Migrating Solaris 10 to zones hosted on Solaris 11 – How I learned to (somewhat) like Solaris!


NOTE: There is not much technical info here!

Anyone who has ever worked with me has probably gotten a pretty good idea about how I somewhat dislike most proprietary UNIX systems. Sure, it probably has most to do with the fact that I am very fond of Linux (which was the first *NIX system I ever played around with). Although I have never pretended to be a UNIX expert, I have had to learn far more then I ever thought I would about HP-UX, AIX and Solaris. Yes – I am the guy who wants to migrate everything to Linux (except when the other platform is the better tool for the job).

However, I often end up with being one of the few guys that has any experience with any kind of *NIX systems so if there is a old UNIX machine around it will probably end up in my hands at some point.

Now – I have a application in a dev/test/prod environment that was running on a couple of Sun M4000’s and a single T4-1 machine that is one of those cases. This application is expected to live for years to come and the machines were showing their age. After spending a night replacing the motherboard in the prod machine with the one from the test machine last winter I now had a good case for a hardware replacement (not that we didn’t really have a good case before – it just made things move a little bit higher on the priority list). And after a couple of meetings we decided to go for a couple of T7-1 machines….and to get a contractor to help us out with the migration.

The T7-1’s are probably an overkill for what we had to do but since we needed SPARC machines it was the best option – and I was pretty amazed after receiving the quote for the hardware. The pricing was far less than I thought – even with 24×7 3 Year hardware and software support. And yes….they actually weigh a lot less then those damn M4000s!

We finally got to work and the contractor setup a plan for us. The machines would be installed with Solaris 11 (Oracle VM for SPARC really I guess), and run three global zones (LDOMs) – one for each instance of the application. We would then migrate the Solaris 10 installs into a zone on the global zone.

This was the first time I did any real work on Solaris 11, and had someone helping me out who was more the capable with Solaris. Long story short, with the help of our contractor we quickly had the three LDOMs ready for action. The contractor showed me some ldm magic (ahhh, hello ldm migrate!) and I got to give it to Oracle that they have done wonders with Logical Domains and migration. We played around with the vHBA stuff but it seems it is still a bit buggy so we mapped the disks through the ldm interface instead. The guys at Oracle might want to fix that though – it makes things very easy with disk management. If I remember correctly, IBM has already mastered this with the VIOS (Virtual IO Server).

But – I cannot praise the migration process highly enough. Solaris 10 zones on Solaris 11 are pretty darn cool. A native Solaris tool was used to create a backup (flar) of the source operating system installation. It is then restored into a Solaris 10 zone hosted on a Solaris 11 global zone. Data is then migrated with (we used dd for the raw devices and either NFS for the data or just took a storage snapshot on our SAN and copied the data with the usual tools between the LUNs from the UFS filesystem over to a new ZFS one).

After fixing up some symlinks and some permissions we were able to start the application in about 2 hours. Rinse, repeat for each instance. However I must admit that we had some issues with the first try of migrating the test system (which was the first system we tried to migrate from a M4000, the dev was on the T4-1) so we had to give it another try.

With the migration done, we have had the application running on the new hardware for about a month now and man, those beasts fly! I have done some reading on Solaris 11 and working with it ain’t all that bad. IPS makes installing and patching packages a breeze. Man…I wish we had IPS on Solaris 10 since we still have to manually update those Solaris 10 zones!)

The point of this post (moral of the story?): I thought I would never say this – but I have actually learned to like Solaris 11 somewhat. It has come a long way since Solaris 10, and I really think both Solaris and SPARC are going to be here for a long time to come…..at least in the enterprise.

……(and this fondness of Solaris has probably something to do with the fact I was actually working with someone who actually knew what they were doing :-))


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