Tuesday Jul 31, 2012

Automated Installation Services for Oracle Solaris 11

For years administrators have been maintaining complex frameworks for automated installation of Oracle Solaris using Jumpstart. It wasn't that the technology was particularly bad, but it was written a very long time ago, long before new technologies such as Oracle Solaris ZFS, Zones or SMF existed. Administrators prided themselves on the vast scripting capability it provided and the 1000's of lines of Korn shell scripts that were used for pre and post installation work to configure and tweak under the hood across all facets of the operating system and installed software. Various extensions like the Jumpstart Enterprise Toolkit (JET) were written to provide more functionality for the common tasks that administrators were often having to do in the data center.

There's no doubt that Jumpstart was a powerful tool and did the job that was asked of it. However, with the new features that were introduced first in Oracle Solaris 10, and now Oracle Solaris 11, it was about time for a replacement. And so the Automated Installer was born.

The Automated Installer is part of the new software deployment architecture introduced in Oracle Solaris 11. While it provides much of the same functionality included in Jumpstart, one of the key benefits was its tight integration into some of the other technologies in the operating system - it's ability to create, configure and install Oracle Solaris Zones; it's integration with the ZFS file system to install onto a root ZFS pool; and install software with automatic dependency checking from remote network based package repositories for a more consistent and repeatable provisioning system.

My colleague, Isaac Rozenfeld, has written an excellent how to guide for your first steps with the Automated Installer - How to Set up Automated Installation Services in Oracle Solaris 11. Check it out and enjoy!

Monday Jul 30, 2012

Which ISO should I download?

One of the goals for Oracle Solaris 11 development was to reduce the initial download footprint of the installation images for the operating system. What was once several DVDs in size, a single installation image is now less than 1Gb in size. In conjunction with the new network based package management system IPS, it means that administrators can install something quickly, then tailor it with additional software that meets their needs. Not only have we shrinked the install images, but we've also modernized the installation to make it a familiar experience - particularly for those administrators who are used to installing various flavours of Linux.

If you've taken a look at the Oracle Solaris 11 Download page, you'll notice that there are a number of images to choose from. They each provide a very different experience tailored to suit the needs of different scenarios - whether you're installing the operating system to evaluate it within a virtualized desktop environment, installing it on a headless server, or installing across multiple different systems in your data center. So how do you decide? That's easy:

Installing Oracle Solaris 11 in a virtualized environment

One of the best ways to initially evaluate Oracle Solaris 11 is simply to download the Live Media for x86. This experience is very similar to other Linux LiveCD or LiveDVD installations. You can boot directly off the ISO image to a full desktop environment. This not only gives you a chance to see the desktop, but also can bring up a terminal window so you can take a look at various different technologies like ZFS, SMF, IPS or Zones. While you can of course choose to install it onto an x86 system, another great option is to install it into a virtual machine using software such as Oracle VM VirtualBox.

Installing Oracle Solaris 11 into a headless server environment

After evaluation, administrators will typically install the operating system onto a headless server (one without a display connected to it). For this, it's recommended to use the Interactive Text Installation for x86 or SPARC. This options contains software that is suited towards a server environment and doesn't contain a graphical desktop or any other graphical applications. The installation itself walks the administrator through a series of simple questions in a text based format before installing itself to the system. Administrators wishing to add additional software after the installation can do so using the IPS command line and from configured network package repositories. You may also find that this option is ideal to be installed into a virtual machine if you're trying to develop a proof of concept environment for later deployment into the data center.

Installing Oracle Solaris 11 across multiple systems

While the previous two installations are suitable to install a small set of systems, many administrators will want to scale to multiple systems in an automated fashion. The Automated Installer for x86 or SPARC provides administrators with the ability to automatically install a system by booting it from the media, installing the minimum software needed to get it up to a point where it can install the rest of the software required automatically over the network from package repositories. Most administrators will choose a slightly different route to install multiple systems - by setting up an installation service instead from an already installed and functioning Oracle Solaris 11 system.

In all cases, there's an excellent set of support documentation available by checking out the Installing Oracle Solaris 11 Systems guide. Good luck!

Tuesday Jul 17, 2012

First steps with the Service Management Facility (SMF)

The Oracle Solaris Service Management Facility (SMF) was one of the major features added with Oracle Solaris 10. In essence, it's a system that replaces the legacy init mechanism common on many UNIX operating systems, to manage both system and application services. The main advantage of SMF is that it provides continuous availability for these services, and should any hardware or software failures occur, SMF will automatically restart the service, and any dependent services.

While many administrators didn't really interact much with SMF on Oracle Solaris 10 outside simply enabling and disabling services, changes introduced in Oracle Solaris 11 will mean that SMF will become more visible. I'll talk about these changes in a future blog entry, but if you want to get a 101 on the basics of service administration with SMF, consider taking a look at the following screencast.

Monday Jul 16, 2012

Coming from RHEL to Oracle Solaris? Need help?

