Tuesday Dec 13, 2011

Solaris 11: archive creation and recovery

Solaris 11 has recently released after several years of development. Solaris 10 has been updated at regular intervals, and through these updates existing Solaris 10 installations will benefit from many of the enhancements that have come about as part of the Solaris 11 development effort. However, there exists a set of key features that are not offered in Solaris 10 updates, including considerable performance enhancements for newer hardware, enhancements to ZFS to provide deduplication and enhanced crypto support, improvements to the Solaris Zones virtualization technology, a new automated installer and an entirely new packing system. In certain contexts these features are very compelling.

When upgrading Solaris 10 environments, Live Upgrade functionality may be used. This allows an installation of a Solaris 10 update to target an alternate boot device while the system is up and running, which minimizes downtime for the services deployed there. For a move to Solaris 11, no such live update facility exists. This is due in part to the move to ZFS as the default boot file system and the difficulties that may arise in migrating a UFS root file system, but mostly this is related to the change in packaging system, away from SVr4-style packages to the new Image Packaging System (IPS).

When it comes to system installation, there is no support in Solaris 11 for Flash Archive installation, or FLAR. This is also mostly due to the move from SVr4-style packages to IPS, but also due to the reason that FLAR was implemented in the first place should be addressed by IPS. FLAR was initially meant to simplify patch deployment. As we all know, prior to IPS, patching a Solaris system could be a bit of an undertaking. FLAR allows a system administrator to patch up a system and then create an archive of it, which can then be used to install subsequent systems. One side effect of this is that a full archive of the given system is created, which can be utilized to restore the system in case of catastrophic failure. In this way, many admins have utilized FLAR as an element of their disaster recovery plan.

With no support for FLAR in place in Solaris 11, we must work to address this gap. Currently there is no functionality in Solaris to do this, but work is underway. In the meantime, a document has been created which describes a set of steps that can be utilized to create re-deployable archives of installed systems. These archives can be stored on alternate storage or even at alternate sites, and then redeployed when needed as part of disaster recovery operations.

This document can be found here:  How to Perform System Archival and Recovery Procedures with Oracle Solaris 11

While a description of a manual procedure is not ideal, it does describe a set of operations which can be scripted if required. Otherwise, the manual steps described therein may be utilized as a stop-gap until some of the functionality finds its way into Solaris 11. As you can see after reviewing the document, the procedure is built upon ZFS file system operations, and as such shouldn't describe too much new territory for experienced system administrators. Likewise, it should be a fairly complete description for anyone who is less then familiar with Solaris administration.

I welcome comments and corrections.


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Solaris installation and deployment ideas from Midcoast Maine.

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