Friday Apr 17, 2009

Professor David Cheriton at Open HA Cluster Summit on May 31

I'm excited that Professor David Cheriton has agreed to give the keynote address at the Open HA Cluster summit on May 31. Dr. Cheriton has an impressive resume in both academia and industry, and his lecture should be quite interesting. I can testify from personal experience that Dr. Cheriton is an entertaining speaker, as I took CS244b (Distributed Systems) from him as a grad student. This was my first exposure to distributed systems, and I've been in the field ever since.

The summit is free and open to anyone. It falls on the Sunday directly before CommunityOne and JavaOne, so if you're planning to attend those conferences, come a day early and check out this one. There will be free food, and the first 10 students to arrive at the conference, bright and early at 8:45 AM, will be able to participate in a drawing for a nano-iPod. Later at the evening reception we will be giving away a Toshiba Portege laptop. You can register on the summit wiki.

Saturday Apr 11, 2009

Becoming an OpenSolaris Power User

Dave and I attended CommunityOne East last month in New York City and gave a talk called Becoming an OpenSolaris Power User based on our book, OpenSolaris Bible. Thanks to Deirdré Straughan, the presentation is now available online for free!

Because the book is almost 1000 pages and the talk was only fifty minutes, we were only able to scratch the surface of most topics. As I said at the beginning of the presentation, the talk could more accurately be titled, "Introduction to Becoming an OpenSolaris Power User." I started the presentation with an overview of the power features of OpenSolaris, and then we discussed three areas in more detail. Dave talked about the ZFS file system and some of the network virtualization features and I finished up with an overview of DTrace.

Without further ado, here's the presentation. And if you want to follow along at home, here are the slides.

You can also download the talk in mp4 format for your iPod.

If this talk piqued your interest, look for us at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in July, where we'll be doing a 3 1/2 hour version.

Monday Mar 30, 2009

First Open HA Cluster Summit

Please join us at the first Open HA Cluster summit on May 31, 2009! This event will come almost exactly two years after we formed the HA Clusters community and released the first Open HA Cluster source code, and one year after we released the code for the Sun Cluster Core. I'm looking forward to showing off project Colorado. Here's the official invitation from Jatin, our new community manager:

Make High Availability Work For You

You are invited to participate in the first OpenSolaris Summit for Open HA Cluster.

Open HA Cluster Summit
Sunday, May 31st, 2009
San Francisco Marriott (Next to Moscone Convention Center)
55 Fourth Street
San Francisco, CA 94103 USA

The Open HA Cluster Summit will precede the CommunityOne West and JavaOne Conferences which start on June 1. We will bring together members of the HA Clusters community, technologists, and users of High Availability and Business Continuity software. Not only will experts lead interactive sessions, panel discussions and technical tracks, but there will be ample time for you to also be an active participant.

We invite you to register yourself for this event at your earliest convenience. Email if you have any difficulty with the registration. Attendance is free. There will be a reception and Community Marketplace, an informal venue to showcase your products and ideas, in the evening following the technical sessions.

Jatin Jhala
HA Clusters Community Manager

This event is sponsored by Sun Microsystems, Inc. Spread the word.

Friday Mar 06, 2009

At CommunityOne East March 18

I'm looking forward to attending the CommunityOne East conference in New York City the week after next. Dave and I will be giving a talk on Becoming an OpenSolaris Power User, based on our book, OpenSolaris Bible. This session will be at 4 PM in Breakout 5. Come learn about ZFS, DTrace, and more! Also check out the complete session schedule for some other great topics. If you're new to OpenSolaris, I particularly recommend the Moving to OpenSolaris talk at 10:10, also in Breakout 5.

When I'm not presenting, you'll probably be able to find me in the demo pavilion. Swing by for a sneak preview of project Colorado (Open HA Cluster running on OpenSolaris 2009.06), or for help installing OpenSolaris on your laptop.

Finally, Dave and I will be happy to sign any copies of OpenSolaris Bible that come our way!

Friday Feb 13, 2009

We’re Number 1,742!

As I think is common among authors, I’m somewhat obsessive about checking my books’ sales rankings on amazon. Since OpenSolaris Bible started shipping last week I’ve been tracking its ranking closely, and have been quite pleased with its sales. This week, the ranking stayed below 5000, with a peak around 1,742:

Additionally, OpenSolaris Bible has been the #1 best-selling book in both the Solaris and Unix categories all week, the latter of which is significant considering that the Unix category seems to include such popular topics as Linux and Perl. OpenSolaris Bible also hit #6 in the Networking category, as shown in the above screenshot. I think that these numbers are indicative not only of interest in our book, but of enthusiasm and excitement about OpenSolaris in general.

