Tag: OpenSolaris

OpenSolaris 2008.11 – A Preview For The Storage Admin

Many reviews have been written about OpenSolaris since its release, but all of them barely tread beyond the desktop aspect, with the obligatory screenshots of the GNOME environment and a high-level description of only the major features most are already familiar with, or at least have heard of.

I’d like to take a different approach with this review, one that descends below the GUI to highlight aspects that server administrators in particular would be more interested in.


My presentation at the 2007 AFS & Kerberos Workshop

This past week, the 2007 AFS & Kerberos Workshop went on at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) near Palo Alto, CA. Many people from an array of places eductational, government, and commercial came and presented papers and discourse on a wide range of topics involving AFS and Kerberos.

I was lucky enough to present a slide show on how we at UMBC have been combining OpenAFS with new ZFS and Zones features of Solaris 10 to obtain a more resilient AFS server infrastructure. You can view a PDF of my presentation here.


More Linux/Solaris FUD wars

It’s all too often that I read posts such as this one and can’t help but to think that the writer is a tad on the myopic side of things… so much so that after a paragraph or two it becomes apparent that the writer hasn’t actually used Solaris in its current incarnation. And I don’t mean “used it” as in “I installed it and played around with it for a few hours/days, didn’t like the default GNOME theme, and promptly replaced it with Debian Etch” or some such. I mean “used it” as in implementing it in a real world production environment with an attempt to treat its features as the tools they are instead of toys.

In particular, I take issue with this comment from Mr. Zaitcev:

“This is the problem OpenSolaris is facing today in the nutshell: it has no breadth. It has a very limited number of excellent technologies, such as ZFS.”

No breadth? Care to, well, add some breadth to that statement, Mr. Zaitcev? Making a comment like that doesn’t mean you can toss out just one perceived example and end your argument at that.

It would appear that all of Mr. Zaitcev’s experience with Solaris/OpenSolaris comes from reading 3rd party accounts of the big new features in Solaris. This is exactly what I referred to in my opening paragraph… all these anti-Solaris pundits more than likely have zero hands-on expeience with the stuff they’re harshing on. People like Mr. Zaitcev read anecdotes and stories, come up with their own idea as to how things are based on those stories, and produce comically uninformed jabs posts such as the one linked above.

No breadth? Just what is the breadth that Mr. Zaitcev thinks is missing? Is breadth in this case even quantifiable? Is his supposition based solely on the age old (and aged) driver count argument? Does Mr. Zaitcev think that all Solaris is, is an ancient kernel which happened to have a few new concepts tacked on top of it?

I would bet that if Mr. Zaitcev sat down and tried to use Solaris in a real-world environment, he’d soon learn that Solaris has everything one needs in a data center environment… he just hasn’t discovered them (or read about them, natch) yet for himself. Who knows, perhaps he’d even appreciate them.


Crying “FUD” doesn’t always mean you’re right

…and it sure doesn’t grant you instant vindication.

It appears that DaveM (Linux networking and SPARC port guru) has gotten seriously wound up in response to a blog post by Jeff Bonwick (Sun’s storage and kernel guru.)

As one can see in Jeff’s post, the suject he wrote about was within the greater context of using Solaris as a storage appliance OS (something I have an interest in) and why Solaris/OpenSolaris can and would excel when it comes to being the kernel of a storage OS.

I’m a storage guy. In the course of my work I have to not only work with Solaris hosts on my SAN, but also Windows and Linux (and soon, AIX). So I have a front-row seat when it comes to witnessing and dealing with how these various OSes deal with storage, from the filesystem to multipathing, to the HBA… and let me tell you, Linux is quite not the joy in this specific area as most people think it is on a general, all-encompassing level.

And that’s what Jeff’s angle was.

Now on to Dave’s rebuttle.

“The implication is that Linux is not rock-solid and that it does break and corrupt people’s data. Whereas on the other hand Solaris, unlike the rest of the software in this world, is without any bugs and therefore won’t ever break or corrupt your data.”

No OS comes without fault, but some OSes have faults that are more glaring than others in their analogous areas. Staying within the storage context of this discussion, I have to say, again, Linux is no shining star here.

