Enterprise Software

Preparing to install Solaris 9 on an Intel server

Now that Sun has decided to ship a version of Solaris for Intel systems, it presents a true alternative to Windows and Linux. Before you start the installation, you need to make these preparations.

Among all of the various flavors of UNIX, one of the most popular is Solaris, produced by Sun Microsystems. Solaris has traditionally only been available on Sun's Sparc-based workstations and servers. Recently, however, Sun has been releasing Solaris for Intel platforms, which it designates x86. Before you can successfully install Solaris 9 on your Intel server, you must do some advance planning. Here's what you'll need to do.

Obtaining Solaris 9 for Intel
You've got several choices to make when obtaining Solaris. You can either download Solaris directly from Sun's Web site or order CDs from Sun and have them shipped to you. The choice depends on your needs and the amount of money you want to spend.

The cheapest option for obtaining Solaris is to download the single CPU version direct from Sun's Web site. Unlike the Sparc version of Solaris, the single CPU Intel version costs $20. Other costs and options include:
  • Single CPU license with media kit—$95
  • Solaris 9 Workgroup Server 2 CPU maximum—$250
  • Solaris 9 Workgroup Server 4 CPU maximum—$1500

Even though the download version may be cheaper, don't forget that you have to factor in the amount of time that it takes for the download to complete. Sun allows the download of operating system software installation CDs as ISO images. The download will consume a minimum of three CDs or one DVD. Keep in mind that each CD is around 660 MB in size, so the download will take a long time, even on a high-speed connection. Don't even think about downloading Solaris using a standard dial-up connection.

The other choice for getting the operating system software is to purchase the installation kit directly from a Sun Representative or over the Web. The kit includes:
  • Binary Code License: This is the document that details the license agreement.
  • Solaris 9 Operating Environment Supplemental License Terms: This is the document with more license agreement information.
  • Solaris 9 Start Here: This is the quick install guide document.
  • Solaris 9 Installation Guide: This is the document with every step of the installation in it, and detailed check lists and information for before, during, and after the install.
  • Solaris 9 4/03 Installation Release Notes: This is the document that has details about installation bugs and issues that are present in the software.
  • Solaris 9 4/04 Release Notes: This is the document that lists all the bugs and issues that are present in the software. The previous document is a condensed version, concerned with only installation topics, while this document covers all topics.
  • About Solaris 9 Documentation: This is the document that tells you how to use the Solaris 9 documentation and tells you where to find information.
  • What’s New in the Solaris 9 4/03 Operating Environment: This is the document that highlights what has changed for this release.

The kit also includes the Solaris 9 Operating Environment, which is a set of CDs that contains:
  • Solaris 9 Installation 4/03: This is the first of the install CDs.
  • Solaris 9 Software 4/03 1 of 2: This is the first of the software CDs used during the installation.
  • Solaris 9 Software 4/03 2 of 2: This is the second of the software CDs used during the installation.
  • Solaris 9 Languages 4/03: This is the optional language packs for the installation.
  • Solaris 9 Documentation 4/03 1 of 2: This is the first of the documentation CDs, which are optional for installation.
  • Solaris 9 Documentation 4/03 2 of 2: This is the second of the documentation CDs, which are optional for installation.
  • Solaris Software Companion 4/03: This is a CD of extra software provided by Sun, some freeware, and open source software.

As if that wasn't enough, Sun also includes additional software for free with Solaris in the Media Kits. This Bonus Software consists of a set of CDs that contains:
  • StarOffice 6.0: Sun’s “Microsoft Office-type” applications. Allows sharing and editing documents created by Microsoft Office applications and vice versa.
  • StarSuite 6.0: An Asian languages version of StarOffice.
  • Forte Developer 6 Update 2: Sun development environment, including a C, C++, and Fortran Compiler.
  • Solaris 9 Operating Environment: A DVD that has the same software as the Installation CD, the two Software CDs, and the two documentation CDs. If you have a DVD on your system, this installation will be faster since there is no switching of disks.

System requirements
Before you can deploy Solaris, you must make sure your system can handle it. At a minimum, your system should have a Pentium processor running at 133 Mhz. Solaris recommends that the system run at least 500 Mhz.

Your system must have 64 MB of main memory in order to install, although Sun recommends 128 MB. As with anything else, the more memory you have the better it will run.

