Since early 2002, Sun Microsystems Inc has been talking about how it would deliver partitioning technology for the Solaris platform. This should allow the kind of fine-grained, sub-CPU logical partitioning that rivals IBM Corp and Hewlett Packard Co have popularised.
With Solaris 10, Sun will take a slightly different tack from the industry when it delivers its own variant on logical partitioning, which it is calling zones or trusted containers, depending on who at Sun you talk to.
Sun has been delivering static partitioning since it acquired the 64-way Starfire Enterprise 10000 server line from Cray in 1996. The Cray server was based on a four-way cell board, and the granularity of the static partitions, which Sun calls domains, was that cell board.
No partition could be smaller than that cell board. (This is a common way to deliver static partitioning). Sun’s domains, like other static partitions, could span multiple cell boards, all the way up to creating a single domain that covered all processors in the system. In 1999, just as the dot-com bubble was expanding to its breaking point, Sun delivered dynamic partitions on the Starfire servers that could automatically move resources from one domain to the other at the cell board level.
With the advent of the Sun Fire Serengeti servers in 2000 and 2001, Sun brought the dynamic domain concept down into the midrange with the Sun Fire 3800, 4800, and 6800 servers and extended it to more powerful servers in the Sun Fire 12000 and 15000 lines.
In September 2002, Sun launched a new feature in Solaris 9 and its integrated Sun Management Center resource manager called IP Quality of Service (IPQoS), and this was the first step in delivering zones. In general, QoS software allows service providers and data centers to provide different amounts of bandwidth and resources to different classes of customers.
What is immediately obvious in this description of zones is that the Solaris kernel is still a single point of failure, and this is something that Sun’s competitors will be sure to point out. Sun will no doubt counter that IBM’s Power series of servers, which are sold under the iSeries and pSeries brands, a hypervisor layer that sits above the hardware and below AIX, Linux, and OS/400 operating systems residing in logical partitions, is also a single point of failure.
Bill Moffitt, group manager of Solaris product marketing, says that the zones feature of Solaris 10, which is also being called Solaris Next since Sun may change the naming of the product, will be available in beta through the Solaris Express program starting in the first quarter of 2004. The formal beta of Solaris 10, which is being called a customer acceptance release, will begin in early 2004. Solaris 10 is expected to be delivered as a finished product in the fourth quarter of 2004, perhaps in the October timeframe if the word on the street is right.
This article was originally based on material published by ComputerWire.