Wandering Thoughts archives

2008-01-07

Some thoughts on Solaris 10 x86 versus Linux

Someone around here recently asked me my opinions on Solaris on x86 machines, and in thinking about it I decided I might as well put down my current thoughts on the whole matter.

First, we're no longer interested in SPARC hardware and thus SPARC Solaris. The hardware is clearly no longer competitive for generic computing; it may be competitive in some niche roles, but my area doesn't have any of those niches we need filled.

(In the long run I feel that a retreat to specialized areas dooms SPARC in general, for reasons discussed here.)

In the old days, x86 Solaris was Sun's red headed stepchild, which left some of us nervous when Sun decided to wake up. The good news is that Sun does seem to understand that x86 is most of their future; I'm convinced about Sun's commitment to Solaris 10 x86 in general (Sun's peculiar desire to recreate OpenBoot notwithstanding).

I am running Solaris 10 x86 on test machines, but we haven't yet put it into production. So far my experience is biased because I have been torturing the machines (and running into a serious issue that Sun was slow to deal with), so I'm not going to try to draw general conclusions. However, I believe that it will be solid in routine production use, and certainly there are people who are happy with it.

However, in general I still recommend Linux over Solaris 10 x86, for a number of reasons:

  • the sysadmin experience on a modern Linux is much better than on Solaris 10. There really is no comparison between, say, apt-get and the official Solaris patch management tools.

  • there is much more useful software conveniently available for your average Linux distribution (either as prepackaged binaries or as easy to build source code).

  • Solaris's driver support seems lacking. Some things (eg, jumbo frame capable Ethernet drivers) are backwards compared to Linux; others that I would like are just missing, such as drivers for 3Ware Escalade controllers.

    (Note: 'supported in Nevada' doesn't count, except as an indication that it might show up in Solaris 10 at some indeterminate time.)

  • I don't know how well Solaris 10 x86 runs on non-Sun x86 hardware, especially recent hardware.

    (Of course, it runs fine on Sun x86 hardware and Sun has competitively priced x86 stuff these days, so this may not matter to you.)

The ease of Linux administration and the Linux software selection are probably only an important advantage for people starting from scratch; if you already have Solaris machines and just want more, Solaris 10 x86 should do fine.

While Solaris 10 has technological advantages, I don't think that they are compelling enough to overcome the other issues for general purpose servers. Of course, if you need ZFS there's only one place to get it.

solaris/Solaris10X86VsLinux written at 23:44:00; Add Comment


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