Solaris 9 rises

Security and management components added to the new Solaris 9 operating system are getting the thumbs-up from Canadian Unix users.

The Solaris update, unveiled last month by Sun Microsystems Inc., integrates the company’s Application Server, Directory Server and Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition, and enhancements in the Unix File System and Solaris Volume Manager, which provides storage management tools.

At Sun’s Menlo Park, Calif.-based headquarters, executives positioned Solaris 9 as the biggest upgrade in a decade. Bundling Sun’s application server and directory server with Solaris 9 transforms the operating system into a complete platform for deploying Java applications and Web services, according to Ed Zander, Sun’s president and chief operating officer.

“I don’t believe Solaris 9 is an operating system any more,” he said. “This is not an operating system announcement, it’s a new class of product.”

Sun touted more than 300 new product features intended to boost the performance of applications and improve the security, partitioning and management capabilities in its flagship OS. Besides the middleware products from its Sun ONE (Open Network Environment) family, Solaris 9 adds what the company called an “enterprise class” firewall at no charge, as well as new provisioning and change management software.

James Ko, an Ottawa-based architect with Nortel Networks Corp.’s CDN passport management group and Solaris 8 customer, said he is definitely planning to upgrade. Ko was particularly enthusiastic about Solaris 9’s security features, including the Sunscreen firewall and the addition of IPsec with Internet Key Exchange (IKE).

Characterizing the new middleware as “one-stop-shopping,” Ko said the new features will allow his customers to design a more secure environment using role-based access control and a pluggable authentication module.

Long-time Unix consultant Terry Green of Edmonton said other notable features include built-in resource management tools that let administrators set limits on the CPU, memory, bandwidth and storage resources that can be accessed by a particular group of workers or applications. These will make it easier to manage enterprise workloads and available storage in either single server or clustered application environments, he said.

Green also said that with threading performance improvements as well as memory access improvements the Solaris 9 file system would likely be noticeably faster than previous releases. Version 2.1 of the Management Console also appears to be a big improvement over the old AdminTool, Green said, since it gives server managers better control over system resources, storage facilities, and user accounts.

Customers typically take their time upgrading to a new server OS, but when they do they will find features that make it easier to install, reboot, run and secure the product, according to Sun. Solaris users will now be able to upgrade both their root partition and a copy of the partition at the same time, instead of separately as is currently required, which could avoid user errors. Sun also improved its server reboot tools so that skipping lengthy system checks after a crash by enabling logging doesn’t compromise the performance of processing transactions, for example, as was the case with Solaris 8, said Bill Moffitt, product line manager for Solaris.

“When you have logging enabled, (the OS) does not have to do a system check, which can take forever if a machine crashes,” Moffitt said. “This caused some other actions to take a performance hit in the past, but now people don’t have to make a trade-off.”

Nortel’s Ko agreed that Sun has a good track record implementing from one Solaris to the next.

“However,” he said, “It depends on how well you planned ahead. In most cases, the system binary partition has to be big enough to accommodate these changes, so that’s the catch. On the other hand if you compare to the major effort required to migrate from one version of IBM’s VMS to another, Unix is almost a joke.

Customers who are on one of Sun’s maintenance programs can upgrade to Solaris 9 free of charge. For others, Sun has reduced the number of processors in a system that are covered under its free download program. In the past, users could download Solaris for free for use on servers with up to eight processors, said Jim Lee, Sun’s director for worldwide product sales and marketing.

“With Solaris 9 it will be a single-processor licence only for the free download,” he said. “It’s primarily because we want it to be a developer licence rather than a production licence, and so a lot of developers will be working on a single processor machine.”

Solaris 9 is available immediately with the Sun ONE Directory Server fully integrated, including a licence for as many as 200,000 named users. Integration of the Sun ONE Application Server 7, Platform Edition, is slated for the end of calendar 2002, the company said.