Friday, January 11, 2019

ZFS Primer for Solaris 11.3

ZFS Primer for Solaris 11.3

What is ZFS?

ZFS is a flattened Volume Management & File System infrastructure that takes care of just about any basic OS needs. With 32 bit filesystems running out of steam, ZFS was created as a 128 bit filesystem to last for the

What are the features?

Basic features include:
- basic file system
- multiple file systems sharing a single pool of storage
- concatenation/striping to extend pools of storage
- mirroring to protect pools of storage
- hot-sparing of storage
- RAID to affordably protect a pool of storage (should use battery backup)
- RAIDZ to affordably protect a pool of storage (without battery backup)
- automatic silent data corruption correction
- on-line silent data corruption search & correction
- double Parity RAID to survive a dual disk failure
- snapshot, for read-only point-in-time data consistency
- scheduled snapshots, to provide rollback from user level data corruption 
- diff, to determine differences between snapshots
- clones, to make snapshots read-write
- promotion, to make a clone the record of reference
- rollback, to restore a snapshot to become the record of reference
- send, to backup a pool or filesystem to an alternate location
- receive, to restore a pool or filesystem from an alternate location
- deduplication, to make it an exquisite repository for massive VM repositories
- compression, to speed I/O and store more data
- encryption, to secure data
- sharing storage over NFS natively
- sharing storage over CIFS natively
- sharing storage over iSCSI natively

Is it Stable?

It was introduced in 2005, very stable.

Where is it used?
It is used as the default file system for Solaris 11, newer Operating Systems, storage appliances, and was even introduced into older operating systems (like Solaris 10 or Linux) as optional root disk storage.

Where can I find out more?

 In December 2016, Fujitsu released a document called the "ZFS Implementation and Operations Guide". It is about the best introduction to ZFS that this author had ever seen. It is well worth the read!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

SPARC Solaris Upgrades Continue - US AirForce

SPARC Solaris Upgrades Continue - US Air Force

The US Air Force is contracting with Stellar Innovations & Solutions, Inc is contracting to upgrade Sun T15140 Chassis to T7-1 Chassis, across the nation!
[Sun SPARC T5140]
This is a full time job for about 4 engineers with experience. Engineers will unbox, install, wire, label, and make sure the project manager & customer are aware of the progress.

[Oracle SPARC T7-1]
This is a great opportunity to execute on your Solaris & SPARC Skills!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Linus releases RC5 of Linux patches to fix SPECTREv2

Linus releases RC5 of Linux patches to fix SPECTREv2


A new set of Intel based vulnerabilities had been discovered Every security release for Linux had creates slower versions of the Operating System. Linux even started shipping their Operating System with security disabled, by default. This latest release candidate disables another item.
[Penguin courtesy TheRegister]

November Release

Linus released a kernel patch to fix a November Release issue.
In November, it emerged that Spectre Version 2 fixes in the Linux kernel were a performance nightmare. Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors (STIBP) were the culprit: they didn't play well with symmetrical multi-threading (SMT), and performance took a 50 per cent hit.

People were not very happy about this latest fix.

[SPECTRE logo]

December Release

What is contained in this Intel Linux release candidate:
The workaround was to disable STIBP while waiting for a fix, and that's what landed in Linux 4.20-rc5. Phoronix described the fix as “processes opting into [STIBP] (via prctl interface and defaulting it on for SECCOMP processes”, rather than applying SMT to all threads.
 This latest fix attempt is not without pain.
Torvalds remarked that this release candidate has lots of code: “rc5 is the biggest rc so far (with the obvious exception of rc1), and it looks fairly unusual in the diffstat too, with almost a third being arch updates."
Merry Christmas - The Intel security nightmare continues.

[Oracle SPARC Hardware Family]

SPARC Solaris Fast & Secure

As mentioned earlier in Network Management, Oracle SPARC T4, T5, M5, M6, M7, S7, and M8 had been patched at the Firmware Level, making their systems secure for the hosted Solaris Operating System... while all older Sun 64 bit SPARC Processors were immune.

As existing Intel hardware continues to get slower with every patch, SPARC processors, which were faster to begin with, continue to show performance gains, by merely existing as a more secure alternative.


