Friday, September 01, 2006

A Developer's Journal; Solaris 10 #1

I'm testing the Solaris 10 waters. My plan for this journal is to record my Solaris journey in as much useful detail as possible. But before I start reporting my trials and tribulations I want to discuss why I'm taking this path (remember Linux is my OS of choice).  There are 5 reasons why I'm looking at Solaris 10 now (from most to least importance):

  1. Try and Buy
  2. Chip Multi-Threading (CMT)
  3. DTrace
  4. ZFS
  5. Hotspot

Try and Buy

Try and Buy made the list and snatched the number one spot because it makes number 2 accessible given my limited R&D budget.


Sun has jumped ahead of the competition (Intel/AMD/IBM) in terms of throughput computing with the release of the T1 processor, code-named Niagara. I had previously discussed the coming of throughput computing here and here and I'm surprised yet thrilled to see it come to pass so rapidly. Most of the reviews of Niagara I've read are from people who don't have a clue about multi-threading and/or what makes it great. I'm guessing they have a rudimentary understanding of what a process is and probably don't know why scaling systems with threads is more efficient and performant than doing it with processes. So I'm really excited to get a crack at throwing an application that was designed from the ground up for multi-threaded deployment at Niagara.


I'm a performance junkie. I like to make things go fast and it is hard to make something go fast when you don't understand what the thing is doing. Before DTrace it was possible to get pieces of the puzzle and sometimes it was possible to postulate about the whole and get it right but that's usually a hit or miss and it takes years of experience to develop the facilities to get more hits than misses. With DTrace there is no need to postulate it becomes possible to know with absolute certainty what the hell is going on. DTrace takes the guessing out of performance tuning.


The disk subsystem is probably the most mission critical part of a computer because it's where all the programs and data are stored and without programs or data a computer isn't worth squat.


Okay I concede. You can turn it into a modern art piece or make an ugly end table but other than that it isn't worth squat!

Unfortunately the disk subsystem is also the most unreliable. So any practical technology that handles reliability w/o major performance costs is a big deal to me. For years we've been subject to either uber expensive SCSI/RAID systems or cheap unreliable (and slower) IDE systems. But that's all changing, SATA and it's ilk are catching up to SCSI in terms of reliability and performance which will eventually drive SCSI out of the picture or force the price of SCSI down to the point where there is really no difference in terms of choosing one over the other. The bottom line is ZFS makes reliable disk subsystems something everyone can afford.


Given that the hotspot JVM is a Sun product and so is Solaris I conjecture that hotspot works better on Solaris than anywhere else. Especially Solaris on Sparc. So even though I'm a big Linux fan I'm an even bigger Java one.

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