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Oracle still develops for Solaris Unix, but at a slower pace

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April 30, 2014

Former BSD and Unix server enterprise customers are continuing their march towards Linux and for some there's no looking back. However, that hasn't stopped Oracle from continuing its own development of Solaris Unix, but at a slower pace than before.

Yesterday, Oracle staged an event in New York to announce the launch of Solaris version 11.2, which is only the second point release of the former Sun Microsystems product since Solaris 11 shipped in November 2011, the last being in 2012.

However, even though the operating system is only getting a minor version-number increase, that doesn't mean it doesn't include significant updates, according to Solaris product director Larry Wake.

Oracle says the new update shouldn't break any existing Unix systems. "In fact, what the dot really means is that we've incorporated some noteworthy changes in such a manner that we're not leaving anything, or anyone behind," Wake said.

"This is Oracle Solaris 11, only more so. The reason that it's a dot is that there are no concerns for existing version 11 end users and developers about how to integrate this into their environments," he added.

At the 2011 launch, Oracle trumpeted Solaris 11 as "the first cloud OS," and predictably it's continuing that theme with the new release.

But most of the new features do have a cloudy texture, even if Oracle's increasingly niche OS is more likely to be deployed on private clouds than public ones.

But most significantly, Solaris 11.2 now comes bundled with a complete OpenStack distribution. Oracle joined the OpenStack bandwagon in December and said at the time that it planned to integrate support for the open source cloud technology across multiple products, including Solaris and Oracle Linux.

With OpenStack support for Solaris, enterprise customers will now be able to manage their Solaris virtual machines from the same OpenStack dashboard as their KVMs and ESX instances.

And to sweeten things a bit, the release also bundles the popular Puppet IT automation software to help speed provisioning, configuration, software management and other repetitive tasks.

Also new are Unified Archives, a new form of backup and archiving software that allows system admins to clone their entire environments for disaster recovery or quick provisioning in the cloud.

To demonstrate the new technology, Oracle has provided a Unified Archive for OpenStack that makes it possible to spin up a single node of Solaris OpenStack system in a matter of minutes, Oracle claims.

Additionally, a new application-driven software defined networking feature (SDN) allows applications to prioritize their own traffic via networking flows that can be used to specify service level agreements (SLAs) within the data center.

There have also been numerous virtualization improvements, including the ability to dynamically reconfigure Solaris Zones without a reboot and support for automated Zone renaming.

And new Kernel Zones can run different kernel versions from the global zone and can be patched without requiring a reboot of the global Zone.

For a detailed breakdown of all the new features in Solaris 11.2, you can check the formal release notes on Oracle's site.

You can also download the operating system and try it out for yourself, but so far it's only in beta. Oracle says to expect the final release to ship sometime in the summer.

In other IT news

HP is trying to keep its dwindling server market share from lower cost Asian makers that are eating into its own shipments by inking a deal with China's Foxconn in an effort to reduce the cost of lower-end servers. HP had been mulling the decision for several months already.

When it comes to the Cloud, the so-called 'white box' server market is still a rapidly growing market, according market research firm IDC.

But besides Foxconn, there are a lot of other lower cost server makers in Asia, including offerings from Quanta Computer, Wistron, Inventec and Compal Electronics, among others.

Those Chinese and Taiwanese hardware-builders account for single-digit percentage market revenues and are still overshadowed by HP itself, Dell and Lenovo.

However, they are still considered to be forces to be dealt with in the United States, producing servers for big names including Google, Amazon, Sun Hosting, Rackspace and Facebook.

Against such a backdrop, HP has signed a strategic commercial agreement with Foxconn to build a new line of cloud-optimized servers targeting that very market segment.

The servers HP wants the deal to work include quick customer response times and volume manufacturing that result in high-density, easy to manage, cost competitive hardware.

Server specifications, prices and availability are expected once the non-equity joint venture takes effect from tomorrow, but HP said the line will sit alongside its existing ProLiant systems.

In prepared comments, HP CEO Meg Whitman said it was combining its innovation with Foxconn's high-volume design and manufacturing capabilities.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou added-- "Cloud computing is radically changing the entire supply chain for the server market as customers place new demand on breadth of design capability, value-oriented solutions, large scale and global manufacturing capabilities."

To be sure, Foxconn already builds HP servers, storage and integrated custom built systems in EMEA. The plants are Foxconn-owned but HP teams are on site for planning, logistics and quality assurance.

In other IT news

LSI said yesterday that it has added some faster chips to its Nytro PCIe server flash cards. Now, SQL Server 2014 can run in-memory. LSI's updated Nytro cards provide a server with PCIe-connected flash.

SQL Server 2014 has a Buffer Pool Extension feature that extends into flash memory where it functions as a level 2 cache, subordinate to the level 1 cache which is DRAM.

That means, where the SQL Server 2014 working set is bigger than the L1 cache, it can avoid going to disk for data it wants that isn't in the L1 cache and in that manner it can run faster.

SQL Server 2014 will automatically transfer frequently accessed read data into the L2 cache, by writing them into a BPE file.

An Alter Server Configuration command is used to place the BPE file on the Nytro card.

The buffer pool extension feature extends the buffer pool cache with non-volatile storage, usually SSD. Because of this extension, the buffer pool can accommodate a larger database working set, which forces the paging of I/Os between RAM and the SSDs.

This effectively offloads small random I/Os from mechanical disks to SSDs. Because of the lower latency and better random I/O performance of SSDs, the buffer pool extension significantly improves I/O throughput, especially when dealing with large databases.

To be sure, Fusion-io's PCIe flash cards can support the BPE feature in SQL Server 2014, and we would suspect there's a set of Microsoft-certified PCIe flash cards and SSDs for BPE as well as the Fusion-io and LSI Nytro products.

In other IT news

Earlier this morning, IBM said it has launched its new cloud marketplace, a PaaS (platform-as-a-service) web property that offers IBM and third party a broad base of IT services.

The marketplace has three main elements. The foundation is the familiar SoftLayer infrastructure-as-a-service element, which like competing services from AWS, Google and Microsoft, allows enterprise customers cloud servers and then discard them when not needed anymore.

A new piece of IBM's cloud is the Bluemix platform-as-a-service play. Bluemix is based on Pivotal's CloudFoundry and offers its rapid deployment of services that are ready to run apps, as distinct from the IaaS modus operandi of rolling one's own servers.

Overall, Bluemix also offers IBM middleware and new services tailored to big data. The marketplace itself is a SaaS shopfront blending IBM's own software and that of its partners.

IBM has hinted at most of this for several months already, and the fact that it has now launched the service is a milestone rather than a revelation.

But this places Big Blue in the cloud game like never before and does so in a powerful way-- the likes of AWS have reached out to independent software developers to help them deliver cloud subscription services, but IBM has been helping that market get ready for several years.

Combining PaaS, IaaS and SaaS also gives IBM plenty of depth, again a useful distinction. And another element in IBM's favor is its deep roots in enterprise IT departments.

Source: Oracle.

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