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Active Directory meets Solaris

SearchWin2000 and an IT analyst join hands, light some candles, and peer into the Solaris crystal ball. What we see is an operating system that needs a Microsoft makeover to stay attractive.

When the next version of the Solaris operating system becomes available, system administrators can expect improved interoperability with Microsoft's Active Directory service and support for more processors than ever before. That's the word from an IT industry analyst.

While details about the next (and currently unnamed) version of Solaris are still a little foggy, Sun executives have said the BETA version will be available for download sometime by the end of this summer. The full-scale release of the product should come next year.

Tony Iams, a senior analyst with D.H. Brown Associates, said that based on various public comments from Sun executives and general market research, users of the next Solaris will see a much higher level of interoperability with Active Directory (AD).

Sun has taken notice of the large number of people who have deployed AD, Iams explained. And so, the company decided to make Solaris more interoperable with the Microsoft creation in order to help ensure that the OS stays an attractive choice for those working in heterogeneous networking environments.

The LDAP-based Active Directory allows users to keep track of resources on their network.

The next version of Solaris will also support far more than the current 64-processors per server, said Iams, in order to coincide with the follow-up to Sun's Enterprise 10,000 server. Sun is currently planning to release a new family of high-end servers based on the UltraSPARC III chip. While the exact number is unclear, Iams said those servers will be capable of scaling far beyond 64 chips. In turn, the new Solaris will have to be capable of supporting all of that hardware.

"They're going to have a lot of advancements in there to let people deal with more processors in a SMP system," said Iams. He added that those improvements will be in the area of virtual memory management and virtual memory performance.

Sun released a new line of midrange servers based on the UltraSPARC III chip earlier this year and promised a slew of capabilities that would be supported by Solaris 8 by the end of this year. Those capabilities include dynamic system configuration, where one server can effectively be partitioned into two separate entities, each running its own instance of Solaris; and hot-swapping, where processors can be added or replaced without shutting the server down.

Right now, even though Solaris 8 can theoretically handle hot-swapping and dynamic partitioning, Sun hasn't fully tested them yet with the new hardware and isn't offering tech support for those operations. By year's end, the testing should be completed, and Solaris 8 and beyond will have full support for what Sun calls these "mainframe-like" capabilities.

Iams pointed out that these functions are currently available on the UltraSPARC II servers. "If you do want to have this kind of reliability you can get it now, but it's going to be on the old architecture."

Before the next Solaris is released, users can expect at least two more updates to Solaris 8, which will bring it closer to having full support those hot button features, Iams said.

Sun released the fourth update to Solaris 8 in April. New additions to the OS included IP Multi-Pathing, a protocol for wireless access to the operating system, and WebStart Flash, which allows OS configurations and parts of the software stack to be automatically replicated across multiple servers. Iams pointed out that WebStart is a followup to Sun's JumpStart product, which offers similar basic capabilities, but doesn't venture to the application level.

"WebStart Flash lets you set up a master server, and then you use sort of a cookie cutter approach to make copies of it across the enterprise," said Iams. "That is pretty important in an enterprise environment where you have lots of servers that are geographically distributed. You want them to be configured identically, but you don't want to have to fly someone around to do it by hand."


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