Solaris Spit & Polish

Posted on February 10, 2009

An interesting discussion has been taking place on the OpenSolaris SysAdmin Community list, and I sense it will lead us toward some important changes in Solaris. Essentially it all comes down to the lack of spit and polish. What has always been something we perhaps ignored or downplayed has become far more starkly contrasted by truly easy to use yet complex things such as ZFS or SMF.

The clearest examples are technologies that currently are essentially useless without custom scripting. Such examples include LDAP, Extended Accounting, and BSM Auditing.

LDAP is one that’s really concerned me. Almost any Solaris environment would benefit greatly from an LDAP/Kerberos implementation, for ease of management and increased security… but frankly, just dropping in a directory server and authenticating to it isn’t so straight forward. Populating and maintaining the DIT is complex, commonly requiring custom scripts and possibly a 3rd party LDAP Browser. While the aging idsconfig script is suppose to jumpstart your experience, its not perfect and is tailored to Sun DSEE. In the community we commonly see people scratching their heads wondering if other directory servers, such as OpenLDAP even work with Solaris and how to get started.

Microsoft hit a home run with ActiveDirectory, and it pains me in the same way that NetApp kicked Sun’s ass at building NFS servers. Sun is a systems company and the leading provider of directory/identity management products, but if you want to use them in conjunction with Solaris you’ve got a lot of custom work to do. As far as Kerberos, most of the use continues to be in academic environments, which means that the best means to secure NFS in a corporate environment just isn’t used.

Sun is very good at engineering the big things, but I’ve noticed that when it comes to connecting all the dots they tend to turn toward the path of acquisition. A need arises for a management app or something, they find a decent software company doing it, aquire them, and then slowly let the thing rot. I mean, how many people still use Sun Management Center or N1 Provisioning Server? (Or ever did for that matter.)

A lot of focus has gone into the GNU-ification of Solaris and improving the desktop experience with Indiana… I mean OpenSolaris… but at some point we’ve got to get back around to focusing on what Solaris does best, being the enterprise class server operating system we know and love.

This is especially important in the face of Cloud Computing. The cloud needs solid server operating systems, and Solaris leads the pack. If we’ve proved one thing with Solaris 10, its that making Solaris more like Linux doesn’t have nearly the impact we hoped it would, but making the complex very simplistic and straightforward (ZFS, DTrace, SMF, FMA, …) is dramatic.

Monitoring, Management, and Infrastructure is what we need. Easy, quick, and powerful. We have the technology underneath, we just need to bring it all together.

What say you?