Tuesday Feb 10, 2009

Free Sample Chapters from OpenSolaris Bible

Although I didn’t mention it in my previous post, Chapter 1 of OpenSolaris Bible has been available for a while from the book website. And now I’m pleased to announce that Wiley and Sun have collaborated to provide free access to two more chapters! Check out Chapter 3 and Chapter 8, both available from

To put these chapters in context, you can look at the table of contents. As you can see, both Chapters 1 and 3 are in section I, "Introduction to OpenSolaris." As Dave points out, Chapter 1 is not really representative of the rest of the book, as that chapter is mostly a non-technical introduction to OpenSolaris, while the remaining 23 chapters focus on the OpenSolaris technology. Chapter 3 is a detailed overview of the OpenSolaris operating environment, including introductory information on the GNOME desktop, the bash shell, SMF, the Image Packaging System, networking, and more. Most of these topics are covered in more detail in later chapters, but this chapter, combined with Chapter 2, "Installing OpenSolaris" is a great "crash course" in OpenSolaris for the new user.

Chapter 8 is most representative of the book as a whole, as it’s a thorough examination of a single area of OpenSolaris, in this case ZFS. This chapter falls in Section III, which covers file systems, networking, and security.

These three chapters are just a small part of the full 1000 page OpenSolaris Bible, and we hope, of course, that you will consider purchasing the book. However, we also think these chapters are useful in their own right, and we encourage you to download them and use them as a tutorial or reference even if you don’t buy the book.

Finally, I can’t end this post without noting that OpenSolaris Bible has hit the shelves, so to speak. The amazon page says it’s in stock, and one of my co-authors spotted it at a local Barnes and Noble. That said, I still haven’t seen it myself, and am eagerly awaiting my complimentary copies.

Tuesday Jan 20, 2009

Announcing the OpenSolaris Bible

Last year, I wrote a bible. No, I didn’t change my name to Paul or Ezekial. I mean bible in the fourth definition sense of the word. My bible, on the topic of OpenSolaris, will be released next month under the appropriate enough title, OpenSolaris Bible. It’s available now for pre-order from any of the online booksellers.

If you’re interested in OpenSolaris, whether you’re a novice or an experienced user or admin, this book should have something for you. The only prerequisite is some experience with UNIX or Linux; and at close to 1000 pages, we’re able to cover both the basics and many advanced topics. The detailed table of contents (note: PDF link) and index (also PDF link) on the book web site give an idea of the topics and scope of the book.

I’ll have more to say about the contents of the book later, but in this post I’d like to write a little about how and why I wrote it. Four years ago, my first book, Professional C++, was released. I did the project somewhat on a whim, mostly because I was offered the opportunity. I knew I didn’t want to write full-time, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try my hand at it. And of course there was the lure of getting the chance to influence thousands of programmers to code the "right" (i.e. "my") way. However, after spending almost one year working every night and weekend on it, I was ready to focus on other things for a while.

Given that I’m still working full-time for Sun, have added a child to my family, and my wife is just starting her own business, why did I decide to again spend almost a year writing every night and weekend? As any author this side of John Grisham can attest, it’s certainly not for the money. Nor, if I’m being realistic about the market for C++ and OpenSolaris books, is it for the fame. However, there are a few reasons other than just seeing my words in print again.

First and foremost, I strongly believe that the OpenSolaris community needs this book. At the time we started writing there were no books available or, as far as we knew, even in the works, on OpenSolaris. In fact, OpenSolaris Bible will be the first English-language book on OpenSolaris. A good tutorial and reference book on OpenSolaris is imperative in order for the technology to gain hold and grow market share in the open source community.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why I wrote the book myself, especially since I’m not a core Solaris engineer directly involved in developing the OpenSolaris distribution. To be frank, one reason is simply that I enjoy taking opportunities that come my way.

More importantly, however, I work for Sun, am involved in the OpenSolaris community, and use OpenSolaris every day. I am quite familiar with the details and intricacies of OpenSolaris and knew that I would be comfortable writing the content of the book. As with Professional C++, I wrote the book that I would want to have as my tutorial and reference. Additionally, having written Professional C++, I had the contacts at Wiley, and knew that I was capable of writing a book of this magnitude.

That said, there was no way I could have written this book by myself. I had a great experience working with Scott on Professional C++, and at first wasn’t sure I could repeat it. However, I was extremely lucky to find two amazing co-authors: Jerry and Dave. They both have a rare combination of exceptional technical knowledge and the ability to explain it clearly in writing. (If you’ve spent much time around technical folks, you’ll know that second quality is in short supply). In particular, Jerry’s understanding of Zones, virtualization, file systems, and a host of other topics, and Dave’s knowledge about the OpenSolaris distribution, IPS, Networking, and pretty much everything else were invaluable. They wrote all the hard chapters, including some material that took significant research and testing.

