Branded zones are your friend...

I'm working with a different customer for a couple of weeks. This is a large financial/insurance company going through a fairly common set of issues. The primary issue that I am here to help with is that alot of their environment is running on Solaris 8, and they are finding it very difficult to justify buying "old school" hardware to expand the Solaris 8 server farm. Until they can update the applications and complete testing cycles, the new hardware and OS features aren't an option. Until now.

We are doing Physical machine to Virtual machine (P2V) work to re-host some of those Solaris 8 workloads into Solaris 8 branded containers (zones) on a Solaris 10 host. Lots of advantages here. We can now run on up to date hardware (testing now with a T5220). We can take advantage of ZFS, Dtrace, performance improvements, and all those other Solaris 10 features that didn't exist in Solaris 8. Best of all, we can use the zones as a development, test, and migration tool moving forward to bring these working environments up to current releases of software applications, tools, and operating environment without having to spawn off even more machines for the migrations. The applications running in Solaris 8 branded zones now on host X will become Solaris 10 native zones at some point, running the updated applications and services.

There are several blahg entries to come... Doing the P2V to host the Solaris 8 "system" into a branded zone. Migrating the branded zone back and forth between physical machines (think clustering and hardware upgrades/service windows). Integration of this work within a SAN environment with BCVs (for backup services) and volume management. Cloning / copying the production zones into development and test environments. There are tons of possibilities in this kind of architecture, and a few gotchas and constraints to go along with them. I'll cover some of the key points over the next week or so.

Since I don't have a SPARC machine in my hotel room, I created "Solaris 10 branded containers" on x86. This enables me to play around under VirtualBox on my laptop from a hotel room to model and test. Yeah, this isn't a supported function at all, but it did enable me to learn alot about how zones (and particularly branded zones) work. Key features here include being able to install a zone from a flar or ufsdump image of a physical system or VirtualBox VM (P2V for Solaris 10 x86) from the zonecfg interface, and being able to emulate the SAN "attach/import/export/detach" functionality by moving my virtual disks that contain the branded zones between virtual machines.

Yeah, alot learned this week, and not enough time to write up the details just yet.

So here is is, the end of the first week, and we have:

  • Installed two systems with Solaris 10, patched

  • Installed the branded containers software

  • Created, mounted, and configured our SAN based storage

  • Created, configured, installed, and verified a pair of Solaris 8 branded containers from production system flars (unconfig'd and preserved)

  • Used zonecfg detach / attach and appropriate storage magic to move zones between the physical machines

  • Learned \*alot\* about how zones and branded zones function with the global zone, device mounts, storage devices, etc..

Wow. All that in a week. This team rocks. Oh yeah, so does VirtualBox, Solaris 10, zones, branded zones, docs.sun.com and my favorite debugging tool, Google. :)


bill.


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