While the rest of the world is still struggling with Linux on Intel processors, SPARC based Data Centers continue to run. Running in security & safety under SPARC is quite normal.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Oracle Ends Microsoft Windows Platform Support

Oracle Ends Microsoft Windows Platform Support


Sun Microsystems had branched out into Intel Support, even as far as alternate operating systems, to gain market share. For awhile, Sun was #3 in servers shipped. Oracle had purchased Sun Microsystems, advanced the SPARC processors, to make the fastest servers in the world, running Solaris. This occurred, as Oracle continued to advance Intel based Engineered Systems. Microsoft Windows was a key native platform support for Intel Oracle hardware.
[Microsoft Windows Logo, courtesy ]

Oracle Orphans Windows on Intel Based Bare Metal:

Oracle had discontinued Intel Hardware Management support for Microsoft Windows on the their Intel based chassis. As per their note:
Note - Oracle Hardware Management Pack version 2.3.8 is the last release of Oracle Hardware Management Pack to include support for the Microsoft Windows operating system.
August 2018 Release Notes for Oracle Hardware Management Pack version 2.4 clearly states that it has removed Microsoft Windows Support.
Removed support for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Oracle Hardware Management Pack version 2.3.8 is the last version to support Microsoft Windows.

Windows on Oracle's Bare-Metal Servers will no longer be a best-practice in datacenters.

[Solaris Logo, courtesy Sun Microsystems]

Oracle Solaris on SPARC & Intel Lives On

The Oracle Hardware Management Pack has become integrated & delivered in Oracle Solaris 11 releases, directly from Oracle. It has been bundled in 11.2, 11.3, and now 11.4 - from the very first releases of the operating systems. Support for Oracle Solaris on Oracle Hardware lives on!


The push seems to be on to push Microsoft Windows off of native hardware support on Oracle Intel based systems. If there is a desire to properly manage an OS on Oracle bare metal, Microsoft Windows is not a good choice, from a lifecycle management perspective. Solaris and Linux are best-practices. While Oracle Linux is a best practice under Intel, Solaris is a best-practice both under SPARC and Intel.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The First SPARC Workstation... and The Future

[Sun Microsystems Logo]

The First SPARC Workstation... and the Future


When former Sun Microsystems employees gather for reunions, stories formerly only known to a small group of original inventors will often become known. One such story was the creation of the first SPARC based desktop workstation. This story was referenced in an IEEE publication from 2014.

[Sign outside Xerox Palo Alto Research Center]

The Workstation and Xerox Parc

Xerox had a research center in Palo Alto California, which was decades ahead of its time. Xerox, a corporation built around document processing, conceptualized the modern computer, and inspired an industry.

[Alto I Computer System, Xerox (PARC), US, 1973, courtesy flickr]

A tale of inspiration

Sun co-founder and chief hardware designer Andy Bechtolsheim recalls spending a lot of time at Xerox Parc as an unpaid consultant during his graduate student days. These days, the position might have been considered an internship, but in those more informal times, Bechtolsheim recalls, it was more like an invitation to hang around, and he did so as much as possible, mostly testing chip design tools in development. At the time, Parc researchers did their jobs using Parc technology—like the Alto computer, with its bitmapped display and Ethernet connectivity. “That’s where the idea of building a personal workstation for engineers and scientists originated," said Bechtolsheim. "It was obvious even as a grad student that the world needed such a product, particularly for engineers who wanted to do chip design or board design.”


The First Workstations

He wanted one for himself, but Xerox wasn’t turning it into a product for engineers. So he built it himself using mostly off-the-shelf parts. That attempt turned into the Sun workstation. 
Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla reported that when he met Bechtolsheim and expressed interest in the technology, Bechtolsheim offered it to him at his standard licensing fee—US $10 000. Khosla said he told Bechtolsheim “I want you, not your technology. I don’t want the golden egg, I want the goose.”
For its first official week of existence in 1982, Sun Microsystems was "Sun Workstation." That was until the founders figured out that nobody knew what a workstation was.
The very first Sun workstations delivered to a major customer in May 1982 didn’t run Unix; instead, they were used as IBM 360 terminal emulators.

[Sun 100 desktop workstation spotted at Heinz Nixdorf Museums Forum in Paderborn, Germany]

Sun-1 Motorola 68000 Workstations

The very first workstations did not include graphics, but included an embedded UNIX Operating System. The Sun 1 "workstation was based on the Stanford University SUN workstation designed by Andy Bechtolsheim (advised by Vaughan Pratt and Forrest Baskett), a graduate student and co-founder of Sun Microsystems."

