Sun Rolls Out Update for Solaris 10 Unix
Published: September 13, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Sun Microsystems announced a rollup of fixes and upgraded support for components of its Solaris 10 Unix operating system today, dubbed update 8/07 in the Sun parlance. The update includes over 100 features and fixes to the operating system, all of which were shepherded through the OpenSolaris development community that Sun established in the summer of 2005 to steer the development of the open source variant of Solaris.
Unlike with past updates, this one does not have a lot of major feature tweaks. But update 8/07 does include stuff that Solaris enthusiasts will find useful, and one interesting feature that has been slated for delivery for a long time: support for Linux binaries in an application binary interface environment inside Solaris containers. There were not any substantial changes to the core kernel inside Solaris 10, which is something you hear about with Linux all of the time because, quite honestly, Linux is missing a lot of functionality that Solaris has had for a long time.
This special Linux container was developed under the code-name "Project Janus," appropriate given the two-faced nature of a Unix server tricking Linux applications thinking that they are running on Linux. The initial implementation of Project Janus plunked the Linux runtime environment atop Solaris, but as it was being beta tested in 2005 and 2006, Sun's customers said that what would be really useful would be the ability to run the Linux application runtime inside a Solaris container. So Sun went halfway back to the drawing board to do this. It is hard to believe that Sun has been talking about this capability for nearly four years.
As it stands, according to Dan Roberts, director of Solaris, OpenSolaris, and database marketing at Sun, the Solaris Containers for Linux Applications supports Linux binaries that were compiled for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and its derivative, CentOS 3. RHEL 3 support was the original target, and it is not clear why Sun or the OpenSolaris team did not pick up the pace to not only get RHEL 3 support, but RHEL 4 and RHEL 5 as well as Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and 10 supported inside the Linux runtime for containers. (By the way, you might remember the Janus containers as also being called Brand Z containers for a while.) The Janus containers are not magical--they will only work on X64 Linux and they will not let X64 Linux binaries run on Sparc boxes. (But there are programs available from Transitive that would allow such a thing, and that is why IBM is using the QuickTransit emulator from Transitive to allow X86 Linux binaries run on Power-based servers.)
As for what Sun will do to make Janus containers work with other Linuxes--or more precisely, let code that runs on other Linuxes compiled for X86 and X64 processors run inside the Janus containers unmodified on X64 iron--Sun is not providing a roadmap. "Customer demand is going to drive what we do," says Roberts.
The Solaris kernel already scales beyond 512 cores in a single system image, so Sun did not have to make any changes to this part of Solaris. However, the 8/07 update does include a tweak for Advanced Micro Devices's "Barcelona" and Intel's "Clovertown" and "Tigerton" processors, all of which cram four cores into a single socket. The update also has support for Sun's imminent "Niagara-2" Sparc T2 processor, which will double up the thread count and performance in the Niagara server line. The prior update to Solaris, 11/06, which actually shipped in mid-January of this year, already had support for Fujitsu's dual-core Sparc64-VI processors, which are sold within the Sparc Enterprise server line co-developed and co-marketed by both Sun and Fujitsu.
On the networking front, Solaris 10 update 8/07 has a new feature called Large Send Offload, which allows systems with too much CPU work and lots of oomph in their network interface cards to offload some of the TCP/IP work to these cards, thereby giving the CPU more headroom to do real work. Another networking feature is called Jumbo Frame support, which allows packets that are six times larger than the typical Ethernet packet to be sent and received by the system, allowing transfers of large files over networks to proceed much faster due to the reduced TCP/IP overhead because it handles fewer--but larger--messages. (The data doesn't kill you sometimes, the network overhead chatter does.) The update also includes support for high-speed packet forwarding, which boosts network throughput by speeding up how quickly they can exit a system and its network interface card using complex algorithms.
The Solaris 10 update also includes a rollup of the latest tweaks to the open source PostgreSQL 8.2 database, which Sun started embedding in Solaris as a member of the PostgreSQL development community last year. PostgreSQL 8.2 now has ports that support the Dynamic Tracing (DTrace) system monitoring tool that is built into Solaris, and provides a 20 percent performance enhancement as well.
You can download your copy of Solaris 10 or the update here. The Solaris 10 8/07 update is not source code, just like the Solaris 10 software that Sun distributes is not. Rather, the update is a set of binaries created to either Sparc or X64 processors that Sun makes available to new customers and as a set of batches to customers who are already running prior Solaris 10 binaries on Sparc or X64 iron.
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