Solaris News, Views, and Real-World Experiences from the Field

Quick Review of Pro OpenSolaris

Scott Dickson
Enterprise Systems Architect

Pro OpenSolaris - Harry Foxwell and Christine Tran

Several (too many) weeks ago, I said that I was going to read and review Harry & Christine's new book, Pro OpenSolaris. Finally, I am getting around to doing this.

Overall, I was pleased with Pro OpenSolaris.  It does a good job at what it tries to do.  The key is to recognize when it is the right text and when others might be the right text.  Right in the Introduction, the authors are clear that this is an orientation tour.  They say "We assume that you are a professional system administrator ... and that your learning style needs only an orientation and in indication of what should be learned first in order to take advantage of OpenSolaris."  That's a good summary of the main direction of the book.  And at this, it does a very nice job!

This means that Pro OpenSolaris is not an exhaustive reference manual on all of the features and nuances of OpenSolaris.  Instead, it's a broad overview of what OpenSolaris is, how it got to be what it is, what is key features and differentiators are, and why I might choose to use OpenSolaris instead of some other system.  That's important to realize from the outset.  If you are looking for the thousand-page reference guide, this is not the one.  If you have heard about OpenSolaris and want to explore a bit more deeply, to decide whether or not OpenSolaris is something that might help your business or might be a tool you can use, this is a great place to start.
Pro OpenSolaris spends a good bit of time on the preliminaries.  There is an extensive section on the philosophical differences between the approaches and requirements of different open source licenses and styles of licenses.  Pro OpenSolaris explains clearly why OpenSolaris uses the CDDL license as opposed to other licenses and how this fits in with the overall goal of the OpenSolaris project.

Pro OpenSolaris helps you get started, with a lengthy discussion of how to go about installing OpenSolaris either on  bare metal or in a virtual machine.

Compare this to the OpenSolaris Bible (Solter, Jelinek, & Miner), which really does aspire to be the thousand-page reference guide.  In the OpenSolaris Bible, licensing and installation are given only a short discussion, since they are not central to the book's focus.  Instead, the reader is directed to other places for that discussion.

But that's why it's important to have both books.  Pro OpenSolaris gives the tour of the important parts of the OpenSolaris operating system, how and why I might use them, and why they are important, but it does not go deeply into the details.  That's probably wise for an operating system that is still growing and changing substantially with each new release.

One thing that particularly interested me in Pro OpenSolaris was the fact that it includes large sections on both the OpenSolaris Webstack which includes IPS-packaged versions of the commonly used pieces of an AMP stack - notably, Apache, MySQL, PHP, lighttpd, nginx, Ruby, Rails, etc - all compiled and optimized for OpenSolaris and including key add-ons such as DTrace providers where applicable.  Pro OpenSolaris also has a nice, long chapter on NetBeans and its role as a part of an overall OpenSolaris development environment.

What's my take overall?  Pro OpenSolaris is a quick read that will give you a good understanding of what OpenSolaris is and why you would want to use it; what it's key features are and why they are important; and how you can use these to your best advantage.  There are lots of examples and technical details so that you can see that what Harry & Christine talk about is for real.  I would recommend this as part of your library.  But I would also recommend the OpenSolaris Bible.  The two complement each other nicely to complete the picture.

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Comments ( 2 )
  • project_2501 Monday, June 29, 2009

    Not sure this is a balanced review. What are the weak points with the book(s)?

  • Scott Dickson Monday, June 29, 2009

    I would say that the biggest weakness is the focus. If you are looking for an exhaustive reference, go for the OpenSolaris Bible. If you want to understand what the point of OpenSolaris is and how it can be used, this is better.

    Not being a professional reviewer, I'm not shooting for a balanced review or a professional approach. Just my impressions after reading the book of how well it did what it set out to do and whether what it set out to do was something that might be useful.

    Overall, I would say that it is useful for the folks that it is pointed toward.

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