Solaris x86 and Linux Compatibility

One of the UNIX labs I've recently started managing is filled with SunBlade 1000 workstations. These are nice machines, but they're a few years old and it will be time to replace them in the not too distant future. We have some evaluation SUN Ultra 40 workstations which we are starting to test. The units we have are really nice; dual processor dual core AMD CPUs with 8 GB of RAM and nVidia Quaddro FX4500 graphics cards. They would make great contemporary replacements for our aging SUN infrastructure.

The only problem is that this would entail an architecture shift from SPARC to x86. Our server infrastructure is Solaris on SPARC and I'd like to stick with Solaris for the workstations as well. Unfortunately I'm not sure about the state of Solaris x86 support for our applications. I suspect many of them are supported under Linux, but I don't think they are all supported under Solaris x86.

I had read a while back that SUN was coming out with a Linux binary compatibility layer for Solaris x86, so I was thinking I could run whatever was not natively supported in Solaris x86 under the Linux binary support.

Unfortunately it seems not to be so cut and dry. There is the lxrun application which will run Linux applications "natively" inside of Solaris, but it seems to be deprecated and is only supported with the runtime libraries from ancient versions of RedHat Linux. This won't work for our purposes, as we need contemporary versions.

There is another project called BrandZ which allows you to run a Linux userspace environment inside of a Solaris zone. This is more promising but still a little heavier weight than what I wanted. Nevertheless, I think it's the best option so it's something we will be playing with.

One idea we have is to setup two child zones, one Solaris and one BrandZ/Linux, and have the root zone run an XDMCP chooser to allow login to either Linux or Solaris from the workstation. I have no idea how well that is going to work, but we'll try it and I'll post an update with our results.

Tags: , , ,