ReiserFS is arguably the most advanced fs in terms of features when it comes to the portfolio of Linux file systems, but its issues with stability are such that you’re really walking on eggshells whenever you employ it. I have been personally told too many first-hand accounts and read plenty more on the Internets regarding its tendency to be fine and then fail spectacularly. It has been likened to a time-delayed /dev/null of sorts, and the future of it is in doubt with the legal troubles of its designer and Namesys limbo. Is any version of ReiserFS a viable Linux storage technology for a production environment? I say No. That’s sad because I dare say at one point ReiserFS had some promise.

EXT2 and 3… tried and true. Very stable and moderately fast for most tasks. But it’s an “old guard” file system. As such, it’s not very flexible, and any flexibility it gets comes from using a volume manager underneath of it. In the days where the notion of handing a server a 1TB LUN is nothing to blink at, this inflexibility can be suffocating in a dynamic environment. These “old guard” file systems (yes, Solaris’s UFS is one of them, too) are more like mere utility file systems than practical ones for today’s mass storage needs. It’s good for holding a machine’s OS and that’s about it.

XFS… Of all the file systems in the Linux file system portfolio, this one gets the gold star. Stable, fast, and decently scalable with the large amount of data you can stuff in it… but it still suffers the same problems EXT[23] and other “old guard” file systems do in terms of flexibility. In other words, it’s just a file system. Keep in mind that this critique is coming from a guy who worked with XFS on IRIX often and absolutely loved XLV… back in its the day.

As it stands now, the mainline Linux kernel doesn’t offer anything which embodies the file system triple play: being stable && fast && flexible. Solaris’s ZFS has this. I’ve so far entrusted 30TB of spinning rust to it, and it has yet to let me down. Sure, there are projects here and there that have the eventual goal endowing Linux with a ZFS analog, but as of right now they’re nothing production quality and are definitely not something a admin can call RedHat to get support for.

There are plenty of other aspects to the storage context… the fibre channel stack, for one, and other things such as multipath IO implementations and volume manager and management layers (which Linux has a host of… not necessarily a good thing… LVM, LVM2, MPIO, RDAC… it makes your head spin.)

But as far as this storage-oriented discussion goes, file systems are indeed the make or break aspect. This is why Jeff said what he said. Linux has no ZFS. Windows has no ZFS. It is not that Linux or Windows need ZFS itself in order to compete, it’s that they need to develop and employ the concepts that ZFS implements and do so as clearly and concisely as ZFS has.

Anyway, enough about storage. Now, why is it that the Linux community (let alone a prominent member of it) has to react so violently to any questioning of its perceived superiority? Is it misplaced or excess pride? Have they not tried things other than Linux recently and they’re just flying with blinders on? Is it just the social culture which prevails within it? What ever it is, seeing posts like Dave’s makes my toes curl with embarrassed amazement.

A friendly message to Dave: Chill the ad hominems, mkay? Crying “FUD!” at the mere sight of someone who you perceive as poo-poo’ing an aspect of your interest doen’t typically translate into a well thought-out rebuttle. You took the low road and tried to convey Jeff as being some instrument of some nefarious, Mr. Burns-like person at Sun. Is vilifying instead of cool-headed technical discourse really your desired style? Has anyone come biting at you saying “oh, he’s a Linux kernel developer, so he has an agenda”?


Sun and Qlogic to open up the source of storage software

Sun has announced that they will be releasing several of their storage products to the OpenSolaris community!

From their announcement:

  • Sun StorageTek 5800 storage system (Honeycomb) client interfaces along with the Honeycomb software developer kit (SDK) and Honeycomb emulator/server. Honeycomb is a third-generation digital repository solution for data capture and management.
  • SAM-FS (Storage Archive Manager) provides data classification, policy based data placement, protection, migration, long-term retention, and recovery capabilities for organizations to effectively manage and utilize data according to their business requirements. SAM-FS is used exensively in security/surveillance, digital video archiving, and medical imaging data environments.
  • QFS Sun’s shared file system software delivers significant scalability, data management, and throughput for the most data-intensive applications. Well known today in the traditional high performance computing (HPC) arena, QFS is increasingly being used in commercial environments that require multiple host, high speed access to large data repositories.

