Sun Microsystems Inc. this week is planning to give users of its Solaris operating system a sneak peek at the next version and its new file system.
Among the many new features of Solaris 10, due by years end, is the DFS (Dynamic File System)—a 128-bit system that will automate many common tasks for system administrators.
While the DFS, which will be previewed during Suns Network Computing 04Q2 Webcast, will complement Solaris, some say its development is even more strategic and will buttress Solaris as software partners such as Veritas Software Corp. continue to expand their support for rival operating systems.
As for streamlining development tasks, the DFS reduces the number of separate tasks it takes to create a file system from 28 to five. The time it takes to add mirrored file systems for three users and then add more disk space has been reduced from 40 minutes to 10 seconds, said John Loiacono, executive vice president of software at Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif.
“Solaris 10, with Dynamic File System, will be the only known operating system to provide end-to-end check summing for all data and is the only self-healing, self-managing operating file system technology that provides 16 billion billion times more capacity than current file systems for virtually unlimited scalability,” Loiacono said.
The new file system also eliminates many complicated storage administration tasks, as space within the storage pool is dynamically allocated to file systems, Loiacono said. As such, there is no need to statically partition storage into slices, volumes and file systems, he said.
Data consistency is also maintained at all times. If the system is shut down in an unclean manner, upon reboot no recovery is needed to make new file service consistent, he said.
Loiacono said the transition to the new file system will take time. “You dont just transfer all your data overnight and go grab a new file format,” he said.
While Sun does not plan to make DFS backward-compatible with previous versions of Solaris, those versions will be able to read and write to the new file system using NFS (Network File System) remote mounts.
NFS is implemented and embedded in most operating systems, including Solaris, and allows users to mount remotely any file system visible on the network. Unix has only one file system, and users can mount another file system on top of it.
“Systems running Solaris releases prior to Solaris 10 will be able to read and write to the Dynamic File System using NFS remote mounts,” Loiacono said. “The only way Solaris 8 and Solaris 9 users can take advantage of the Dynamic File System is via NFS.”
Compatibility is a crucial element for Sun customers such as Boyd Fletcher, a systems engineer at management and technical services provider EG&G Inc., in Norfolk, Va. “Compatibility with Solaris 9 and 8 is also very important—as in the U.S. government, the only accredited version of Solaris is Version 8. Many Department of Defense applications are also just now being ported from Solaris 2.5.1 to Solaris 8,” he said.
From a strategic standpoint, the DFS could be a blow to software partners such as Veritas, whose VxFS (Veritas File System) and VxVM (Veritas Volume Manager) are used in many enterprises to enhance performance and capabilities of the Unix File System and Solaris Volume Manager in previous versions of Solaris.
Loiacono downplayed the immediate effect of the new file system on Sun partners businesses, saying these transitions “are not made overnight. Is this going to supplant all of our major partners? By no means.”
Veritas, of Mountain View, Calif., has itself downplayed the potential effect of Suns move on its business, saying that while a small number of Solaris users might find the Sun solution adequate, companies that continue to scale their data centers will still need Veritas solutions.
“I think Sun is a bit nervous about Veritas increasing support for Linux and Windows and probably feels that it would be a good idea to have critical functionality built into the core operating system, especially if Veritas Solaris support starts to diminish,” said EG&Gs Fletcher.
The DFS will be made available to customers in September through Suns Software Express mechanism, which delivers code for Solaris 10 to users. Express delivery lets developers receive code earlier in the development process and offers monthly snapshots of future software features under development.
About 80,000 users will preview Solaris 10 through Software Express in September, and 30 developer partners have begun preparing and testing their applications to support Solaris 10.