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I'm interested in Solaris OS but I know the best way to learn a new OS - slowly and carefully integrate it into the production environment.

The tasks we usually run: virtualization, databases (Oracle), java applications & java web services, other web services (apache/nginx). All systems are loaded pretty high.

Are there tasks where Solaris can be better than Linux/BSD? Why should a system integrator with 10 years experience in Linux/Windows/BSD learn and integrate Solaris? What kind of system - Solaris x86 or Solaris SPARC, are they equal? Please point me to the right decision.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Buy some books and read the manuals. Solaris & Linux administration aren't dramatically different from one another.

In general, the advantages of Solaris are:

  • Stable. The upside of the OSS model in Linux is a rapid pace of development. That can be a downside too.
  • Great tools. ZFS, DTrace, etc.
  • If you run on a Sun stack, the support is excellent.

Downsides:

  • Driver support
  • You may have to "grow your own" experts within your organization, as the Unix mindshare went to Linux and Mac OS X.
  • Package repos aren't as well populated.
  • The Feds and Oil companies are the biggest Sun customers, and they drive development. So you get stuck with stupid bugs for years because the Feds have already dealt with them and don't want them fixed. (For example, tar was broken until Solaris 8 or 9)

I think ZFS is compelling, and DTrace is amazing; exploring the technology makes sense to me. YMMV.

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The UltraSPARC T2 chips are also great; 8-core, 8 hardware threads per core. They're excellent for server tasks that have a lot of parallelism, which is many of them. That's a good reason to use Solaris, too.

The very top end of enterprise servers from Sun are still bigger than the x86/x64 servers they (or pretty much anyone else) sell, so if you're at the extreme high end you need something like that.

At midrange and lower, the differences are less important especially if you're not doing very parallel things.

Solaris still has a very large presence in education, as well; my employer uses it extensively. A lot of big Oracle installations are Solaris, even if the rest of the enterprise doesn't use it much.

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