One last thing from TechDays

I gave the OpenSolaris Virtualization Technologies talk at Sun TechDays in Sydney, and there were a couple of slides from that I really wanted to post here as this stuff continues to surprise people. First, let's go back a few years. When we first started exploring the technology that became Solaris Zones, we quickly realized it was a very powerful idea, and while we were creating the basic version for Solaris 10's initial release, Glenn and team went off to implement Trusted Solaris using Zones. A little later, Nils and team went off and implemented "Brand Z" - a general mechanism to allow a Zone to have a completely different system call interface, which in turn allows a zone to have a completely different OS personality, and for example, to allow us to run the userland components of a Linux distribution in a zone.

The most recent application though, is one that has some interesting properties which illustrate some of the properties of virtualization more generally. That's Project Etude, which Dan Price and his colleagues delivered into Solaris 10 a few months ago - the essential concept being a Solaris 8 Zone running on a Solaris 10 system. This slide from marketing shows where the Brand Z personality component for Solaris 8 lives in the usual zones architecture picture.

solaris-8-brand.jpg

Other than "because we can" :-) why did we do this? Well, the really compelling point associated with this technology is how we can move our Solaris 8 / SPARC customers forward from their older, under utilized, power-hungry hardware to the latest generation of power efficient SPARC hardware. Like the commodity SPARC microprocessors in the CoolThreads family of servers based on the Niagara processors. Looking from a 2008 vantage point, Solaris 8 seems like quite an old operating system now, and many of the machines it was originally installed on are from the same era. In the meantime Moore's law has advanced, and when combined with the CMT capabilities of Niagara, has enabled us to create very powerful, but extremely power efficient systems that can be used to consolidate multiple machines-worth of workload. There are obvious analogs in the legacy Windows / legacy x86 world that's powering the Windows consolidation move across the industry. But the thing I like about this customer case study below, is the actual numbers involved.

eco-consolidation.jpg

The 8800W and 275W numbers are power consumption comparisons, the BTU numbers are cooling costs. Smaller is better! These are real cost and power savings, and I think it illustrates that maybe there's some interesting comparative work to do here - comparing the efficiency of consolidation using different virtualization technologies e.g. zones vs. hypervisor virtualization technologies. A complex problem to characterize, yes. And interesting trade-offs between isolation, management complexity, business agility and performance. But our repeated experience is that this path is proving very effective for our customers.

Final reflection - I remember wondering why I had to learn all about classical thermodynamics in my engineering courses. What did that have to do with computers and communications technology? And now the irony is that for many of our datacenter customers, their number one concern is the basics of classical thermodynamics and the brutal economics associated with it - getting ever more computational work done while saving power and reducing the need for cooling.

Technorati Tag: OpenSolaris
Technorati Tag: Solaris

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