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I have an operating system class this semester and I keep reading about Solaris' advanced thread scheduling and resource sharing policies.

Traditionally I've been a Linux guy for server stuff, but is it worth considering the switch to get better performance (and/or reliability)?

Or, is this a situation where more complexity doesn't necessarily help the cause?

Thanks in advance.

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3 Answers

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I think this is a situation where a lot depends on your workload, you requirements, and your resources. For example, even if Solaris wins on performance grounds -- and I don't know that it does -- you may find that Linux supports a wider range of devices, and has better software availability. This may translate into a lower cost/performance ratio.

If you're really concerned about performance, the thing to do is set up your own benchmarks. Using the same piece of hardware, run identical tests under Linux and Solaris and see what you get...keeping in mind that the results are only relevant to your benchmarks (which means you have to make sure your bechmarks match as closely as possible your real-world requirements).

That said: if you're planning on a career in (or near) systems, learning how another operating system works is to your advantage. There are a number of things that I think Solaris does better than Linux...and there are things that I think Linux does better than Solaris. Getting a sense of the alternatives is important, because this broaden your understanding of the field.

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Yes, I would try it, but I'm not sure you're going to see much performance difference as most servers are I/O bound. A good reason is you should know more than one OS to be a well rounded professional. Another reason is features like ZFS, Zones, SMF, RBAC, Dtrace, etc. Most of the features you find in Linux are copies of commercial software and therefore tend to lag several years behind. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you want to stay ahead of the curve you have to look at what everyone is doing. Cost really isn't an issue with the open source Solaris version available at www.openindiana.org.

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IMHO, Solaris does have some nice features for TCP optimization and for debugging - but for most purposes it works out massively more expensive than Linux for a webserving role. And I don't see any performance benefits (unless you absolutely must run lots of stuff on a single server - but the nature of HTTP makes this very unlikely).

There are clear advantages for running, say relational databases using a big-iron approach on Solaris compared with Linux/BSD. And its had a lot of tweaks to make Java run nicely on it. It also looks nice on your CV. And while it'd be very interesting to see an informed comparison of performance metrics, you've got a lot of stuff to learn first.

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