Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

18 Months Of OpenSolaris Innovation

Congratulations to the entire Solaris team for today's launch of OpenSolaris 2008.11. While the credit for this amazing new release goes to many, many Sun, Intel, AMD, and other developers who worked on the release through the OpenSolaris Community, I will always consider the OpenSolaris distro one of my babies. Here is just a bit of the story.

Back in April 2007, Ian Murdock and myself, both new to Solaris marketing, took Jonathan's challenge of making Solaris more approachable and friendly to a wider range of developers and users. Solaris' key innovations, featutres like ZFS, Dtrace, and Zones were already being used back then by many Sun customers, it was just that we wanted to attract more new developers and users to Solaris, including many that were used to working with other operating systems. So off we went with a goal, to release a new OpenSolaris distribution within six months. For the first few months, all Ian and I heard, over and over again, was, "you have 0% probability of success in launching a new OpenSolaris distribution in 6 months". Luckily, a lot of Solaris developers thought otherwise.

The goals for the first release were rather simple.

  • Get it out in six months, and we set October 2007 as our deadline
  • The distribution must fit on a CD, and live boot (getting the 3+GB Solaris distribution down to 650 MB was more an internal political challenge than a technical one - oh how could you not include my favorite package in the core distro
  • The release had to be freely redistributable, we were designing for widespread adoption, not maximum registration, that would follow if we got the adoption part right
  • We would stick to a 6 month release cycle for this and future releases, release predictability and time to market for new functionality were more important than feature completeness

    It was clear from day one that Solaris' 10+ year old packaging system would have to go to support the goals. Luckily, the IPS package system was already under development by Stephen Hahn's team and provided just the trick needed. I think sometime during late summer 2007, we finally hit critical mass and had the majority of the Solaris team behind our plan. The rest, as they say, is history. Now unfortunately for a lot of Solaris engineers with school-age children, our October deadline ended on Halloween night. Around 8:30 pm on October 31 2007, Bill Neisheim typed a few final commands and the new OpenSolaris release went live on We all promised that night to never have another deadline on a family holiday and I still feel bad for all the Solaris engineers who missed trick-or-treating with their kids that evening.

    Before the next six month release came out, I moved back to a sales role and a real marketing professional, Jim McHugh, took over the reigns for what Ian and I had started. It was time for the startup to go public and no one was better suited to do that than Jim. The next release came out six months later, as promised, in the form of OpenSolaris 2008.5, this time launched on the new site. With new support offerings from Sun Services, OpenSolaris 2008.5 was the first real commercial release of the OpenSolaris code base. Fast forward to today, and the launch of OpenSolaris 2008.11. Don't ask me about the 10 day delay, but I expect it has to do with Sun's busy product launch calendar these days and my earlier promise with Bill to not have engineers work another holiday (Friday after Thanksgiving was not an option!).

    Of course, a lot of developers who are not Sun employees contributed to the OpenSolaris 2008.11 release. Developers like those from Intel who ensured OpenSolaris 2008.11 was optimized for Intel's six-core Harpertown CPU, shipping today in the Sun Blade x6450 server module, a 24-core blade using four Harpertown CPUs. OpenSolaris 2008.11 is also one of the first OSs to be optimized for Intel's new Nehalem processors, shipping today in desktops and next year in servers. AMD engineers also contributed code to ensure OpenSolaris 2008.11 was optimized for their newest Shanghai processors, including those in the 4-socket Sun Blade x6440 server module announced yesterday, making optimal use of the x6440's industry leading memory footprint and I/O bandwidth. After all, who knows better than how to optimize for AMD and Intel's latest CPUs than AMD and Intel.

    I'm also really excited about today's plans announced by Toshiba to bring to market an OpenSolaris laptop. Toshiba has long been an innovator in laptops and many Toshiba innovations will be available for the first time ever on a non-Microsoft platform for developers and others who prefer to run OpenSolaris natively. Of course, Sun's xVM VirtualBox software lets developers who want to run OpenSolaris as a guest on their Windows, Mac, or Linux laptop do so, as well as supporting Windows and Linux as guests on OpenSolaris.

