Friday, May 18, 2018

Meltdown - SPARC Solaris: The Only Safe Choice

Meltdown - SPARC Solaris: The Only Safe Choice


As the rest of the industry has been struggling with security vulnerabilities, SPARC Solaris platforms have been relatively quiet. Meltdown, otherwise known as CVE-2017-5754, has taken the world by storm. Operating Systems have long relied on Memory Management Units to isolate user application programs from the OS kernel. This had come to a screeching halt, leaving lesser secure systems in a world of hurt.

[Meltdown Logo, courtesy]

Meltdown Vulnerability:

Some OS's will keep the Kernel Pages mapped into the same context as User Application Pages. This is often done for speed (i.e. linux) but places extra dependencies upon the MMU for isolation. Nearly all OS's had ceded this security concern to the CPU vendor, instead of applying the most secure practice in the OS architecture.


As one vendor noted, SPARC Solaris is immune from Meltdown and about the only platform not subject to this critical vulnerability in the data center. This was accomplished by OS designers placing Kernel and User pages into different contexts, a design which added additional security, but at a performance cost that other OS designers in the industry were not willing to cede.


Some Solaris systems, decades ago, may be affected, but nothing modern. Secure by Design is a typical decision for Solaris architects, a decision that has served them well for the decades they served a 64 bit OS to the user community, as other OS vendors played "catch up" in performance or features or functionality.


  1. For this amount of money it must be bulletproof.

    1. Bulletproof & Less Expensive in many cases.

      No cost for the hypervisor, no cost per OS instance on a logical domain, no cost per OS instance of a lightweight zone, support for hard partitions so database & application license liabilities are lower... the costs are lower than other environments.

      The worst part about it, people will unknowingly pay the uplifted costs, and not know their non-SPARC environments allow other VM’s to bleed critical VM’s from memory & CPU resulting in sporadic poor performance (which is impossible with SPARC LDoms, since the firmware provides real CPU, real memory, and predictable performance.)

      If people really want the ability to share CPU & Memory, in the Solaris environment - Zones are mature, robust, no additional cost.