Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Future - SPARC M8+ & Solaris

[SPARC Logo, Courtesy SPARC International]

The  Future - SPARC M8+ & Solaris


Solaris has been the heart of Sun Microsystems since 1982, with 32 bit SPARC RISC CPU since 1987. Fujitsu joined the SPARC/Solaris community in 1992, with others to follow. In 1995, SPARC went 64 bit, and has been ever since. In 2009, Oracle Corporation purchased Sun and all of it's SPARC & Solaris assets. Oracle & Fujitsu had been releasing processors & Solaris releases in rapid succession, ever since.

[SPARC Roadmap, courtesy Fujitsu]

Fujitsu SPARC Roadmap

In 2017, Fujitsu released one of the fastest processors on the market, which happened to be a SPARC. Since they, they had been very clear about it's roadmap for SPARC & Solaris, reaching out to a new SPARC release in 2020. Their roadmap has not changed in close to a year, so they appear to be on-track.

[SPARC & Solaris Roadmap, courtesy Oracle]

Oracle SPARC Roadmap

Shortly after Fujitsu's SPARC release, Oracle also released their SPARC M8 processor, which became the fastest socket in the world, once again. Also in September, Oracle release a roadmap where there was no future SPARC socket. This has been remedied in Spring 2018, where a snapshot of the official Oracle SPARC roadmap mirrors Fujitsu.

The spread between M6, M7, M8, and M8+ all seem to be spaced about 2.5 years apart, indicating not much of a change in the silicon release schedule from Oracle. Both Fujitsu & Oracle are now both using the same TSC fab for their SPARC silicon, which hints at a degree of consolidation outside of their roadmaps.

As with the way Embedded 10 Gig Ethernet was consolidated on the old T2+ socket, Network Management is wondering if Oracle will finally release the embedded Infiniband on the M8+ sockets. Embedded Infiniband was conspicuously missing from the "Sonoma" S7 release. (This would be a huge bonus to the Engineered Systems, to add a high degree of consolation & increase reliability & increased performance - TODAY.)

More interesting, there is a new hardware category called "Next Generation Storage", linked with the M8+ servers. Oracle had never been a true hardware company before purchasing Sun - they mostly re-sold hardware from third party vendors in their engineered systems, where Oracle felt they could add services value. Seeing SPARC in the roadmap, for engineered systems, is interesting, but will Solaris SPARC assume the role (with Solaris 11.4's new Storage features) or Intel Linux (with new Block volumes in Linux Storage Appliance)?

[Solaris Logo, Courtesy Sun Microsystems]

Oracle Solaris Roadmap

Oracle announced in early 2017 that SPARC & Solaris will move to an Agile Continuous Improvement cycle. Solaris 12 was erased from the roadmap, which was expected with Continuous Delivery, but created an odd amount of uncertainty in the media. Human resources alignments occurred in 2 batches, creating a large amount of uncertainty, but a new M8 processor was released. Assurances that Premier Support would continue to at least 2038!

January 2018, Solaris 10 went on Extended Support, meaning an uplift for patches are required, and 3 more years before patches cease. The final Premier Support patches were released, called 2018-01. The push to Solaris 11 is on!

Solaris 11.3 continued to get monthly SRU's (i.e. Solaris 11.3 SRU 30, Solaris 11.3 SRU 31, etc.) Open Beta of Solaris 11.4 was released, followed by a refresh, and finally an announcement that there will be a major point release of Solaris ever summer moving forward. The latest Solaris 11.4 refresh is nearly all 64 bit with buffer overflow protections, which is quit an accomplishment! The roadmap shows the next release, Solaris Next, which will likely be Solaris 11.5


As the market uncertainty over SPARC & Solaris continues, new silicon and new operating system releases continue to occur. Long term industry players continue to release hardware. Solaris continues is march forward with aggressive new features, even pushing all components in the operating system to 64 bit. The only promise still outstanding is rebootless patching, possibly with KSplice. Wim, where is Solaris KSplice? You're in charge now, right?

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