Author: Paul Dwerryhouse <email@example.com>
OpenSolaris 2008.05, Sun's community-developed open-source Solaris distribution, was released in May of this year, to much fanfare. While I began my system administration career in the Solaris field, I've found myself more and more in the Linux arena in the last few years, and haven't had a good look at Sun's flagship product since back in 2005, when Solaris 10 was released. With this in mind, I decided to pull down an ISO and see just how much going open-source has improved the product.
OpenSolaris is installed from a live-CD, a concept popularised by Knoppix and now employed by many Linux distributions. It's a considerable improvement upon the Solaris installer that we've become so familiar with in the past.
Installation is very straightforward. Pick a disk, set the timezone, set the root password, enter the name of a user and it then installs itself on your disk.
That said, there's not all that much flexibility to the installer. You can't choose the layout of the filesystems, and you can't install the operating system mirrored across two disks, although, it's fair to say that ZFS makes the first issue somewhat redundant (no more fixed partitions) and the second trivial to deal
The CD boot screen gives an option of a text-console view, but once booted, there doesn't appear to be any way to install the operating system without starting up X. If there is, it isn't documented particularly well. It would be a shame to omit this functionality, because - on Sparc at least - being able to install a server entirely from a serial console line is one of the best features of the old Solaris installer.
One of the first things I noticed, once booted, was that the default install of a Opensolaris box still has some of the issues that dogged Solaris in the past; far too many services running and no firewalling (although it's nice to see that ipf is now provided to do this, if necessary. The ipf firewall was always one of the first things I installed on a new Solaris server).
It's interesting to note that, even after all these years, Sun still does not appear to like the Domain Name System; the nsswitch.conf file is configured so that hostname lookups only look at the /etc/hosts file, and completely ignore DNS.
The default mail agent is still sendmail; frankly, I think this is a bad idea, as there are a number of considerably better mail agents available today, and OpenSolaris gives Sun a chance to move away from sendmail permanently. Worse still, sendmail is listening on an external port, which is simply asking for trouble.
OpenSolaris doesn't have anywhere near the range of drivers available for it that Linux does; I found a couple of key devices in my PC didn't work at all. Firstly, the live-CD couldn't see my motherboard's SATA controller, and nor could it see the onboard Marvell Gigabit ethernet. This would be understandable if the motherboard was a recent release, but it's three years old. Basically, I was left with little choice other than to use a PATA disk. Fortunately, the ethernet issue was solved - there's an independent driver (skge) available for the interface (although one wonders why the OpenSolaris people haven't included it themselves).
This is very out of date now go to opensolaris.org and down load the latest release 06:2009. Its a killer OS in the enterprise market or your desktop! Itits updated every month with supported releases every 6 months. The webs best kept secret! Try it....
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