Experiences with OpenSolaris

On a previous post, a commenter suggested that instead of a NAS device, I try OpenSolaris + ZFS. I thought it was an interesting concept, so I decided to build a prototype on my x86 PC using the 2008.05 release to see how it might go. Here is a summary of my experience:

  • The OpenSolaris install process is much more intuitive (and less flexible) than the Solaris process I remember (+1)
  • It was nice not having to partition the boot drive manually or accept crazy old-school default (+1)
  • I didn't find a GUI based ZFS tool in the administrative menus, so off to the man pages (-1)
  • The pkg tool was interesting and a significant improvement in theory (+1)
  • The netbeans package was out of date (6.0 vs 6.1 or 6.5 beta) (-1)
  • The downloaded netbeans bundle and openesb bundle couldn't find Java until after I installed the old netbeans via pkg (-1, but not sure who loses the point)
  • I also wanted to create a bootable USB stick so I didn't have to allocate a drive to OS, but couldn't get the system to boot from the stick (-1)
  • I also wanted to install Subversion, so I selected it in the pkg tool and everything hung up. Upon reboot, the system couldn't start anything and was trashed (-10)
  • I tried everything again from scratch and subversion package seemed to hose it again, so I'm back to the DVD again (-100)

At that point I came to the conclusion that it probably is not a stable enough platform for my home office NAS solution, but could be a good developer platform for someone who knows Solaris and has spare time. I'll probably install it again on this PC since I didn't use the Windows OS on it for anything significant, but until someone tells me why I have to rebuild the OS after failing to install a source control package, I'm not willing to let my productivity depend on it.

In all fairness, OpenSolaris is not intended to be a production OS, so I wasn't expecting miracles. On the other hand, this is the sort of thing that might discourage someone enough to go somewhere else for a dev platform or a unix playground...


I believe it was on my suggested that you went down this path. I don't understand why you were installing netbeans and subversion if the goal was to use OpenSolaris as a NAS box replacement. That to me makes the comparison unfair. I'm pretty sure Netbeans will update itself anyway - mine did. As for your boot from USB was that an OpenSolaris problem or a problem with your hardware not being able to boot from USB ? [a quick first guess is if you get to the GRUB menu it is an OpenSolaris issue if you don't get that more likely hardware/bios].

Posted by Darren Moffat on September 03, 2008 at 09:20 PM PDT #

Yes, and it was a good suggestion! The netbeans, subversion, etc. was only related to the NAS test since because I was going to testing some development stuff on this box as well. The box was not going to be the final NAS solution. So, in the most strict sense, my testing strategy was suspect, however, I was really concerned that a package installation (or maybe upgrade), could hose the OS. That might be OK for a playground, but I guess I would lean toward Solaris proper before I trusted my home office data to it.

The USB thing could have been my BIOS. I set it to look for removable devices, but still didn't see it in the list of OS images to boot.

I did a netbeans update to see if it would go to 6.1 or 6.5b, but I don't think it did. The latest version of the package was 6.0 something (going from memory here since the system is non-functional...).

I will still try to figure out how to make it a dev platform, but am curious about the svn package problem...

Posted by stanford on September 04, 2008 at 12:55 AM PDT #

Add (or actually, subtract) several points for these:

-VirtualBox host networking requiring workarounds (fixed in 1.6.6 and 2.0 I'm happy to say)
-pkg image-update messing up BE between (IIRC) snv_94 and 95
-No real documentation or kbase, just count on Google to find stuff among forums

Posted by Charles Soto on September 09, 2008 at 02:11 AM PDT #

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