OpenSolaris for System z Now Available

Sine Nomine Associates has now made its first OpenSolaris for System z release available for free and public download. This is a "prototype" (but working) release, available to all who wish to learn and to explore this additional mainframe operating system.

Congratulations to Sine Nomine on achieving this significant milestone.

by Timothy Sipples October 16, 2008 in Innovation
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Why using Solaris on the Mainframe ? We have already a more flexible, more modern (except ZFS, BTRFS is on its way), more stable and better performing unix operating system on the mainframe: Linux

IBM spend many years and human resources for perfectly integrating Linux in the LPAR and z/VM hypervisor. In my opinion, programming ressources should better spent for further improving linux and linux-based hypervisors...

For customers, porting of applications from solaris(sparc) to linux(s390x) would be much easier, better supported and less risk than migrating from solaris(sparc) to solaris(s390x).

Posted by: MrPlex | Oct 16, 2008 2:37:12 PM

"For customers, porting of applications from solaris(sparc) to linux(s390x) would be much easier, better supported and less risk than migrating from solaris(sparc) to solaris(s390x)."

But ideally, this type of migration won't be difficult in the future. That is the point.

Posted by: Colin | Oct 16, 2008 4:14:18 PM

I think the radical signficance of having solaris on the mainframe is perhaps underappreciated.

Once it reaches genuine production status, solaris on the mainframe could very readily and easily replace linux and possibly even VM. The workload management facilities of solaris are superior to anything currently contemplated for linux, and there are built-in facilities that assist in virtualization at a lower overhead than the xen or other related approaches can achieve.

I think knowledgeable zSeries folks after taking a look at solaris will readily see the greater potential here.

Posted by: emes | Oct 16, 2008 6:48:02 PM

I don't think OpenSolaris for System z particularly competes with Linux on System z, in fact. It's another option that will provide more consolidation, cost-saving, and service quality improvement opportunities for certain applications, mostly in-house applications written primarily in C and C++.

As for programmer work effort, System z is thoroughly documented and open. It's not like the instruction set is secret. Anybody can write an operating system or other software for System z. Somebody decided to do that with OpenSolaris, so good for them I say.

Posted by: Timothy Sipples | Oct 16, 2008 7:12:03 PM

System Z thoroughly documented and open?

Which openly available IBM-produced documents enable us to write our own controlling programs for the coupling facility, ETR, or STP hardware? How about the OSA cards in all generations? Or perhaps the crypto hardware? Or how about a protocol like PPD used with AFP printers? Or maybe the SIE instruction?

Posted by: emes | Oct 16, 2008 7:44:26 PM

System Z thoroughly documented and open?

Which openly available IBM-produced documents enable us to write our own controlling programs for the coupling facility, ETR, or STP hardware? How about the OSA cards in all generations? Or perhaps the crypto hardware? Or how about a protocol like PPD used with AFP printers? Or maybe the SIE instruction?

Posted by: emes | Oct 16, 2008 7:47:48 PM

Somewhat fair points, emes. Most processor architectures do have undocumented instructions. But, to pick a couple examples (OSA and crypto), IBM has been pretty good about that if you check their Linux kernel source contributions. I believe Linux on System z is 100% open source, and that's unusual in the server market. (There are still a lot of object code only drivers for other platforms.)

Although do keep in mind that Sine Nomine only targeted z/VM, so OSA details (for example) are not relevant.

Posted by: Timothy Sipples | Oct 16, 2008 7:49:33 PM

I realized again shortly after my post that the current implementation of opensolaris on zSeries has an unfortunate dependence on zVM. My hope is that this dependency will be overcome and opensolaris will assume those functions and more.

I think that while most processor architectures do have undocumented instructions, things like network interfaces(OSA), concurrency coordination and performance enhancement mechanisms(coupling facility) as well as coordinated timing facilities(STP/ETR) deserve to be opened. The SIE instruction is probably just as important as intel/amd virtualization enhancements if not more so. While the ETR/STP and crypto components are in the linux kernel, the licensing is probably incompatible with opensolaris.

I am hoping that one day IBM will truly make all its mainframe advantages available to all comers, and that operating system writers won't have to jump through hoops and/or depend on VM.

Posted by: emes | Oct 16, 2008 11:17:40 PM

The shared kernel concept of solaris 10 zones is efficent, but causes lots of significant disadvantages like security problems, software dependency problems and stability problems.

OpenSolaris on zSeries will never be a real option for customers which are willing to migrate their solaris/sparc applications. Sun will never provide a supporrt opensolaris on zSeries bacause they want to sell their own hardware. With SLES and RHEL you have a fully supported unix operating system, with a large buildin software repository and which is also supported by the 3rd party software vendors (databases, application-servers,...)

Why wasting time ? :-)

Posted by: MrPlex | Oct 17, 2008 1:50:25 AM

I think you may be missing the point, MrPlex. OpenSolaris is open source. That means you can insource support if you wish, or you can shop around for support, including Sine Nomine presumably. You can ask Sun for a support contract (and pay whatever rate they decide -- and this can be very profitable for them). But if for whatever reason either you or they decide not to sign a support contract, you can go shop around to other support providers. Everybody has access to the source code.

By the way, I would imagine Sun released OpenSolaris precisely because they expected it to be made available for other hardware platforms -- and that they could make money through support contracts and other services. If Sun only cared about their own hardware boxes, why does OpenSolaris even exist?

Linux is another example of that phenomenon, as you just pointed out. If you don't like Red Hat (RHEL), you can go to Novell (SLES). And there are other options as you wish.

Finally, if somebody is "wasting time," isn't that their business? Somebody decided it was well worth the time, probably because they saw demand. Good for them. That's called entrepreneurship.

Posted by: Timothy Sipples | Oct 17, 2008 10:59:20 AM

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