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Lets just say I am a fanatic to using something such as this, and would be willing to purchase the appropriate licenses (or open version of Solaris maybe) and install it.

My questions are, do software packages such as (an) sshd and recent Apache versions install nicely on such flavours of Unix? Can you install BASH on them for the sake of easier administration? I currently do not care for the ease of Ubuntu as much of my work if any is very precise and often automated.

I would just like some insight on if this is a good idea, of if something such as Solaris runs many sites online. I would see the use of Solaris to run my site more important than the bit more ease Linux distributions could provide (just me:))

Ken.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

POSIX is POSIX. And any software that isn't pure POSIX has build routines to tell it what it needs to know in order to build properly.

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Alright, that sounds very encouraging to me. I will look at some demographics, or maybe just "go for it" on another node and publish my experience somewhere. :) –  Alexander Jul 5 '11 at 5:47

This question is funny; this is almost the perfect question for a shill to ask to highlight Solaris 10 new features but no one gave the pro-Solaris answer.

This is a textbook application of Solaris Zones. The shared kernel provided by Zones lowers the overhead of virtualization, and increases speed dramatically. If you have an idea of a standard install for VPS (bash, apache2, php5, python 2.X, ...) you can create a single "gold" zone to use as a template to clone to new zones. Package repositories are available at sunfreeware and blastwave providing you with pre-compiled packages, removing the need to compile your own if you don't want to.

You can create your template, charge $X per VPS and clone the template for each new customer, total config time upwards of 5min, 0min if you script/automate it. Upgrading the "global" zone (the base system) will cascade those upgrades into the zones, or you can upgrade per zone, also highly automatable.

Solaris has kernel space accelerated SSL encryption for supported hardware: expensive cards, Sun/Oracle Niagra2 CPU based systems, and the new Nahalem systems with AES acceleration, which greatly increases the number of SSL protected websites you can host per system. http://www.c0t0d0s0.org/archives/6926-Performance-Impact-of-kssl.html

Solaris 10 has many new features in resource management allowing you to segregate individual zones/processes/groups/users and keep runaway or compromised applications in one zone/group/user from impacting any others, as well as all the normal POSIX resource controls on memory use, file descriptors, etc.

Solaris 10 Zones (and Solaris 10 in general) was designed from the ground up to prove excellent security, accountability, resource management, and to dovetail nicely with Sun (and now Oracle) hardware offerings. When released the Sun T5240 + Sun Solaris + Solaris Zones package was the best platform for page views per second for the money.

In terms of technical merits, Solaris Zones is probably the best VPS solution available. But as is usually the case the issue is requirements and costs. Licensing, support costs, and Niagra2 or newer CPU hardware costs are rising with the Oracle takeover.

So evaluate the following: Will the higher VPS density, better VPS isolation and wiz-bang features compensate for higher licensing costs (if using Oracle Solaris), smaller user base to draw peer support from, higher hardware costs (for SSL accel), cost of supporting yet-another-OS, cost of hiring people to support yet-another-OS, the longer time it takes for security patches to get released.

If you already have a windows team, do you really want to hire a Solaris team just to shave a few percent off of your hardware bill? Stick with Hyper-V until it'll save you money to switch. If you already have a large deployment of Solaris systems then go with Solaris. If you have a large Linux skill pool to draw on, do a Solaris trial and see how much extra time it takes 3 admins to learn the differences and maintain a new environment for 6 months

But technology should almost never dictate your business decision process. Much as I hate to say it for most service providers it makes more sense to provide a Windows based VPS system than a Solaris one. Unless you know now that you're going to need the feature set, and the advantages are going to save you lots of Time And Money(TM) you probably don't want Solaris.

But if this isn't for a business and more about having fun, then go ahead, use Solaris! It's alot of fun, has tons of features and options that you've never even thought of if you're coming from a non-commercial Unix background. The deeper you get in to Solaris the more you learn about smart engineering and new ways of solving technical problems. I've yet to see a Linux box with a "load average: 1000.0+, 1000.0+, 1000.0+" that was responsive and easy to recover.

@symcbean: I know Solaris (or Slow-laris as it is sometimes called) has a reputation for poor performance (eg your fork example) but I seem to recall that the "Solaris Internals" book said that they re-engineered the threads significantly for Solaris 10, and process creation/forking performance was among the industry leaders. The LWP framework where each thread in an app is mapped to it's own light weight process in kernel space apparently gave a big boost to performance, reliability, and accounting. The big hurdles for Solaris aren't so much technical as operational (bad ui), cultural (small user base), and political (Oracle).

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Check out Joyent and how they use Solaris Containers for their services.

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Solaris isn't typically used as a web hosting platform (At least not in high volume). That's not to say you can not use it to host websites (Generic VPS) it is perfectly capable. Apache, bash, puppet, virtual interfaces, all the software and features you would expect of any Linux distribution are all present.

Just in-case you are not aware Solaris is not free. Though you can try illumos which is a fork of what used to be Opensolaris. I'll let the Illumos website explain more.

Of course "unix" means more than just Solaris. You always have the BSD's to choose from too. OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD etc. All of which will make very good VPS servers.

Which one will make the "best" VPS is really dependent on your specific use case and priorities. But all of them will run apache and most of the software you would expect.

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"... and would be willing to purchase the appropriate licenses ..." –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 5 '11 at 6:41

I wouldn't run a web server without ZFS these days. That's available in many free Unix OSes including Open Indiana which is a free version of Solaris. I don't believe anyone has included ZFS in a distributed Linux kernel because of the licensing conflict.

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It sounds like you've already decided to use Solaris. While it's a very capable OS, there are a number of reasons why it wouldn't be my first choice for a webserver (OTOH, I'd prefer it to Linux for other applications).

1) forking threads is slow - while you can now compile Apache as threaded, this brings other complications

2) the admin can be a PITA (did they ever get round to implementing a proper package manager?)

3) it's expensive - while I've said there are times I'd prefer Solaris, a large part of that would be for the Sun hardware and an OS which gets the best out of it.

4) running big-iron on a webserver makes no sense - when the systems are spedning most of their time pushing and pulling data across lots of slow connections, performance is all about context switching latency - running several small servers will run rings around one big one.

You've tagged this as VPS. Running solaris in a VM strikes me as downright silly.

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