    I won't try to detail all the new features of OpenSolaris 2008.11 here, as the marketing team and engineering bloggers have already done a great job with that. So once again, congratulations to the entire Solaris team on today's release. I encourage everyone to give it a test drive. You won't be disappointed!

  • Tuesday Jun 26, 2007

    Open Petascale Computing with Solaris

    I haven't had time to upload any pictures so here are a few of Josh's. For the first time every, with the same industry standard CPUs, storage, and InfiniBand network interface, you can scale HPC clusters from a single rack to over a petaflop, all running my favorite open source operating system, Solaris.

    There is so much you can say about the new Sun Constellation System, I don't have time to cover it all before my flight back to LA takes off. But here are a few of my favorite highlights:

  • The Sun Constellation System includes the world's largest InfiniBand switch, 3456 fully non-blocking IB ports using the latest Mellanox InfiniScale III switch chips.
  • The Sun Constellation System requires only 1/6 as many IB cables as current solutions. In a 3456 node cluster, this is estimated to be a weight savings over over 8 tons in the cables alone!
  • A single 3456 port switch replaces 300 individual switches in a traditional IB fabric design (288 24 port switches and 12 288 port switches).
  • The Sun Constellation System supports AMD, Intel, and SPARC CPUs.
  • The Sun Constellation System can be configured with up to an Exabyte of storage! Of course since the Sun Constellation System uses ZFS, there will be no limits in file system scalability as disk drive density increases to enable even greater storage capacity.
  • The Sun Constellation System scales down to starter systems, starting with a single rack of 48 blades (192 sockets/768 cores) and up to 13,824 blades with 4 switches.
  • Friday Jun 22, 2007

    Solaris and The Assault on Reason

    Two reasons this is my first blog of the week. First, I had to make my way to Europe for some very important Solaris and HPC announcements we will be making next week. Second, I've been trying to keep up with the 100's of emails on the Indiana-Discuss mailing list over at It seems like everyone has an opinion on what the OpenSolaris community should or should not call the OpenSolaris binary distribution planned for Project Indiana. On the flight over, after getting half way through the mailing list, I picked up The Assault On Reason, Al Gore's new book. It is a good book, I would highly recommend it. But in case you are too busy reading OpenSolaris mailing lists, let me summarize. The main point in Gore's book can be summarized as this:
  • The U.S. used to have a lot of good newspapers and even good TV news reporting that played a roll in how we shaped our opinions and reasoned about world events
  • Most people in the U.S. now form their political opinions on watered down network TV news broadcasts and 30 second add spots and for the most part have lost their ability to reason intelligently on a wide range of topics

    Apparently OpenSolaris community members don't fit this norm. Clearly at least a few of them are spending 30 hours a week interacting with the OpenSolaris community, as measured by the volume of mailing list discussions and couldn't possibly have time to match the average U.S. citizen's 30 hours of TV a week. I really do urge those who are interested to read The Assault on Reason and to check out Indiana-Discuss. There are a lot of different opinions being expressed on about how Project Indiana should progress, and that is exactly what we want. The community is smarter than any of its individuals. Yes, that means sometimes one has to wait a little longer than some people want to take the next step, because we need to let the community reason about what they are doing, and what better way than through open, online forums. We are not going to decide the future of Solaris with a 30 second assault on reason.

    Now for my blatent, unpaid, product endorsement. I had to drive from Frankfurt to Brussels to Dresden on the trip. Well, I could have flow to Brussels but the Dresden airport is closed for re-paving this weekend and having to be in Dresden at 9 am Monday morning left little choice but to drive for part of the trip, so I decided to just stick to the road the whole time. So before I left I went shopping for a GPS and was able to pick up a Garmin StreetPilot 300 on Amazon for less than $300. They absolutely have the art of the simple user interface down. There is a power button and a volume slider on the unit, that is it. Inputing your destination, by address or by point of interest was as simple as could be and the directions were flawless. In both Frankfurt and Brussels there were a couple of streets that were closed for repairs and the StreetPilot quickly rerouted me. You can easily pay twice as much for a GPS with more features, but do you really need another MP3 player built into your GPS? Save the money and go for the StreetPilot. My unit came pre-loaded with US maps, and I did have to purchase a separate SD card with European maps which cost almost as much as the base unit, but it was still well worth it to not have to fumble with maps or online directions.

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