Sun Announces Enhancements to Solaris 9

Integrates App Server

Coming on the heels of IBM Corp.’s updates to AIX, rival Sun Microsystems Inc. announced enhancements to its flagship Solaris 9 Unix operating system. It features improvements for large-scale computing and integrates features from its SunONE software platform.

Sun makes incremental enhancements to Solaris on a quarterly basis, and yesterday’s announcement includes new features that will arrive Tuesday and in September.

One of the enhancements that will most impact the world of large-scale computing is Sun’s integration of its Resource Management utilities into Solaris 9. The tools were originally available as an add-on package for Solaris 8.

With Resource Management, administrators can dedicate resources to applications to ensure the availability of an application. “Its kind of like a partition manager, except you’re not running multiple copies of the same operating system,” says Bill Moffitt, product line manager for Solaris at Sun.

Administrators can allocate a minimum amount of CPU power and RAM to a “container” where an application runs. This allows no single application to dominate the power of a machine. If an application is under unusual load, it can use any unallocated resources to meet demand.

Moffitt says Sun is planning to extend containers to further parallel logical partitions in the mainframe by adding Security Isolation and Fault Isolation into future versions. Security Isolation will isolate containers from the rest of server, so if a hacker compromises one container, the other containers are safe. Similarly, Fault Isolation prevents other containers from crashing if one application fails.

Sun regards containers as an extension to its Dynamic System Domains, which are hardware-isolated partitions running on the same machine. Unlike mainframe partitions, which are fully independent of processors, Dynamic System Domains are tied to a system board with CPU and RAM. Dynamic System Domains also allow users to swap memory and processor while the machine is running.

A second major enhancement in Solaris 9 is Sun’s integration of its SunONE platform into the operating system. The first product integrated into Solaris is the SunONE Directory Server, formerly known as iPlanet Directory Server. It is an LDAP name service that can plug into a variety of applications for authentication and user access. Moffitt says it can even connect to Microsoft Corp.’s Active Directory using Kerberos.

With the September release, Sun will integrate its J2EE application server, SunONE (formerly iPlanet) Application Server into Solaris. Moffitt says users should not need to purchase two products, an operating system and an application server, simply to run enterprise applications, so the J2EE platform will be included. “Users will be able to deploy Web Services right out of the box,” he says.

Although Sun created the J2EE standard, it lags behind BEA Systems Inc. and IBM in the application server market. The bundling of SunONE Application Server may be an attempt to gain market share from these competitors.

Moffitt himself wonders why the creator of the spec trails behind some competitors. “There is no reason why we should lag… We make a very good application server,” he says.

However, Moffitt the phenomenon only cements Sun’s commitment to open standards. Like the POSIX standard which keeps the user experience relatively uniform among Unix versions, the J2EE similarly maintains a consistent development platform, which Sun thinks is a good thing. “It’s the game that we’ve played for the life of the company,” Moffitt says, “What we want to do is create standards to make the playing field as level as possible.”

Moffit says Sun would rather see competitors use and profit from its technology than lock customers into its platform. “If you trap your customers on your platform, the only thing your customers want is off,” he says.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.