Planet Work offers bargain hosting on Solaris Zones, ZFS
By Frederic Pariente on Aug 13, 2009
Adapted from this (French) Sun Startup Essentials blog piece.
Planet Work is a Paris-based web hoster that has been operating for about 10 years now. For some time, they had been looking at virtualization technologies with the goal of offering a very competitive --low price, high availability-- entry-point hosting solution. As a member of the Sun Startup Essentials program, Planet Work worked over the past year with a local engineer in our team to evaluate what Solaris had to offer in the virtualization space. They were not disappointed.
Solaris Containers, a.k.a. Zones, are an operating system abstraction
for partitioning Solaris systems allowing multiple applications and users to run in isolation from each other on
the same physical hardware. As with other VM technologies, each container is managed separately as a distinct Solaris (virtual) machine --e.g. it can be rebooted or patched independently--, with his own IP address and root file system, dedicated CPU and memory (shares) --OpenSolaris today adds network bandwith as a managed resource thanks to Project Crossbow--, etc. What makes Solaris Containers apart from traditional virtualization technologies is its very lightweight implementation. Each container does not require a kernel to run but instead uses the one of the underlying OS that serves as the hypervisor. As a consequence, the allocated hardware resources --e.g. the CPU cycles-- are put to use for running the applications and not the kernels of various operating systems. To a web hoster, it means every Watt is spent in useful work, towards running the customer's workload; it means lower power bills and carbon footprint; it means fewer systems and less datacenter space.
ZFS is a new kind of filesystem that
provides simple administration,
transactional semantics and immense scalability. A ZFS snapshot is a
consistent point-in-time image of a filesystem. A clone is a writable
copy of a snapshot. Solaris creates ZFS clones quickly using no
additional disk space to start with, because data is not duplicated on disk unless/until the cloned image changes that data. This is a very interesting feature for web hosters to save on data storage. And power bill, hardware and space again --check out the SWaP performance metric on that topic. If hosted customers are given root file systems that are cloned from some master ZFS filesystem, a majority of the data --system libraries, software stacks, utility tools-- is static and will never be duplicated. All in all, 100's of MB are saved in disk storage per user. Whatever disk resource allocated to the server is thus used up by useful data, the customer's application data, and not wasted by the multiple OS bits.
Combined with the Solaris Container technology, ZFS Clone allows to provision almost instantly a virtual image of Solaris. And this is what Planet Work experimented. They created a reference container with a dedicated ZFS volume and installed the operating system and other sofware --e.g. Apache, Glassfish, MySQL-- into that volume, to obtain the disk image for the container. New Solaris (virtual) machines are then brought up inside a Zone by cloning the reference disk image. Planet Work did some performance measurements and found out the following. Cloning takes no longer than a few seconds and most of the time is spent in the booting of the new container. All in all, a container is provisioned and booted in a matter of minutes.
The unique Zones-ZFS combination convinced Planet Work to select Solaris for production and enabled them to sell the new iServer Solaris offering at a very low entry-price of 19€ per month. And again, it's not only about price; with Solaris, Planet Work is able to offer a robust service, bundle an automated ZFS-based backup service and deploy that offering at a low cost to them : online reservation & payment, automated provisioning, consolidation of physical systems. Win-win.
If you are a developer looking for a cheap but secure, reliable hosting platform for your work --young startups, that must be you!--, Planet Work's iServer Solaris offering might just be the best solution for you out there today. To make things even better, there is no commitment --the minimum period of purchase is only 1 month-- and you get 1 month free if you are a member of the Paris Java User Group, the French Solaris User Group or MySQL User Group, among others. Check it out! You can choose between multiple machine sizes --in RAM, CPU, network traffic-- and get a variety of pre-installed software stacks --e.g. Apache, Glassfish, MySQL.