And in addition to their technical abilities, Dave and Jerry were both a pleasure to work with. Although I don’t think we’ve all three ever been in the same place at the same time, we didn’t just each go off into a locked room and write our chapters. We had weekly phone conversations and innumerable email exchanges about all sorts of subjects from global chapter topics and ordering to detailed questions about a particular technical issue. Additionally, we each reviewed each other’s chapters in detail several times, and all kept our eyes out for OpenSolaris changes that would impact any of our material. I believe that this diligence shows, and that the resultant tome, in my obviously biased opinion, is a well-organized, comprehensive, and cohesive tutorial and reference on OpenSolaris.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m looking forward to hearing yours!

Wednesday Dec 10, 2008

OpenSolaris 2008.11 and Transformers

As you may have heard, OpenSolaris 2008.11 officially launched today. There are a bunch of great features and improvements, such as Time Slider, better laptop support, automated installation, and so on, that you'll be hearing a lot about. But what you probably won’t hear as much about is its suitability for five year olds. Here’s a photo of my son playing Webkinz on OpenSolaris 2008.11 installed on a Toshiba laptop.

And here he is watching Transformers.

OpenSolaris 2008.11 didn’t phase him in the least – he knows to just “click on the fox” to get to what he wants!

Monday Sep 29, 2008

Solaris Cluster on OpenSolaris

The source code that went out today for the first time allows Solaris Cluster to be built for and run on the OpenSolaris binary distribution. This is a small but important step in project Colorado.

In other news about project Colorado, Thorsten wrote a great post outlining the various reasons that Solaris Cluster on OpenSolaris is not just a “compile and run” exercise. There are some significant technical issues that we must address.

Finally, I want to point out that Solaris Cluster Express 9/08 was released last week. This build of Solaris Cluster runs on Solaris Express build 97, and contains some exciting new features that have not yet been released in Solaris Cluster 3.2, such as "zone clusters."

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

Colorado Project Web Page and Requirements

I've launched a project page on for project Colorado. As this is quite a large project, there are several efforts occurring in parallel. One of these tasks is to write the requirements for the project. If you're interested, you can read a draft of the requirements and send any comments to by September 10.

Another task is basic building and bringup of Sun Cluster / Open HA Cluster on OpenSolaris. You can see some of the status on that effort on the project wiki. We are also starting to investigate what it will take to convert the existing SVR4 packages to IPS packages. There's a lot of work to do! If you're interested in getting involved with the project, please let me know.

Tuesday Jul 15, 2008

Project Colorado

I've just proposed a new OpenSolaris project to port Open HA Cluster to the OpenSolaris distribution, including the new Image Packaging System. To quote from my proposal email, this distribution of OHAC will provide basic cluster functionality with a low barrier to entry and easy deployment for OpenSolaris. Additional functionality will be provided via optional IPS packages. The intended audience is system administrators needing simple HA and developers needing an HA framework for their applications or software appliances.

This project to me feels like the natural next step from the open sourcing work I've been doing for the past year and 1/2. Now that the code is out there, it's time to get it running on OpenSolaris. I'm particularly excited to get back to hands-on engineering after suffering through the legal and process work of open sourcing.

One note on the project name: Following the state-name precedence of Nevada and Indiana, I naturally chose the state in which I live.

Friday Jul 11, 2008

First Non-Sun Bug Fix for Open HA Cluster

I'd like to thank Abhilash, a student at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri campus in India for working on the first bug fix contributed to Open HA Cluster by someone not employed by Sun!

Some other university students in India have shown some interest in OHAC as well, and written about it here, here, and here. It's nice to see the slides I wrote getting used!

Thursday Jun 05, 2008

Solaris Cluster Express 6/08 available

As I announced to the OpenSolaris community yesterday, we've released a new version of Solaris Cluster Express. SCX, as we call it, is a build of Solaris Cluster for Solaris Express. This release runs on SXCE build 86. If you don't want to build the cluster source code yourself, this binary distribution is a good option for trying out Solaris Cluster / Open HA Cluster on OpenSolaris.

Friday May 30, 2008

Solaris Cluster Fully Open Source

This announcement yesterday marks the culmination of my work for the past 1 1/2 years or so. In summary, we open sourced over two million lines of code!

I've learned quite a bit about the legal and business side of open sourcing in the process of getting this code open sourced. But hopefully now I can stop spending so much time with lawyers and get back to programming :-)

Here's a roundup of the various blog entries so far mentioning this release:


Nick Solter is a software engineer and author living in Colorado.


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