Solaris 10 Zones

Posted by

Note: This post was originally part of my LinuxWorld blog; now migrated here after my resignation.I’m doing a review of Solaris 10 at the moment – expect it to appear in an new issue sometime over the summer – but I have to say that overall I’m impressed.I’m no stranger to Solaris, in fact I was one of the first people to have access to a Sparc 10 workstation and Solaris 2 when it came out in 1992 (we had, ISTR, Sparc 10 number 6 in the UK on my desk). It was so new at that time that our database supplier (BRS) had to visit us to port their software to the new platform, and this presented it’s own problems because Solaris 2 didn’t come with a C compiler. Luckily, we were next door to a Sun office so I popped round to borrow one of their CDs with the free gcc compiler on it!I also run Solaris x86 (currently 8, but I’ll be upgrading to 10 shortly) on my mail server here.The real question though is, as a Linux person, whether I find Solaris a suitable alternative? Well, philosophical issues of free and open source software aside, I think I could love Solaris as much as Linux in terms of an efficient Unix-based environment.What’s to like? Well, Solaris 10 is stable, quick and has a number of useful features for us developer types that make it exceedingly useful as a development platform.The most useful feature I’ve found so far are the Solaris Zones. Zones are a lot like VMware, but built right into the operating system. Want to create a secure area for testing an application? Use a zone. Want to try out some new, suspect, software? Use a zone. Want to run a honeypot service for your network without setting up a new machine for it? Use a zone.Does this make Solaris zones better than VMware on Linux? Well it’s certainly more convenient. Creating a zone doesn’t require creating or duplicating a new machine config, and I don’t need to have installed an OS on a template machine first to start using the zones. I also don’t need to worry about new virtual hard disks or using existing partitions to hold the new OS. Creating a zone is a relatively quick and easy process by comparison.The problem is that Zones are Solaris specific, so we lose the flexibility of the Linux/VMware combination right there, but for the majority of needs I’ve so far used a zone for the OS hasn’t been a limitation. There isn’t much in the open source community that doesn’t run on Solaris 10 afterall.Of course, add the open source philosphy back in again…