[Sun 2/50 diskless workstation]

 Sun-2 Motorola 68010 Workstations

The Sun-2 "series of UNIX workstations and servers was launched by Sun Microsystems in November 1983.[1] As the name suggests, the Sun-2 represented the second generation of Sun systems, superseding the original Sun-1 series. The Sun-2 series used a 10 MHz Motorola 68010 microprocessor with a proprietary Sun-2 Memory Management Unit (MMU), which enabled it to be the first Sun architecture to run a full virtual memory UNIX implementation, SunOS 1.0, based on 4.1BSD."
[A Sun 3/60 workstation with disk and tape]

Sun-3 Motorola 68020 & 68030 Workstations

The Sun-3 is a series of UNIX computer workstations and servers produced by Sun Microsystems, launched on September 9, 1985.[1] The Sun-3 series are VMEbus-based systems similar to some of the earlier Sun-2 series, but using the Motorola 68020 microprocessor, in combination with the Motorola 68881 floating-point co-processor (optional on the Sun 3/50) and a proprietary Sun MMU.

[SPARC Logo, courtesy SPARC International]

 SPARC Workstations Considered

The development project that created a workstation based on the SPARC processor only happened because Bechtolsheim went rogue. Bechtolsheim tells the story: “The company was building Motorola-processor based workstations, and Motorola wasn’t keeping up CPU development. Meanwhile, Bill Joy convinced the company that we should use the SPARC chip. By ‘86 Sun was shipping its first SPARC server. By ‘87, there was a discussion—should we put this into a workstation. But the VP of engineering thought this was lunatic, too much risk. Sun at that point was a public company. As a public company, people get instantaneously conservative and make decisions the way Digital Equipment Corp. would make a decision, which wasn’t quick.
But Bechtolsheim thought the risk was worth it, in part because he was worried about what Steve Jobs was doing with his then-new company, Next. “I knew what was going on at Next, because I had a friend who worked there, and I grew concerned that they were building a better product. They were using the [Motorola] 68000 [microprocessor], so I wanted to have a product with a faster CPU, because in terms of cost/performance there’s nothing better than a faster chip."
[SPARCStation 1+]

The First SPARC Workstation

So Bechtolsheim informally split from Sun in 1987, starting a separate corporation called Unisun. The moniker was intended to give the impression that the new business was going to go after the university market, and not Sun's regular business customers, but, said Bechtolsheim, it was always intended to be a general purpose workstation.
Khosla, who by then had left Sun to join venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, funded the venture. "We agreed to fund Andy to essentially rip-off Sun technology,” Khosla recalls.  “We told the board we were going to do this whether they liked it or not, but they could buy back at cost," that is, purchase the company and its intellectual property for the amount of Kleiner's investment.
 “Three or six months after we got going Sun decided it should indeed be a Sun product line, and it came out in 1989; it was Sun’s best selling workstation.”


The irony of history is sometimes hard to get past. One can sometimes have the most advanced hardware and software solutions, but not know how to market it for economic advantage... thus was the case for Xerox. Wrapping off-the-shelf products with a clean software design with built in Ethernet Interfaces resulted in the creation of an entirely new class of computing systems and ultimately The Internet. With the advent of The Internet, The Market transitioned from Workstations to Servers... ironically, often by stacking Sun Workstation "pizza boxes" on a shelf in a rack, connecting their embedded Ethernet cards. Sun used to say "The Network Is The Computer", and they were right.

[Oracle Logo, Courtesy Oracle Corporation]


Today, the highest performing general purpose microprocessor on the market continues to be SPARC. Oracle, a software company, now owns a proverbial "Golden Egg", with Fujitsu being the other. June 2016 marked the time when Oracle resumed shipping commodity competitive systems based upon  the SPARC S7. September 2017, Oracle cut SPARC "Core" Team employees. SPARC firmware continues to roll out, providing the most secure microprocessor platform on the market.

