Are there any advantages to using OpenSolaris, other than ZFS, rather than using a common linux distribution such as CentOS or Ubuntu?

I ask because I'm interested in using OpenSolaris on AWS to take advantage of ZFS-snapshots for backing up to S3 -- specifically for MySQL backups. I'd like to know if OpenSolaris has clear advantages over CentOS for running webservers in the cloud.

  • community wiki? – sybreon Feb 8 '10 at 15:40

Yes, many. Just to name a few :

  • DTrace, which allows you to display detailled and precise statistics about ressource usage using one line scripts
  • SMF, which allows a clean and streamlined management of services. For example, it restarts services that crash and display short explanations about services refusing to stard.
  • the included firewall is very simple to use.
  • Loooong support cycle (somewhat depending on Oracle but for the past it has been long)
  • xVM, Xen integration made trivial
  • Zones, very simple to create, administer and use.

I could go on for a while. I have switched my personal machines from Debian to OpenSolaris and am not looking back.


The downsides :

  • very little drivers. If you plan to use anything but very standard hardware, be prepared for lots of pain. Even getting an off-the-mill IBM server running is atrocious.
  • disk performance sucks. I mean compared to the standard ill-configured ext3 linux disks, ZFS flies. However compared to a properly configured XFS it's unbelievably slow.
  • Lots of idiosyncrasies break from old Unix hats habits entrenched in our souls for 30 years :-)
  • 1
    I agree with your first comment but my experience hasn't been that ZFS is slow. There are some known raid/sata controllers that have issues with OpenSolaris though but that goes back to your first point. However your third point is a personal problem not a problem with OpenSolaris. Jumping from Linux to Unix is not going to be without some idiosyncrasies. As GNU userspace tools are different than what you'll find on a Unix. But it's annoying having to figure out the basics again like how to get the output you expect from something like ping host. – 3dinfluence Feb 8 '10 at 15:52
  • "my experience hasn't been that ZFS is slow." Yeah, it all boils down to what you're calling "slow". Real life performance on similar serious hardware is much lower ( locally or through NFS). – wazoox Feb 9 '10 at 10:20

Some other OpenSolaris points:

  • API stability, Gnu/Linux has no commitment on interfaces so software, and especially device drivers, can break with a new kernel or library release. Recompilation is often required for modules. (Open)Solaris has committed interfaces that stay compatible with new releases.
  • Snap-upgrade (linked to ZFS). You can rollback to a previous system installation should you mess something for some reason.
  • fair share scheduler / real-time scheduling class available standard
  • RBAC (grant Administrator Role to yourself), simpler to administrate and use than sudo, fine grain privileges removing many of the root suid requirements.
  • NFSv4 ACLs with ZFS
  • network virtualization (crossbow)
  • branded zones (Gnu/Linux and Solaris 10 zones).
  • ZFS deduplication, this is pretty new (dev releases) but really cool.

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