Sunday, 10 January 2010

Book Review: OpenSolaris Bible

The relationship between OpenSolaris and Solaris is similar to that between Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. OpenSolaris is Sun's "in development" operating system that introduces many new features that will eventually become available in a Solaris 10 update or in a future Solaris 11 release.

So it would seem sensible for Solaris system administrators to have some familiarity with OpenSolaris and while it's possible to transfer a lot of existing Solaris knowledge across, having a comprehensive book alongside can be very useful.

Enter, the OpenSolaris Bible by Solter, Jelinek and Miner; a book I received just before Christmas and have been reading through recently.

The book covers the release of OpenSolaris as of 2008 which suggests the book was based around release 2008.05 or 2008.11 (OpenSolaris releases have a YYYY.MM version number). Since that date, there has been a 2009.06 release and 2010.02 is anticipated next month. However, do not let this put you off considering this book. OpenSolaris development is fast paced, but there is an awful lot of stuff in this book to absorb that still remains relevant in newer releases.

The book is broken into six parts:

  • Introduction to OpenSolaris
  • Using OpenSolaris
  • OpenSolaris File Systems, Networking and Security
  • OpenSolaris Reliability, Availability and Serviceability
  • OpenSolaris Virtualization
  • Deploying and Developing on OpenSolaris
The first part is a typical introduction and covers the history of Solaris, Open Source, as well as instructions on installing OpenSolaris and a basic "crash course" on using the GNOME desktop and the Unix shell. Experienced administrators will be able to skim this section.

Part two covers using the desktop in more detail, printing and software management using the Image Packaging System (IPS). This is an essential read as IPS is a new feature in OpenSolaris and printing can sometimes be a bit tricky.

Part three provides a very comprehensive introduction to Solaris disks, pseudo filesystems such as devfs, tmpfs, lofs and swap, UFS, Solaris Volume Manager, iSCSI, quotas, backups and restores, mounting and unmounting as well as a full chapter on ZFS, before moving onto network configuration including IPMP, link aggregation, virtual LAN interfaces, network services (DNS, DHCP, FTP, NTP, Mail, HTTP etc.), routing and the IP Filter firewall. Part three of the book then finishes with a chapter on network file systems and directory services (NFS, CIFS, NIS and LDAP) and security (PAM, RBAC, SSH, auditing and Kerberos). There is a lot of good content here.

Part four details the Fault Management architecture in OpenSolaris, the Service Management Framework (SMF) introduced in Solaris 10 as well as monitoring with conventional tools and Dtrace, ending with a chapter on high-availability clustering.

Part five covers resource management (projects, tasks, caps and pools) along with a number of Sun virtualisation technologies (Zones, xVM, LDOMs and VirtualBox). The xVM section is only relevant to x64 installs and the LDOM section requires Sun UltraSPARC T-series processors, while Zones can be used one either architecture and is certainly worth a read.

The final part consists of a chapter on deploying a web stack (Apache, PHP, MySQL, Tomcat and Glassfish) and a chapter on software development (Java, C/C++, etc.). I have no strong interest in these subjects at the moment, so haven't read this section.

While I have not read the whole book yet (Having ignored most of the coverage of GNOME desktop applications as if you are familiar with Linux, there's not a lot of new stuff to learn), there are plenty of sections that have made the book worthwhile. Whether this book is suitable for you or not, depends on where you're starting from:

If you are a Windows administrator looking to develop some Solaris experience, the OpenSolaris Bible is well worth a read. The first two parts provide a gentle introduction to the Unix operating system to get you started, and subsequent chapters dive pretty deep into the capabilities of OpenSolaris.

If you are experienced with Linux but have minimal Solaris experience, the OpenSolaris Bible is highly recommended! FMA, SMF, Zones, ZFS, UFS/SVM, Clustering, Dtrace and IPS are not found in Linux, so the OpenSolaris Bible provides a single point of reference for a whole lot of new learning.

Even experienced Solaris administrators will find things to like in this book. The IPS is certainly a new feature that I assume will impact us when Solaris 11 is released, and while ZFS, Zones, FMA, SMF etc are already present in Solaris 10, the book provides a very good overview of these technologies that can otherwise only be found by attending a course or reading the online documentation.

It's probably fair to say that if you read through the whole book, put into practice the features described, and you understand them, you'll have a wider understanding than many existing Solaris system administrators.

The OpenSolaris Bible can be bought at Amazon.

Highly recommended. 9/10.

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