Thursday Jan 15, 2009

OpenSolaris 2008.11, Closing the cap or leapfrogging Linux?

opensolaris.png When Solaris 2008.05 was released in May 2008 the feedback from several communities and magazines was in general positive but with several hints that OpenSolaris still has to go a long way to close some gaps to Linux. Often they have mentioned the amount of pre-compiled (packaged) applications available, the package management and lack of drivers for certain devices.

With the release of OpenSolaris 2008.11 we can say that we have addressed many of the mentioned topics. We have also improved other areas that we believe are simply unique in the Linux/UNIX world! Very often people just talk about the front-end and applications that run on your desktop by ignoring that OpenSolaris is not just an other Linux, in fact it is a UNIX!

Since the release of OpenSolaris 2008.05 the installed base has doubled and more than 80 OpenSolairs user groups today spreading around the world.

Let me now introduce some new features and key differentiators we have compared to any other Linux/UNIX:

If you look what made OpenSolaris more and more popular, it is certainly ZFS and DTrace.
  • Now DTrace is probably not the feature that you would use as a standard computer user, but it is essential for every developer to help him improve the quality of his application and discover bugs. DTrace allows you to debug your application on the fly while it is running in OpenSolaris without special debugging code (binaries). There is no Operating System that is capable of doing this, except FreeBSD and Mac OS X. The guys at FreeBSD are adopting and implementing a lot of cool features introduced first in Solaris and OpenSolaris, like ZFS.

  • Many people are switching to OpenSolaris because of ZFS. The very simple interface and the tremendous functionality of ZFS make this file system the best file system ever. This leads me to the new added feature called Time Slider. Time Slider is a combination of features built on top of ZFS, integrated into the GNOME file browser. It basically allows you to slide the time of your file system back and recover files that you have for example accidentally deleted or modified. You can compare this feature with Time Machine on Mac with the exception that you don't need an external disk to do this!
This video shows how Time Slider looks and works:

We have tremendously improved the application stack including:
  • updated GNOME to release 2.2.4
  • latest version of Firefox including DTrace probes for debuging web applications and behaviour
  • integration of Songbird which is built on the Mozilla Framework and is simply a great music player with a touch/look-and-feel from iTunes ;-)
  • new fully featured AMP stack including Ruby and Dtrace probes for easier trouble shooting
  • integration of OpenOffice 3.0
Further cool enhancements are:
  • more Open Source Software Support than ever before
  • tunings of OpenSolaris core components
  • support and performance optimizations for Intel Core Micro Architecture (upcoming Intel CPUs, Codename Nehalem)
  • introducing power efficiency optimizations into datacenters and not only notebooks
  • virtualization optimizations to optimize runtime environments
  • improved package management software
  • proper and clean sleep and resume functions for notebooks
See what Intel Says about their new Core Micro Architecture and the relationship with OpenSolaris!

Intel and AMD are also helping in optimizing the IOMMU which manages DMA. Wan't to know what DMA and IOMMU is? Check this Video for more information.

One great and unique feature of OpenSolaris is the simple and easy distribution upgrade. No reason to worry if you are not satisfied with the new release of the operating system. When upgrading to a next release, the system creates automatically a bootable ZFS snapshot of your old release, allowing you to boot your old environment whenever you want. Which Linux does this? There are also not many Linuxes that allow easy major release upgrades. As far as I know only the ones that are based on the Debian package manager.

Further news are that Sun & Toshiba announced pre-configured OpenSolaris notebooks that will be available soon, as well as the certification of Zamandas backup solutions for OpenSolaris.

The combination of Zmanda’s robust backup solutions (Amanda) with Sun’s innovative OpenSolaris operating system, including the advanced ZFS file system, creates one of the most advanced backup-to-disk offerings available on the market today. Specifically, the snapshot capability of ZFS enables fast and scalable backups of today’s most demanding workloads. With the new features and record-breaking performance introduced in OpenSolaris 2008.11, we demonstrate our commitment to rapidly innovating on the open source ecosystem.

Amanda Enterprise is an enterprise-grade network backup solution based on Amanda, the world’s most popular open source data backup and recovery software. It is a powerful, low-cost, open source solution that protects OpenSolaris, Solaris, Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X environments using a single management console.

Did you know, our Sun Storage 7000 Series is also certified for Amanda Enterprise Backup.


Well we might not have closed the gaps in the desktop area completely to the Linux community, but OpenSolaris is clearly leapfrogging Linux on the backend by using ZFS as the most flexible, scalabale and innovative file system ever and providing unique DTrace functionality to our open source developers. Today OpenSolaris is my personal choice for a Web 2.0 based environment!

In this blog you can find interesting content about solutions and technologies that SUN is developing.

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