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Oracle won't release Solaris 11 until November

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October 4, 2011

Oracle said today that it is scheduled to release its Solaris version 11 operating system sometime in November. The company's Solaris 11 OS was previewed by John Fowler, executive vice president of hardware engineering at Oracle.

"Solaris 11 is a long time in development. It's a very important software release for us," he said, adding that he would not go through all of the features because he knew people would want to check out the launch of Apple's new iPhone 5.

Solaris 11 will be supported on both Sparc and x86 platforms – and not just Oracle's own x86 platforms, but those also made by IBM, Dell and HP. Dell and HP are currently certified to run Solaris 10 and have OEM agreements with Oracle that were re-negotiated in the wake of Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

"We work very hard to make sure it works best on both platforms," Fowler said. Oracle has not said how many people have asked for Solaris 11 Express instead of Oracle's RHEL-ish Enterprise Linux, however.

Solaris 11 is a major upgrade to the former Sun Microsystems' variant of Unix and taking a little extra time is a good thing. But Oracle needs to get Solaris out the door soon because the future Sparc processors coming from Oracle and Fujitsu are going to have so many sockets, cores, and threads that Solaris 10 will not be able to span them.

Fowler added that the current Solaris 10 tops out at 512 threads and a few terabytes of addressable main memory. It is therefore not a coincidence that last year's top-end Sparc T3-4 server, which had eight 16-core, 128-thread Sparc T3 processors topped out at four sockets.

Given that thread count, if Oracle added more processor sockets, Solaris 10 would not be able to use them anyway. To be fair, Oracle could no doubt have patched Solaris 10 to extend its thread count a little, but the company seems to be taking a longer view.

That's something that a profitable Oracle can afford to do, and perhaps a barely profitable and sometimes money-losing Sun could not.

Fowler didn't offer the exact number of cores, threads, or memory capacity that Solaris 11 would span, but said that Oracle took the time to rework the Solaris kernel with a new scheduler and a new I/O handler that would allow it to span tens of thousands of CPUs, hundreds of terabytes of main memory, exabytes of storage, and hundreds of gigabits of networking bandwidth.

In past presentations of the Sparc/Solaris roadmap, Fowler showed the design goal of a future Sparc system due in late 2014 or early 2015 as spanning 64 sockets in a single system image with a total of 16,384 threads and supporting 64TB of main memory.

Solaris 11 has support for the dynamic threading implemented in the new Sparc T4 processors, launched last week, and also sports a latency-aware kernel memory allocator, an optimized shared memory stack, a parallel network stack, adaptable thread and memory placement, and enhancements in NUMA I/O (which will be important in future Sparc T series machines, presumably.

The other element that Oracle has been attempting to prepare for the Solaris 11 launch is to figure out ways to make the upgrade easier. Fowler said that in the past, the move from Solaris 9 to Solaris 10 was more of a "classic forklift upgrade," and that "the idea here is that adopting an operating system should not be a traumatic event, but something you can do in an unflustered way."

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Solaris 11 will have one button rollback features so if customers don't like the results of their upgrade to Solaris 11, they can roll it back. The same thing goes for patching once you are on Solaris 11. The system will also include telemetry back to Oracle, which will babysit your Solaris 11 upgrades and offer guidance on how to proceed and feed data back into the Solaris engineering and support teams.

This is what Oracle has been moving towards internally since acquiring Sun and adopting Sun rquipment and systems software to run its own business. The server and operating engineering teams at Oracle are hooked into the Oracle IT team, and they both have the same boss – Ellison – and that means the feedback loops are small and fast.

"This is way beyond eating out our own dog food," said Fowler. "This is using Oracle to make the products better."

And if you can't wait for Solaris 11 to come out in November, Oracle is making available a "feature complete preview" of Solaris 11, called Solaris 11 Early Adopter Release, to members of the Oracle Partner Network at the gold or higher level.

That Early Adopter Release is not the same thing as Solaris 11 Express, which came out in November 2010. Oracle said in a statement that application developers were using this release to begin the qualification process for Solaris 11.

Fowler also said that about 580 customers had Solaris 11 running in production already. Presumably, he meant actual Solaris 11, not Solaris 11 Express. And he reminded OpenWorld attendees of Oracle's compatibility guarantee for Solaris applications: "Your applications will run on S 11 or then it is totally my problem."

Source: Oracle.

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