OpenSolaris 2009.06 filled with major virtualization, storage upgrades

Sun calls Crossbow biggest network stack improvement in a decade

Sun Monday made available the OpenSolaris 2009.06 operating system, which included for the first time Sun's Crossbow technology for creating virtual network infrastructure on a single system.

The latest version of the open source operating system (available here) also includes new flash storage technology and integration with Microsoft's CIFS file system, along with support for OpenSolaris as a control domain for virtual environments.

Sun called Crossbow's network virtualization and resource management the largest rewrite to its networking stack in more than a decade.

"These are big and important technologies," says Dan Roberts, director of product management for data center software at Sun. "They are some of the biggest game changers we have delivered in a long time."

Crossbow not only provides technologies like Virtual NICs (VNICs) and Virtual Switches for isolating applications on virtual machines (VM), but includes resource management and flow controls to provide such features as bandwidth management and quality of service for separate VMs.

Roberts says OpenSolaris 2009.06, which is the latest release on a six-month release cycle for the open source project, is a preview of the next generation Solaris operating system.

"In the not-too-distant future we will take one of these six month releases of OpenSolaris and deliver the next version of Solaris," he says. "If you put a number moniker on that it might be Solaris 11, but the final naming and versioning has yet to be decided."

Roberts says timing of that release is not being announced, but the earliest possibility of a new Solaris version would be early 2010 given the OpenSolaris release cycle.

By that time, Sun will be engulfed by Oracle, which signed a deal in April to purchase Sun for US$7.4 billion. At the time, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison said one of the primary reasons Oracle was interested in Sun was for its Unix-based Solaris OS,operating system, which has long been an important platform for Oracle's database and has a fairly healthy and significant installed base.

With this 2009.06 release of OpenSolaris, Sun has added integrated flash storage support to its ZFS file system. The flash devices can be used to speed reads and writes to high performance storage systems.

Sun also added native support for Microsoft CIFS and made the file system a full peer to NFS. The work is part of a 2005 technology integration pact between Sun and Microsoft.

The CIFS support allows OpenSolaris to look like a Windows client and a Windows server on the network.

With OpenSolaris 2009.06, Sun also added high-performance iSCSI and Fiberchannel block protocols to the Solaris kernel and upgraded OpenSolaris with the ability to serve as the control domain for its hypervisors -- LDOM (Logical Domains) and Xen.Previously Solaris 10 had to be used as the control domain, but 10 does not yet have the Crossbow technology or Comstar framework for storage. Sun says users can maintain their Solaris 10 environments via VMs running on OpenSolaris and take advantage now of the new OpenSolaris technologies.

"This allows the investment in Solaris 10 to be maintained," Roberts says. "All those Solaris 10 apps can be virtualized on top of an open source solution that gives you access to this new innovation."

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