According to Moore's law, the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has increased exponentially, doubling approximately every two years. That means that frequent change in the electronics field is inevitable. As and when the hardware capabilities improve, it is important that the software takes advantage of the improved hardware capability. So, is Sun making sure that its software takes advantage of the improved hardware? Yes, it does...
Sun and Intel, as part of a strategic alliance, have been collaborating
for over two years to enable the Solaris OS to unleash the power and
capabilities of the new Intel Xeon processor 5500 series. As a
result, the combination of the Solaris OS and the new Intel Xeon-based
systems delivers the highest x64 performance, energy efficiency, and
reliability available anywhere. Solaris is "aware" of what the new hardware is able to do and takes very good advantage of it.
The main area where the OpenSolaris team has been concentrating on is the power management and CPU utilization.
The OpenSolaris team has developed the "PowerTOP" tool, based on Dtrace, which enables the user to observe the power consumption in the system. This is a very important tool mainly because it shows the developers the inefficiencies in the Solaris OS and gives them a chance to improve the OS. Nehalem has a Turbo mode which enables the processor to operate at a very high speed by over-clocking itself. This is ordinarily difficult to observe. But with the help of the PowerTOP it is very easy to observe the system.
Taking advantage of the results of PowerTOP, the OpenSolaris community has started the "Tickless Kernel Architecture" project. Normally even when the OS is idle almost 10% of the time is spent on background processing like clock interrupts which occurs about 100 times a second and most of the time it happens for no reason at all. Its like instead of setting alarm to wake you up at the time you actually want to wake up, you set it to ring every 10 minutes. The goal of the project is to re-implement the service provided by the clock(), so that there is no need for the system to wake up only to find out that there is no work to do. Another area where it is useful is the area of virtualisation where the clocks from different instances of the running operating systems have to be managed.
The other cool thing that i would like to mention here is the "Power Aware dispatcher". Here the dispatcher is working in close coordination with the CPU power management system. The dispatcher communicates with the power management system what resources it is using so that the power management unit can manage the power more efficiently. As a result we have nearly 20% reduction in the idle power consumption. The other important thing is that it is all event driven. There is no polling to wake up. And this leads to an increased performance gain. It is also a "greener" way of using the system.
The next really important feature that has been incorporated is the microcode update and the faster reboot. The microcode update feature lets us to fix bugs in the intel processor without update to the BIOS. It also provides a dynamic update mechanism that lets us apply the changes even when the system is running. So now you don't have to shutdown the system, go to BIOS and do the changes. We also have the fast reboot feature that bypasses the BIOS and as a result we have an increased reboot efficiency.
To improve reliability, the Solaris
platform also provides predictive self-healing capabilities for systems
based on Intel Nehalem. The Solaris Fault Management Architecture
(FMA), which detects and automatically avoids repeated hardware
faults in system components, has been extended to utilize status
information from Intel Nehalem.With these features, Sun and
Intel have achieved two new world-record benchmarks for Solaris on the
Intel Xeon processor 5500 series:
- Two-tier SAP SD Standard Application
Benchmark - This benchmark highlights the optimal performance of
SAP ERP software on Intel Xeon-based systems from Sun as well as
seamless multilingual support available for SAP ERP applications.
- Thomson Reuters Market Data System
Benchmark - This new benchmark demonstrates that Solaris 10 OS has
a very robust implementation of 10Gb Ethernet protocol -- and that
deploying traditional RDMS topology over that
network infrastructure can result in throughput of
up to 850,000 messages per second with end-to-end latency of less than
It gives me great pleasure in informing that Intel has embraced Solaris as "the
" enterprise class, mission critical UNIX OS for the Intel Xeon processor-based servers. I believe that this is just the beginning. I am sure the Solaris team and the OpenSolaris community in particular would continue to achieve greater success in future.