From time to time, I often hear of stories that it's harder to find administrators who have a solid knowledge of Oracle Solaris when compared to Linux. Oracle Solaris can be an intimidating operating system to come to terms with for those who are used to dealing with Linux on a daily basis, particularly if they've had previous perceptions of what it would be like or former experiences with much, much older versions of Solaris. With Oracle Solaris 11 development, one of the primary goals was to greatly modernize the operating system and make it easier to use, remove some of the uneccessary differences between the two operating systems, and remove some of the frustrations that people have had. I believe we've done exactly that with the introduction of Oracle Solaris ZFS as the default root file system, the Image Packaging System (IPS) and much more familiar installation experiences with the LiveCD and interactive text installer. It's now even easier to approach Oracle Solaris, install it into a virtual machine and give it a spin!

One of the help guides that I've recently written is a mapping guide between Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and Oracle Solaris 11. Essentially for each general technology area, I list of the main features of Oracle Solaris 11, their advantages and how the command lines and configuration files map between the two operating systems - whether it's between RPM and IPS, KVM and Oracle Solaris Zones, Upstart and the Service Management Facility (SMF). It's designed to give administrators who are familiar with Red Hat Enterprise Linux a first step for where to go to get more information. So, if you're struggling with trying to get started with Oracle Solaris 11, look no further.

Check out the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 to Oracle Solaris 11 Mapping Guide

The basics of administration using the Image Packaging System

One of the major new changes that was introduced in Oracle Solaris 11 is a new package management system, replacing the legacy SVR4 packaging that we've been using in Oracle Solaris for many years. Image Packaging System (IPS) modernizes the software lifecycle with an easy to use, network based packaging system built on the foundations of the Oracle Solaris ZFS filesystem. I've been working with the IPS engineering team to produce some content that will help administrators understand the basics of IPS and how best to take advantage of it updating systems in the data center.

An overview of IPS

In previous releases of the Oracle Solaris platform, administrators used SVR4 packaging to install software onto a system, and then they used a different set of commands to install patches to update the system. As Oracle Solaris evolved to include new technologies, such as Oracle Solaris zones, Oracle Solaris ZFS, and Solaris Service Management Facility (SMF), previously used processes for managing system updates and upgrades became more complex. With thousands of operating system instances installed in some of today's large virtualized data centers, manual methods of tracking and installing patches can result in errors that negatively affect application availability and security.

IPS is an integrated solution that helps automate and ease the complexity of managing system software on Oracle Solaris 11 by integrating patching with package updates. It relies on a network-centric and efficient approach with automatic software dependency checking and validation, and it builds on the foundation of ZFS as the default root file system. Using IPS, administrators can easily and reliably install or replicate an exact set of software package versions across many different client machines, and get a much clearer understanding of any differences between software versions installed on a system.

With ZFS's ability to snapshot and clone a given file system with little or no overhead, IPS establishes a much safer system update by applying changes to a clone or alternate boot environment so that updates can be done while a system is running services in a production environment. When a planned maintenance window can be scheduled, administrators can simply reboot the system into the new boot environment to get up and running faster with much lower system downtime. If administrators experience any problems with a new environment, they can simply bring the system down and back into the older boot environment.

Additionally, administration across any zones created on the system is much improved because the system automatically ensures that software package versions within a non-global zone are consistent with the global zone.

For the rest of the article, head on over to OTN and read Introducing the Basics of the Image Packaging System on Oracle Solaris 11.

Thursday Jul 12, 2012

What's new in Oracle Solaris 11?

As product management lead for the Oracle Solaris 11 release back in November 2011, one of the many responsibilities I had was to compile a list of some of the many new features that we've integrated. With well over 15,000 individual putbacks to just the Oracle Solaris kernel alone, compiling a list of interesting features was a pretty big challenge.

Oracle Solaris 10 introduced an incredible number of game changing innovations - the ZFS file system with its ability to prevent against silent data corruption, built in volume management and snapshot and cloning; DTrace, the dynamic tracing framework that allows anyone to safely get a much more accurate view at precisely what is happening on a system at any time; SMF, the service management facility that ensures maximum availability of critical applications and system services with automatic restart should any hardware or software failures occur; and Zones, built-in OS virtualization allowing administrators a way of carving up virtual environments with almost no performance overhead.

Oracle Solaris 11 builds on those strong foundations, delivering a set of features that provide huge value to administrators dealing with complex problems in the data center. We've torn apart some of the assumptions that were made years ago and modernized the operating system to meet the challenges of today - everything from the initial installation and management of software, to setting up virtualized environments in a multi-tenanted cloud environment. The integration with this release has been one of our higest priorities - taking best advantage of the technologies that we've introduced and present them to the administrator to dramatically help in their day-to-day operations. I'll be talking more about these features in future blog posts, but for now, take a look at some of the new features we've introduced.

What's New in Oracle Solaris 11

Welcome to Under the Microscope

Welcome to the "Under the Microscope" blog. So you've recently decided to take a look at Oracle Solaris 11, the latest version of the #1 enterprise UNIX operating system? Well, we're here to help you find your way. I'm Glynn Foster, Oracle Solaris product manager working in Wellington, New Zealand. I've been working at Oracle since 2010, having joined them as part of the Sun Microsystems acquisition. I'll be taking you on a tour of some of the features of the operating system, some useful resources you can use to help you get started, and making sure you're aware of the latest news and events that are happening. So sit back, grab a beer, and start figuring out what the hype is all about. Cheers!
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To learn more about Oracle Solaris 11, check out an extensive list of resources including technical articles, cheat sheets and screencasts on Oracle Technology Network

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