Sun accommodating Linux in Solaris

Virtualization capability to enable users to run rival OS and apps as well as Solaris on the same computer

With an incremental update to its Solaris 10 OS, Sun is extending the platform's virtualization capabilities to accommodate Linux and Solaris on the same computer.

Sun will add to the Solaris Containers capability, which has bolstered server usage by allowing for multiple instances of Solaris on the same server, said Dan Roberts, Sun director of marketing for Solaris. With Solaris 10 8/07, being announced Tuesday, users can run Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS Linux, and Linux applications via Solaris Containers for Linux Applications.

"You can now consolidate your Solaris and Linux apps onto one chassis," Roberts said. Solaris Containers debuted in Solaris 10 two-and a half years ago.

Virtualization, Roberts noted, has become a popular way to get more out of servers that had been running commonly at only a 10- to 15-percent utilization rate.

The new Solaris Containers for Linux capability is only supported on x86 hardware.

Sun's accommodation for Linux helps Solaris in its battle for users with Linux, said analyst Richard Jones, vice president at Burton Group. "I see this as a way for [Solaris] to definitely continue to survive in the market because they're now allowing for a greater level of interoperability with Linux," Jones said.

The move expands the number of applications and services that could run in a Solaris environment, said Jones. 

Sun, naturally, sees Solaris as superior to Linux. "You would want to go with this over Linux because you want the most reliable, most secure operating system," as well as features like Solaris Containers, said Roberts. Sun views the upgrade as making it easier to migrate to Solaris.

Also with version 8/07, Solaris can be used to manage resources within a container at a finer grain level. "For example, you can now define how much memory or CPU you want a particular app or container to use," said Roberts. This prevents one container from overwhelming an entire system. Users can assure that high-priority applications get the CPU cycles needed.

Sun will include separate IP stacks for each container with Solaris 10 8/07 to enable administrators to know how much network bandwidth is being consumed by a container. Determinations could be made on whether to move an application to another server. A Large Send Offload feature reduces CPU workload by offloading networking processing operations to a network interface card.

Jumbo Frames support in the 8/07 release means the OS supports very large network packages beyond the 1,500 bytes limit specified in Ethernet. This is useful for applications shipping high volumes of data.

Version 8/07 will include a copy of the open-source PostgreSQL 8.2 database, a high-capacity transactional system with performance enhancements for Solaris and support for DTrace probes. These probes provide the ability to observe application performance.

Users theoretically could replace an Oracle database with PostgreSQL 8.2

"We fundamentally believe Solaris is the best OS for running databases," Roberts said.

Solaris 10 8/07 does not include any technologies from Project Indiana, which is Sun's project to make Solaris more palatable to Linux users by adding capabilities like distribution of Solaris binaries. The project is part of the OpenSolaris effort, which offers Solaris in an open source format. Sun's Solaris is a commercial distribution of the platform.

Correction: This article was amended to clarify the hardware support for the new Solaris Containers for Linux capability.

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