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Oracle Pushing Forward on Linux and Solaris

For years, Oracle has been running much of its business on Linux. With the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010, Oracle also became the master of the Solaris Unix operating system.

So how is Oracle now handling development of both Linux and Solaris? Is there any cross development happening?

To answer those questions, ServerWatch conducted an interview with Wim Coekearts, Senior Vice President of Linux and Virtualization Engineering at Oracle. While there are some things that Linux can learn from Solaris and vice versa, for the most part the two efforts remain two separate endeavors.

"Before we acquired Sun, literally everything was Linux except for maybe five big systems where x86 hardware wasn't capable and we had Sparc hardware for running big ERP systems," Coekearts said.

He added that with Oracle now having the two operating system architectures, the company didn't just go out and say, "Oh, we have to replace our stuff."

"Now when we're building out new infrastructure we look at which of the two operating systems and two architectures fits the best for a deployment," Coekearts said. "We're not Linux only now, and we're also not Solaris only."

From a development perspective, Linux and Solaris at Oracle are developed by two separate groups. The two groups do talk to one another, but there is no sharing of code.

Solaris is developed under a proprietary license while Linux remains open source. In terms of how the Solaris and Linux groups do work together, both remain very much in tune with database and middleware application developer needs.

Open Source Servers"Anything that affects user interfaces and how the customer sees features, we do discuss a lot," Coekaerts said.

From example, the Solaris team is not going to implement some model of network virtualization that is dramatically different from what the Linux developers are using, which would make it difficult for Oracle to have management products that work for both.

Another example of how the Linux and Solaris groups are able to collaborate is with the Ksplice technology. Ksplice enables Linux administrators to patch a system without the need to reboot.

Coekaerts said that he has spoken with the Solaris developers to explain how Ksplice works. He noted that the Solaris developers will not take Ksplice code, but Oracle is looking at providing the same level of service to Solaris customers.

Oracle VM

In addition to running Oracle's Linux development efforts, Coekaerts also is responsible for Oracle's VM server virtualization offering. It's an effort that also crosses the boundaries of both Linux and Solaris.

Oracle has an Oracle VM for Linux as well as Oracle VM for Sparc, enabling users of both operating systems to benefit from the same type of virtualization. Coekaerts explained that Oracle VM is similar in concept to VMware's ESX, which is a virtualization hypervisor.

ZFS vs. Btrfs

One of the cornerstone features in Solaris 10 as well as Solaris 11 is the ZFS filesystem. The ZFS filesystem is a next generation filesystem that has been ported to other operating systems including FreeBSD, but it's not an effort that is likely to land in Linux, thanks in large part to Oracle.

Former Oracle engineer Chris Mason started an effort called Btrfs to address the shortcomings in Linux filesystems, several years before Oracle acquired Sun.

Coekaerts explained that one of the things that ZFS has done is merge the block system layer and the filesystem layer. In contrast, on Linux there is the device mapper that manages storage pools and then there is the filesystem that is installed on top, and the two don't communicate.

With Btrfs, the two layers are also merged and there is no need for the device mapper. As such, Btrfs has some similar ideas to ZFS.

"ZFS is a Solaris filesystem that was written by Solaris people for the Solaris OS," Coekaerts said. "Porting that to Linux would mean taking something that was written for this [Solaris] OS work here [Linux]."

According to Coekaerts, porting ZFS to Linux involves a non-optimal approach that is not native. As such, there is likely not a need to attempt to bring ZFS to Linux since Btrfs is now around to fit the bill.


When it comes to another Solaris technology known as Dtrace, Linux could well benefit. Dtrace is a technology that debuted in Solaris 10, providing administrators with probes into system operations.

"We have a reasonably advanced port of Dtrace for Linux," Coekaerts said.

He added that the code is open source under the Sun CDDL license.

Overall, Linux and Solaris are both moving forward at Oracle in 2012.

"The Solaris team is hiring more people, and I'm hiring more people," Coekaerts said. "We're making both better and we're not favoring one over the other."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

This article was originally published on September 10, 2012
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