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Solaris 9 - should you upgrade?

What's different in Solaris 9 and the pros and cons of upgrading.


Solaris 9 - should you upgrade?
Barrie Sosinsky

It is always a major decision when you decide to upgrade your operating system. Hopefully you will be trading the many costs, both apparent and hidden, for improved features and performance. For shops running Solaris 8 servers and workstations, it's now time to take note of Solaris 9; as this new version of Sun's flagship UNIX OS has reached it's Beta refresh, and is becoming feature complete. While most vendors will focus on features (Solaris 9 has over 300 new ones), those features are only useful if you can actually make use of them.

The goals of Solaris 9 were to improve:

  1. Manageability
  2. Performance and Scalability
  3. Security
  4. Integration

Many previously add-on tools are now bundled, such as: software RAID, the Volume Manager, the SAMBA file sharing server, and the iPlanet Directory Server. But Solaris 9 has many features that you may find useful that aren't obvious. Network administrators will find significant improvement in the Resource Manager, which now lets you allocate system resources such as CPUs, bandwidth, and access to applications by users and groups on a project basis as a function of roles thus providing a very powerful in the box QoS (Quality of Service) tool. IP network multipathing, online UFS Snapshots, and support for dial-up connections are now in the OS.

Security is a major focus of Solaris 9, as well it should be. The OS includes the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) key management for IPsec; a Kerberos v. 5 and add-ons to RBAC (Role Based Access Control) that was previously only available in Trusted Solaris. You will also appreciate the Solaris Secure Shell that allows a user to securely access a remote system even over an unsecured network such as the Internet, a new firewall capability, and a real random number generator. Improving directory services was one of the key benefits. iPlanet Directory Server 5.1 comes with a new LDAP client, and administrators will be pleased to find an NIS+ to LDAP migration tool is included.

Solaris 9 now comes with significantly better support for Linux. New libraries, utilities, and source commands (such as bzip, gzip, gtar, and others) support Solaris 9's ability to run Linux programs with minor modification, thus increasing the already large library of applications available to Solaris users, and developers will be able to develop Linux-compatible programs more easily on Solaris. While Solaris 9 retains the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) as its default window manager with an audio enhancement, DVD, and CDRW support, OpenWindows desktop has been discontinued; Solaris can still run OpenWindows applications, however. You'll find a preview of the GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) GUI desktop, panel, applications, and tool set in Solaris 9. The shipping version of the GNOME GUI will be released in Q3 2002.

To summarize, Solaris 9 offers value to systems where fault tolerance and better scalability are required. For any organization running directory services on Solaris, it is also worth considering upgrades. And the third class of users who will benefit significantly from this Solaris 9 are those people who want to work extensively with Solaris and Linux together.

For information about Solaris 9, go to the Early Access Web site.

Barrie Sosinsky ( president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.

This was last published in April 2002

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