Many of the new features focus on Solaris Containers, an operating system virtualization feature that allows multiple versions of Solaris to run on a single server. Solaris upgrades include the following:
- A feature that allows users to run Linux applications on top of x86 Solaris systems. Formerly referred to as BrandZ in OpenSolaris, Sun has renamed it Solaris Containers for Linux Applications. Currently Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS are the supported distributions; though in the future, Sun hopes to support other Linux distributions.
- The ability to set a cap on memory or assign a certain number of processors to a particular Solaris Container. This prevents low-priority applications from hogging processing power and memory when they peak, which could affect the performance of more mission-critical applications.
- Each Solaris Container can now have its own IP stack so that users can track network traffic down to the Container level rather than just at the general server level.
- The integration of Solaris with the latest version of the PostgreSQL database, 8.2, as Sun tries to extend its support for various database platforms, including open source varieties such as PostgreSQL.
Tony Iams, senior analyst with Rye Brook, N.Y.-based Ideas International Inc., said that expanding the roster of available applications is the goal of any operating system, and Sun's move to get Linux apps running on top of Solaris is its way of doing that.
"An operating system is fundamentally driven by the availability of the applications on it," he said. "It's a very simple, primal law in this industry, so Sun is focused on driving the number of applications up."
Analyst Al Gillen of Framingham, Mass.-based IDC said it will be interesting to see how Linux application vendors view the new feature. If they believe that the application runs differently within Solaris Containers than it does on Linux alone, even if that difference is subtle, it could impede users' adoption.
"If a Container can't get 100% compatibility on the application, it becomes a unique environment," he said. "It still represents something of a barrier."
Iams added that the ability to cap memory and processor resources per Container is good, but being able to ramp resources up and down as needed would be ideal. A financial services application, for example, might need only two processors most of the year, but during tax season it might need eight. If the application runs in a Container, the ability to ramp up these resources as needed is crucial.
Sun has added features to Solaris 10 regularly since the OS release in 2005. Solaris Containers and DTrace were two of the most lauded features of the original release, but enhancements such as ZFS and Logical Domains have come in subsequent upgrades.
Since 2005, when Sun began the OpenSolaris project, it has used the arena to test new functions of the operating system before making them generally available and providing full support for them. Other OpenSolaris functions that are being tested could eventually make it to the public under Solaris.
One of them, for example, is a project called Crossbow. Roberts said Crossbow would build on the capability of Solaris to track network traffic at the Container level and delve into the realm of network virtualization.
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