The minimum requirements for disk space are 600 MB for a client installation, and 1 GB for a server installation. The differences between a client and a server include such capabilities as running an ftp server, providing DNS lookup, and running a Web server.

Beyond the basic system requirements, you should make sure the hardware in your system is compatible with Solaris 9. Like Microsoft does with Windows, Sun maintains a Hardware Compatibility List, which includes the systems and system components that work with Solaris 9.

Even if your system doesn't appear on the list, it still may work with Solaris 9. Membership in the list only indicates that Sun has tested the system and gotten it to work.

Likewise, just because a system component doesn't appear on the list, don't assume that it won't. Check with the hardware vendor to be sure that Solaris 9 will work with a particular component. That said, if you stick to using hardware components that are on the list, you'll have fewer problems during installation.

Pre-installation routines
After you've obtained the software and checked to make sure the system hardware will work with Solaris 9, you still have a little bit of work to do before you start the installation. The next step toward installing Solaris on Intel is to decide on the amount of disk space to be allocated for the installation. You need to consider things such as:
  • The number of languages your system will support. Keep in mind that double-byte languages, such as traditional Chinese, take more space than single byte-languages, such as Spanish.
  • The number of user home directories.
  • If you intend to save crash dumps of the system crashes.
  • Any server applications, such as mail or printing.
  • How many other applications will be running, such as database servers.
  • How much swap space the installation will need.

To plan disk space, you must start with the basic amount of space that the operating system will consume. This will vary depending on the components you choose to install. Sun recommends that you start with a baseline amount of 3 GB for the full install of Solaris, including OEM support.

From these calculations, you must add your own disk requirements. These will vary, depending on such things as the number of users you plan to have on your system and what applications you want to run on the server, among other things. As an example system installation, consider the following:
  • The entire Solaris install including OEM support
  • Twenty-four users who will use the system for their home directories
  • A database server that needs a maximum of 25 GB and a starting allocation of 2 GB

One other consideration is how much swap space is necessary. Swap space is critical to the system, because it is used as virtual memory for the operating system. If the system runs low on swap space, it can get into a situation called thrashing. This is when the operating system spends all available cycles on reading and writing swap, and never time slices user or other system processes. The system effectively hangs when it runs out of swap space.

It is always possible to add swap space using another physical part of a disk, even after the initial allocation. A commonly used rule of thumb for deciding on swap space is twice the amount of physical memory. You must take into consideration the amount of memory system processes need, the amount of memory for each user's processes, and the amount of memory an application will use.

Therefore, the total necessary disk space can be calculated as:

Solaris installation: 3 GB
User home directories (24 users * 512 MB/user): 12 GB
Database server software: 1 GB
Database server storage: 2 GB
Swap space (512 MB of RAM in server): 1 GB
Total space: 19 GB

Once you know how much space is necessary, you must choose how to allocate the space into file systems or raw disk space. Raw disk space is disk space that is allocated for use, but does not show up as a file system. Database servers often use raw disk space to improve their access speeds. There is a great deal of theory that goes into planning a file system’s initial allocation, such as expected growth and disk quotas. The specifics of how the allocation shown above was created will not be covered here, but here are a few general rules of thumb that you can follow.

By default, the Solaris install will allocate two file systems: / and /swap. The / file system will contain the Solaris operating system and the usual directories, such as /usr, /var, and /bin. The /swap file system will be used for tmp and for virtual memory used by the operating system.

If you are planning to install the database server in /var, which is often the default for many applications, you will need to allocate extra space in that file system. So, you need to choose how to lay out the file systems and their sizes.

Listing A shows a sample file system map that illustrates how to plan space allocation based on the above system.

In Listing A, you'll notice that the numbers don't add up exactly. That's because I've added some space to allow for temporary files. This will also allow growth of the files without having to reallocate disk space.

The last information necessary before installing is system setup information, such as networking, time zone offset, and languages to be supported. If you are not using DHCP, you will need detailed network information, such as:
  • IP address
  • Subnet mask
  • Type of name service, such as DNS, NIS, YP, and the details for whichever service you will be using, such as DNS server IP address
  • Host and domain name

Look before you leap
Now that Sun has added support for Intel platforms, Solaris makes a good alternative to Windows and Linux for system administrators who want a solid operating environment for their organizations. As with any operating system, you have to do some advance planning before installing Solaris 9. Take some time in advance to plan your installation, and you'll have fewer problems when it comes time to begin.

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