Tag: Sun

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.

Server upgrade time – elemental.org gets modern

After almost 8 years of running elemental.org mail, mailing lists, shell accounts, many websites (such as this one), database servers and essentially being a one-server ISP, the Sun Ultra 2 which ran all those things as lithium.elemental.org was retired and replaced this past weekend with a new server. Say hello to mercury.elemental.org.

Mercury is a Dell PowerEdge 860 with a Intel Xeon X3220 (quad core, 2.4Ghz) and 4GB 8GB of 667Mhz DDR2 RAM. Unlike lithium, mercury’s storage is entirely internal in the form of two mirrored 500GB SATA drives. This is to keep the entire package in 1 rack unit of space to keep colocation costs down.

What really excites me about this new server is that it is running Solaris 10 8/07 (lithium was running a very patched Solaris 8 FCS!). Solaris installed without a hitch and the 860’s onboard BCM5721 NICs are recognized by the bge driver, as are its IPMI baseboard controller by the bmc driver. The chipset on this system is the Intel ICH7 and unfortunately the Solaris ahci driver supports only the ICH6 at the moment, so the drives are running just fine in IDE compatibility mode.

This upgrade wasn’t just a mere update of hardware and OS. I also completely changed how the mail storage works and also make use of ZFS file systems for each user home directory and virtual web site:

  1. Out with uw-imap, in with Cyrus. All mail is delivered to Cyrus, so there are no more maildir-style spools sitting in each person’s home directory.
  2. To take advantage of Cyrus’s features, elemental.org is now operating its own Kerberos realm, ELEMENTAL.ORG. This is my first time running my own Keberos KDC, and I love it. Cyrus and Sendmail, via SASL, now offer GSSAPI authentication. Using Solaris’s pam_krb5_migrate.so.1 PAM module, as people log in with their UNIX passwords, a Kerberos principle is made for them and they are granted tickets. Pine is configured to connect to Cyrus and authenticate with GSSAPI, so shell users don’t have to type in or save their password when accessing their email!
  3. As I mentioned, all user data is now stored on a mirrored ZFS pool. Each user and virtual website gets their own ZFS file system and this will allow me to keep tabs on disk usage (and easily delete a user or site if the need should arise.) The zpool’s net size is 442GB.
  4. All incoming email is goes through greylist, ClamAV, and finally SpamAssassin milters.
  5. I’m more at ease and familiar with Solaris’s SMF facility now, having made a point to write SMF manifests for the services I’m running rather than plain old init scripts.

In addition, I’m now monitoring several aspects and services on the new system using Cacti.

Here’s to another 8 years of hopefully trouble-free operation!

Solaris 10 8/07 “What’s New” docs are up

The first official list of new stuff added in Solaris 10 via its 4th update is available on docs.sun.com now:


Funny Sun bug fix of the day

So today I was reading over the release notes for patch 126400-1, which is the latest OpenBoot PROM and SC update for the T1000/T2000, and came across an interesting bug ID listed under the Problem Description section:

6510364 “War Mode” in ALOM-CMT is required by the US NAVY which is currently missing

Awesome. I love knowing that my T1000s have a “war mode” now. Perhaps Sun should call it the SkyNet T1000 ;) Hopefully it’s the feature and not the US Navy that was “currently missing.”

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.

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!

The state of enterprise storage for the Little Guy

Earlier this month I spewed some vitriol over an unpleasant discovery regarding the Sun StorageTek 6140 array and its underwhelming out-of-the-box feature set (which, three weeks later, remains an unresolved issue even after contacting and working with my VAR, Sun sales rep-proper, and two Sun SEs. Sigh) (NOTE: As of 8 Feb this issue has been resolved). This whole issue was over the sneaky renaming of a feature commonly known as LUN Masking and charging beaucoup bucks for it as a license-activated addon.

Well, I want to write some more about this with an industry-wide perspective because as of this past Thursday, Apple is now playing a similar game regarding their Xserve RAID systems. With the release of RAID Admin Tools 1.5.1 and associated firmware, Apple has removed LUN Masking as a feature of the Xserve RAID. Yep. Removed it. In a minor version release of the software, no less. Absolutely astonishing.

So, with the Sun StorageTek 6140 and its crippled features (unless you fork over $10+ mega bucks for a Storage Domains license pack of adquate seat count) and Apple rather brashly removing LUN Masking for no real stated reason and, to top it off, without warning, where does this leave us? And what of the (otherwise reputable) mid-range storage vendors who are left (HP? IBM?); who’s to say they won’t pull a similar stunt down the line?

Well, I know IBM is out of the picture for me as they OEM the same LSI Engenio system that Sun uses for the 6140. Yep, both IBM and Sun sell the exact same system, only IBM calls it the DS4700 Express and Sun calls their version the StorageTek 6140. Their only appreciable difference is one comes in IBM Black and the other in Sun Silver. You also have to buy the IBM equivalent of the 6140’s Storage Domains, which IBM calls “Partitions”. Talk about a screwed up sense of storage terminology.

Anyway, that pretty much leaves HP, and I’m petty unfamiliar with their product line or prices. I don’t even know if I can even get HP kit since I’m not aware of any current State of Maryland purchasing contract with them for this sort of stuff.

So what’s with this apparent vendor hate of LUN Masking in mid-range systems, anyway? One either has to pay out the nose to have it (regarding Sun and IBM) or it’s there but disappears into the night (Apple). Crikey. Whoever does product planning at Engenio, Sun, IBM, and Apple needs a serious reality check. For us people where mid-range is high-end, this behavior matters quite a bit. It just seems like feature sets are imploding rather than expanding, removing a distinct competitive advantage from these products.

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.

Sun + Intel = A Decent Move

Sun and Intel announced a new partnership between the two companies today, with both CEOs presenting at a news conference this morning.

Sun hasn’t had a Intel CPU in its product line since Sun discontinued its Pentium 4-based V60z server several years ago when the company was teething its new x86 product line. This product line eventually developed into the exclusively AMD Opteron-based servers we have today. Intel/Xeon was out, AMD/Opteron was in. With today’s announcement, both Intel and AMD will now share Sun’s x86 product portfolio.

I’ve noticed that reaction to this news has been mixed, with some saying it’s good, and others saying “WTF, mate?”. Sun’s Opteron-based Galaxy servers are top-notch, so this has lots of people utterly surprised… like having a great night out with someone and then being dumped on the doorstep.

Well, it’s surprising news to say the least. As I thought about it more, though, it isn’t bad at all for Sun, and really isn’t all that forboding for AMD. In exchange for a Intel-based product line, Intel will seriously push Solaris for Sun. That is exquisitely good news. Sun now has a product line which can serve both AMD and Intel customer preferences.

Think of that “iPod Halo Effect”. Sun doesn’t have to turn away customers who want Intel CPUs now, and with Intel pushing Solaris, hopefully more applications and thus more Solaris installations will be in customers’ data centers. I dare say that those customer will like Solaris, and perhaps look to buy (more) Sun servers.

Besides, Sun isn’t the only company to straddle the divide between AMD and Intel. Dell, a traditionally staunch Intel ally, added Opteron servers to its product line last year, as did IBM. HP has offered systems with CPUs from both companies for at least 1.5 years, if not longer.

It’s a move that makes sense, especially for Sun, and that in itself something we should applaud… moves that make sense (duh!)