Sun Microsystems has outlined improvements for version 10 of its Solaris operating system, part of its quarterly update of new hardware and software products.
Among the new features is N1 Grid Containers, which allows users to partition a server into multiple, independent computing environments that share the same instance of Solaris, said Graham Lovell, head of Solaris marketing. Sun has discussed the technology before under other names.
Customers using Sun's high-end and midrange servers can already partition servers physically, allowing them to run several instances of Solaris on a single system. This lets them run applications in discrete areas of a server for better performance and security, but also requires them to maintain multiple versions of Solaris on each system.
N1 Grid Containers will let customers partition a single instance of Solaris into as many as 4,000 containers within a server. Among other benefits, this should help them make more efficient use of their processors because they will be able to run several partitioned applications against one chip.
"Each of these containers behaves as an individual machine, with its own IP address, its own discrete personality. You can subdivide your server into 20, 30, 40 machines and have a web server running in each," Lovell said.
Applications will also be more reliable because faults will be isolated in each container. N1 Grid Containers also makes it easier to allocate bandwidth and memory to individual applications when there is a spike in demand.
Sun has not said whether it intended to increase the price of Solaris with version 10.
However, Lowell said that Sun would not charge extra for customers who run Solaris 10 on its new UltraSparc IV processor, which will be released at about the same time as the OS upgrade and effectively puts two processor cores on a single chip. As the number of cores increases past eight or 16, "that's the time you start to think about charging extra" for software, he said.
Solaris 10 should also be better at diagnosing and fixing faults. A technology called DTrace aims to cut the time it takes to pinpoint the cause of a performance problem, using some 30,000 probes scattered throughout the server.
Another technology, Predictive Self Healing, tracks memory errors and other problems and tries to predict component failures before they happen.
Meanwhile, Solaris Privileges allows an administrator restrict an application to only the memory areas, input/output devices and other server resources that it needs to operate. Preventing the application from accessing other resources will help limit the damage in the event of a problem such as corrupt data.
While Solaris 10 is not shipping yet, customers can download the new technologies and begin using them through Sun's Software Express subscription service. The program aims to encourage customers to upgrade to the new OS by giving them a taste of what is to come.
James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service