OS kernels under the control of a hypervisor…in other words, not all VEs are VMs. In particular, VEs include Oracle Solaris zones, as well as SPARC VMs (previously called LDoms), and x86-based Solaris and Linux VMs running under hypervisors such as OEL, Xen, KVM, or VMware.

[2] Oracle follows VMware into network virtualization space with Xsigo purchase;

[3] Oracle Buys Xsigo;

[4] Oracle Solaris 11 Networking Virtualization Technology,

[5] Oracle Solaris 11;

[6] For example, the Solaris 11 'dladm' command can be used to limit the bandwidth of a virtual NIC, as follows: dladm create-vnic -l net0 -p maxbw=100M vnic0


The purpose of this blog is to highlight and to explore general issues around "Cloud Computing" -- its benefits, risks, and component technologies -- and how they are evolving. I'll also periodically comment (of course!) on Oracle's Cloud Computing capabilities, resources, and cloud-related events. -- Harry J Foxwell, PhD, Principal Consultant for Cloud Computing, Oracle Public Sector HW


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