Also, and pretty awesome yet:

In addition, today QLogic is contributing their Fibre Channel HBA driver code to the OpenSolaris storage community. For the first time, developers have access to an I/O stack from the application through to the operating system.

Now how cool is that? That last sentence says it all… openness from from the app to the HBA. Most excellent. Thank you to Sun and a really surprised thank you to Qlogic!


Sun Availability Suite blog

The maintainer(s) of Availability Suite (aka AVS) now have their own blog. I can’t wait to learn more about it!


OpenSolaris gets more storage capabilities

The OpenSolaris community got a huge present today by way of Sun’s open sourcing of its StorageTek Availability Suite. This announcement by Jim Dunham goes into the details, but here’s a summary:

Availability Suite is comprised of two primary components:

  • Instant Image, which siphons data on a disk device as it is written in real time and stores it on another device. A command snapshots this stream, creating a point in time “shadow copy” of what’s on the live storage device. This shadow copy can then be mounted and used as one would with a normal filesystem. In practice, this is similar to what you get with ZFS’s snapshot feature, only this is filesystem-agnostic.
  • Network Data Replicator – This is (in my opinion) the cream of this product. Like Instant Image, NDR interposes itself above a disk device and sends a copy of the data stream to that device to somewhere else, such a across the network to another server. This is real time remote replication.

I applaud Sun for releasing this! OpenSolaris now has far more and robust storage tools than any other FOSS (or otherwise, for that matter) OS out there.

Hey Sun, how about releasing ESM AA next, eh? There’s Aperi, but ESM AA looks to be far more mature.


Solaris 10’s new multipath storage tool (Part 1)

Solaris 10 11/06 was released in late 2006 with a plethora of new features, and among them a new tool called mpathadm, which comes as part of the SUNWmpathadm package.

Before I delve into how this specific tool works and how it helps when managing multipathed storage in Solaris, I’ll give some background on what multipathing is and how it is implemented in Solaris.


About that whole Solaris vs. Linux thing

This month there has a been a noticeable increase in buzz from IT pundits discussing whether Solaris now has the feature set critical mass required to win over exising Linux users and shops.

On one hand, I think it’s tres cool that Solaris is and has been getting lots of positive press after a long time (many years) of being shunned as “grandpa’s UNIX” or even outright ignored. On the other, I have to wonder if these pundits are getting a little too “rah rah ree” vis a vis this new rising star of the OS popularity contests. As nice as it is, this kind of speculation has been going on for some time now and I have never seen any hard numbers to indicate whether such a shift is afoot or if it has even happened (yet).

This isn’t to say that Solaris’s newfound popularity (some would say it’s a revival) is without technical merit. The press and technologist community have been crowing about big new features such as ZFS, Zones, and DTrace for some time now. I’m worried, though, that the non-Solaris user who is being courted will get burned over on these specific and oft-repeated messages and come to think that those “Big 3” features are the only things that separate the Solaris of today from the derided Solaris of even 4 years ago.

While I and my fellow Solaris admins know that there are a whole host of other enhancements and features in today’s Solaris, I don’t think that these are being adequately enumerated and explained in generic terms to the non-Solaris admins out there. Not everyone is looking for a new file system. Not everyone is looking for a tracer of the type DTrace is… but I bet there are a lot of Linux admins out there who are trying to do something that Linux doesn’t or doesn’t do well, and Solaris does. The “killer” feature that could win someone over could be as mundane as resource management or Solaris’s excellent mass storage management. Jörg Moellenkamp has similar thoughts on this subject as well.

Who knows? All I know is that we can’t continue to harp on the same stuff, or people will get the wrong impression that Solars is just those things. It’s far more than that, and we have to clearly promote those less sexy but still awesome aspects.


Google looking at OpenSolaris? (and an article cameo by yours truly)

An article over at Computer World reveals a rumor that Google might be investigating OpenSolaris as its future primary platform. The article goes on to describe the OpenSolaris community as it stands today, just over a year after its release. I’m quoted at the top of page 3.