Solaris questions answered by Sun's VP of operating platforms Tom Goguen

Looking for answers to your Solaris questions? Tom Goguen, vice president of Sun Microsystems' operating platforms group recently joined our expert panel to help solve your Solaris conundrums. interviewed Goguen to get his sense of the overall Solaris market and to introduce him as an expert.

A lot of Unix shops have jumped to Linux, what is the rationale behind that?
Tom Goguen: Developers drive many of the deployment decisions today. Free and open source software allows developers to more effectively create applications and services. Of the available open source operating systems, Linux became the most popular among developers. In addition, there has been an architectural shift in the data center. Many of the applications "scale out," delivering high performance and resiliency even when running on commodity hardware. Both these things have driven the adoption of Linux in the data center.

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With the release of Solaris 10, its availability as a free download, built in support for over 700 x86/x64 systems and the creation of the OpenSolaris community, Sun now offers a compelling solution for developers and system administrators alike.

Can you give usage examples for how you see Sun's virtualization offering, Solaris Containers, being particularly advantageous?
Goguen: Solaris Containers are only a part, but a significant part of the overall virtualization offerings from Sun. Containers are compelling insomuch as they can provide multiple independent and resource managed zones on a single OS image. There is simply less to manage than when using a hypervisor or similar type of system virtualization solution. In addition Solaris Containers provide an extra layer of security and availability for applications and services hosted within.

Someone might say, 'Why not just use Linux and Xen?', How do you respond to that?
Goguen: With an update coming out in the first half of next year we plan to deliver Xen Host functionality as a feature of Solaris. This will allow developers and customers to run Solaris, Linux and Windows on the same system. Choice of Xen Host OS is critical as the platform now is running multiple OS's and multiple services. The really interesting thing is that with Solaris as the hypervisor, unique Solaris features such as DTrace and Predictive Self-Healing then accrue to the guest OS's. We think this will provide superior performance and reliability as compared to a commercial Linux based Xen Host.

Sun has boasted some pretty big numbers for new Solaris users since taking it to open source. What kind of new workloads are you seeing?
Goguen: We are now seeing a resurgence in use of Solaris in the Web tier and are even delivering some incredible high performance computing results.

People might assume that since Unix is mature that there isn't much development going on for new features and functions. What are the most important advances to Solaris in the past year and give examples of the benefits?
Goguen: They could not be further off base as far as Solaris 10 is concerned. Just check the community. We invested over $500M in R&D and delivered over 600 new features including Dynamic Tracing, Predictive Self Healing, Solaris Containers and the ZFS file system. Trusted Extensions will be delivered in December as part of a Solaris 10 update and Xen comes next year.

Consider DTrace: It safely provides detailed (over 30,000 probes into the kernel alone) telemetry on the OS and applications on live production systems. We have seen performance improvements of up to 50 times in just a couple of days when using DTrace. That is the ability to process 50 times as many transactions across the same system in the same amount of time, delivering tremendous savings in terms of equipment, support and even power and cooling.

Have questions on Solaris for Tom Goguen? Send us an e-mail and we will publish Tom's responses in our Ask The Expert section.

This was first published in December 2006

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