Sun adds to Solaris to meet customer demand

Sun is adding an advanced, more powerful 128-bit ZFS file system, new virtualisation technologies and the Postgres open-source database to its Solaris 10 Unix operating system, as the company looks to build market share and meet customer demands.

A key to Sun's latest move is the addition of container technologies that allow users to run applications designed for Red Hat Linux on top of Solaris using segmented containers. The containers allow Linux binaries to run unmodified inside a secure environment, according to Sun. Similar features, such as the lxrun utility, have been included in Solaris in the past, but the new containers are designed to make the process easier and more seamless.

In an announcement last week, Sun said the new features would be integrated into Solaris 10 next year, though some will be available in software updates by the end of this year.

At a news conference to unveil the features, executive vice-president of software at Sun, John Loiacano, said the company hoped to counter past objections to Solaris from customers, including its proprietary legacy, limited hardware support and the limited application availability from independent software vendors.

"We really tried to attack these one by one," Loiacano said.

In June, Sun unveiled OpenSolaris, an open-source version of its longtime Unix operating system. The new features will also be readied for use in OpenSolaris by the end of this year.

The 128-bit ZFS file system, which bolsters data integrity, was a milestone for Sun because of its increased reliability over existing file systems, vice-president of Sun's operating platforms group, Glenn Weinberg, said.

At the same time, ZFS reduces file system complexity for systems administrators by automating the addition of disk space into a system.

"All of the information in the file system is protected," Weinberg said. "You don't have to think about what's underneath."

ZFS marks the first new file system for Solaris since 1981, when the UFF file system was developed. It is available for OpenSolaris immediately and will be available for Solaris 10 next month through Sun's software maintenance program. The file system will be fully integrated into the release version of Solaris 10 by May.

The new virtualisation capabilities are part of the ongoing Xen open-source project, which allows multiple operating systems, including Linux and Solaris, to run simultaneously on the same hardware. Sun also plans to include system management technologies to provide tools for systems administrators to configure and run the virtualization features.

Xen support is expected to be built into Solaris 10 by September 2006.

The Solaris Containers for Linux features are also expected to be integrated into Solaris 10 by then, according to Sun. Using containers, an application written for Red Hat Linux will appea to be running on a Red Hat system. But it will actually be running in a special segmented container on a Solaris kernel. The container feature will be ready for OpenSolaris by the end of this year.

Asked if containers are being developed for use with other operating systems such as SUSE Linux and Debian, Weinberg said additional containers could be expected over time.

"There's quite a bit of interest in the BSD community to run BSD applications on top of Solaris," he said.

The integration of the open-source Postgres database into Solaris 10 is being done in part to allow Sun customers to get direct support from Sun for the database, rather than having to strictly rely on the Postgres community for help, according to the company.

Initially, Postgres will be available as a download from Sun, but it will be integrated into the operating system next year. Weinberg said that certain attributes of Postgres made it the most suitable database to include, but other integrated databases would likely be included in the future.

"Just because we are announcing Postgres now doesn't mean we're done," he said.

Sun sees customers looking at a variety of open-source databases, and the company wanted to get Solaris ready as a platform for them, he said.

So far, Sun has sold more than 3.3 million licenses for Solaris 10, which runs on Intel x86 and AMD Opteron hardware. The next Solaris 10 software update, due next month, will also include the GRUB boot loader for x86 and x64 hardware, making it easier to run multiple operating systems on a single system.

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