SPARC Tomorrow

Also in September 2017, once again released the fastest processor on the market - the SPARC M8. As 2020 approaches, the market looks forward to what will most likely be the fastest processor on the market, the SPARC M8+. With SPARC stunning performance, the market debates where the proverbial "Goose" still lives.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

DoD: 5-10 Year SPARC Processor Contract Award

[SPARC M8 Processor, Courtesy Oracle Corporation]

DoD: 5-10 Year SPARC Processor Contract Award


The SPARC family of processors had been produced by manufacturers, both foreign and domestic, for decades. Sun Microsystems created the first SPARC specification, with dozens of manufacturers creating their own implementations. Vendors such as Fujitsu and Oracle continue to produce SPARC processors, today. Vendors have been providing On-Premise to Off-Premise compute power in recent years. The Department of Defense had awarded another contract, SPARC support for 5-10 years to ViON, who provides both on and off premise SPARC compute resources.
[SPARC Logo, courtesy SPARC International]

SPARC Introduction:

The SPARC Processor was created to out scale older processor chips in the 1980's, becoming one of the most successful 32 bit commercial RISC processors. The first 64 bit SPARC processors were released in 1993, a decade before Intel processor clone manufacture AMD created an x86 64 bit processor using AMD64 in 2003, with Sun porting Solaris. Intel followed a year later with Intel64 in 2004, a full decade after Sun had released 64 Bit SPARC. SPARC continued to be the fastest single thread, largest memory footprint, or largest scalable SMP multiple threaded workhorse in the industry, for decades to come... with CPU chips supplied from various vendors.
[Oracle SPARC M8 Processor Addition in 2017, courtesy Oracle Corporation]

Today's SPARC:

SPARC continues to be the fastest single thread, single core, single, socket, and SMP multiple socket performer, on the market today... with many additional features such as database accelerators, cryptographic accelerators, and decompression accelerators. The need for the fastest processing continues to be needed by high end customers, such as government, defense, and large enterprises.
[Fujitsu/Oracle SPARC M12 Chassis, courtesy Fujitsu]

Fujitsu's M12 Processor

Fujitsu's latest April 2017 implementation of SPARC is the M12 processor, with 12 cores per socket, 8 threads [vCPU] per core, more co-processors, and ability to expand to 32 sockets in a pair of racks. This allows for massive compute & memory capacity on a scale unachievable in in other architecture platforms. Platforms such as this is optimal for massive Government and Multi-Nation Enterprises.


[Oracle SPARC M8 Block Diagram, courtesy Oracle Corporation]

Oracle M8 Processor

Oracle's latest August 2017 implementation of SPARC is the M8 processor, with 32 compute cores, 8 threads [vCPU] per core, more co-processors, phenomenal performance outrunning all non-SPARC processors [as has been consistent, for years.] Oracle implemented 8 Sockets per chassis, to meet their own Enterprise based Engineered System requirements.


[SPARC Physical and Logical Virtualization, courtesy Oracle Corporation]

SPARC Virtualization:

Before other mainstream vendors had built some degree of virtualization, a mature 64 bit SPARC platform offered many options of virtualization, adding various layers over time:
  • Physical Domains (1993 by the Cray Superserver 6400)
  • Zones [Containers] (2004 by Sun Microsystems on Solaris 10 Beta Build 51)
  • Logical Domains (2007 by Sun Microsystems on their SPARC T1 processors)
Vendors like ViON can technically provide compute resources via any one of these technologies, including bare-metal physical.


SPARC and the Solaris Operating System, which provides amazing flexibility to larger installations. It appears that this latest government contract will last well into the next SPARC release, projected by both Oracle & Fujitsu - where both vendors expect the next SPARC release to be 2020.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Solaris 11.3 SRU 35 - The Last SRU; Solaris 11.4 Lives!

Solaris 11.3 SRU 35 - The Last SRU; Solaris 11.4 Lives!

The Solaris 11.3 SRU 35 is the final SRU for Solaris 11.3. This SRU seems to have an issue with breaking OpsCenter agents and proxies. There does not seem to be very good reason to upgrade to this SRU, since it does more damage than benefit.

Solaris 11 is officially moved GA [2018-08-25] to 11.4! Oracle released SRU 1 [2018-09-24] and SRU 2 [2018-10-16] in rapid succession. have been released, but OpsCenter is sill broken.

Solaris 11 is now on a monthly SRU train and a yearly minor release train. Each month will be a new SRU. Summer of 2019 will be Solaris 11.5


The defect appears to be a problem with an OS bundled release of Java. No official release of Ops Center is planned to be released, to correct this problem. OS mitigations and interim patches for OpsCenter leave a bad taste in this author's mouth. Oracle needs to make an official release of OpsCenter or fix Java.