Oracle Solaris goes to 11

The newest version of Oracle's Solaris operating system is better prepared for cloud workloads, the company claims

Oracle has updated its Unix-based operating system Solaris, adding some features that would make the OS more suitable for running cloud deployments, as well as integrating it more tightly with other Oracle products, the company announced Wednesday.

"We looked at some of the big challenges that people were having in deploying cloud infrastructure, either in a private cloud or public cloud," said Charlie Boyle, senior director of product marketing. "In the release, we engineered out some of the complexity in managing a cloud infrastructure, and made it possible to run any Solaris application in a cloud environment."

Cloud deployments require even greater levels of automation and streamlining than a standard IT infrastructure would, noted Markus Flierl, Oracle vice president of software development. While an organization may run hundreds of Solaris servers, as it moves its applications to a cloud infrastructure, it may run them across thousands of virtual Solaris instances.

Solaris, a Unix implementation, was originally developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired last year. While not as widely known for its cloud software, Oracle has been marketing Solaris as a cloud-friendly OS. In Oracle's architecture, users can set up different partitions, called Zones, inside a Solaris implementation, which would allow different workloads to run simultaneously, each within their own environment, on a single machine.

Oracle Solaris Zones has 15 times less overhead than a VMware implementation, Oracle asserted in its marketing literature. The company also touted that Zones had no artificial limitations set on memory, network, CPU or storage resources.

Many of the new features were designed to ease the administrative overhead of running a cloud-like infrastructure, Flierl said. One new feature, called Fast Reboot, will allow the system to boot up without doing the routine set of hardware checks, a move that can make system boot times up to two-and-a-half times faster, Oracle claimed. This feature can be handy in that an administrator applying a patch or software update across thousands of Solaris deployments can reboot them all the more quickly. "It allows you safely to upgrade your entire environment," Flierl said.

The new Solaris also features a new software management system, called Image Packaging System, that will keep track of a program's dependencies, or the libraries and other software that the program needs to run. The Image Packaging System keeps all the software packages in a system up-to-date, including those in a virtual environment.

Also adding to Solaris' cloud capabilities are new administrator controls that lock down the settings in individual Zones. Users can be limited in what changes they can make to the file system, or to the network settings. It can also limit the amount of network bandwidth each Zone can use. This is also the first version of the OS that allows users to virtualize networking resources, meaning supporting network cards can route traffic to appropriate virtual machines without any additional processing on the part of the server CPU itself.

In addition to work Oracle has done to make Solaris cloud-ready, the company has also closely tailored other Oracle products so that they can be coupled more easily to Solaris, including the Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g and the Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center administrative software package. By controlling an entire stack of software, the company can make "holistic" decisions over which part of the stack would be best suited to tweak to gain performance improvements, Flierl said.

Solaris 11, which complies to the Open Group's specifications for Unix implementations, can support any programs that were written for earlier versions of Solaris, dating back to Solaris 6. The company also runs the Oracle Solaris Binary Application Guarantee Program, which certifies more than 11,000 applications that can run on Solaris 6.

Solaris 11, released Wednesday, will run on both x86 and Oracle's Sparc-based processors.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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