Solaris 9: Major Advance

OS improves management and enables secure access to remote servers.

Beta 2 of Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris 9 operating system adds significant security and management capabilities and is shaping up to be a solid improvement over Solaris 8.

Solaris 9, due for release in the second half, boosts security with the addition of Solaris Secure Shell, which supports the SSH1 and SSH2 protocols. This will allow IT managers to securely access remote servers without having to install and use OpenSSH.

To increase authentication security, Solaris 9 comes with the Kerberos 5 Server, which provides local and remote administration of security policies. Solaris 9 also gives IT managers the option of performing a minimal installation. In tests, for example, we could choose not to install packages such as DNS (Domain Name System), NFS (Network File System) and Telnet that could compromise security.

Solaris 9 adds RBAC (role-based access control), a feature previously available only on the Trusted Solaris platform and most welcome here.

RBAC allows administrators to set up privileged accounts that dont have the full power of a "superuser" account (root account). For example, we could set up an account that allowed an operator to set up printers and manage backups but that didnt provide complete control of the system.

Also welcome is the integration of Solaris Resource Manager (previously sold separately), which let us easily dedicate CPU and memory resources to specific software. Solaris 8 could bind processors to applications, but Resource Manager provides more granularity.

Providing native LDAP services is the newly integrated iPlanet Directory Server, complete with a license supporting as many as 200,000 directory entries. Administrators who use the LDAP-based directory should find it easier to manage users and resources throughout the enterprise. Solaris 9 includes a migration tool for moving records from NIS+ (Network Information System+) to LDAP. One area in which Windows 2000 bested Solaris 8 was storage management. Solaris 9 introduces Solaris Volume Manager, which has all the capabilities of Suns Solstice DiskSuite disk and storage management software. Volume Manager brings Solaris closer to Windows 2000s level of storage management out of the box and allows administrators to create more partitions per drive.

Solaris 9 also has Linux libraries and commands, which should make it easier to recompile open-source Linux applications and run them on Solaris 9.

Released last week, Beta 2 of Solaris 9 is a SPARC-only release; an Intel Corp.-based version of the upgraded operating system is still in limbo. Less in doubt is the eventual release of a GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) interface for Solaris. Common Desktop Environment is still the default desktop interface, but Sun officials said development of a GNOME alternative is under way and should be ready for download this summer.

Developers can download the latest Solaris 9 code from

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at [email protected]