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Solaris 7 arrives

Full 64-bit operating system kernel is complete

By Jim Mauro

October  1998
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San Francisco (October 27, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems will announce today in New York the latest major release of its Solaris operating environment. Solaris 7 incorporates significant new features and functionality, including a complete 64-bit operating system kernel and application environment, mainframe-class reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) features, and ease-of-use features for installation, administration, and management.

The change in version number from previous releases (the last release was Solaris 2.6) is designed to convey the maturity of the software. Solaris 7 represents the seventh major release of the Solaris operating environment, which has been shipping as a production release for six years.

In order to maintain consistency and portability with commands and utilities that use traditional methods for operating system version checking, the SunOS versioning continues to follow the release numbering that has been used since Sun first announced Solaris more than six years ago. SunOS 5.7 is the version of the operating system component of the Solaris 7 release.

Solaris 7 incorporates a complete 64-bit kernel, including 64-bit shared object libraries for the development and execution of 64-bit applications. Solaris 7 is also available with a 32-bit kernel for older hardware platforms that do not implement 64-bit processors, such as Sun's previous generation SuperSPARC processor. (UltraSPARC is a 64-bit processor.)

The Solaris 7 software CD contains both the 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems and shared object libraries. Both versions can be loaded on a 64-bit hardware platform, allowing for the booting of either kernel. Moreover, complete backward binary compatibility is maintained for all existing 32-bit applications on the 64-bit environment. 32-bit application code does not need to be recompiled to run on the 64-bit kernel. (Note: There are a couple exceptions to the binary compatibility rule which will be covered in the Inside Solaris column next month.)

Solaris 7 has received UNIX 98 branding. It is fully compliant with the UNIX 98 standard for 64-bit application interfaces.

The implementation of a 64-bit operating system substantially extends the scalability of Solaris 7-based hardware platforms. The kernel now supports process address spaces larger than four gigabytes, allowing for much larger data sets and working space in physical memory. Databases and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications can cache more data in memory, which benefit both transaction-oriented applications and decision support systems. Scientific applications (e.g. CAD/CAM) can create larger models, arrays, and other data structures in memory. Network-oriented application services, such as Web and NFS servers, also benefit from the increase in system resources, such as file descriptors and network socket connections, that Solaris 7 offers.

Additional performance enhancements include a new version of the JDK (Java Development Kit) with a new Just-in-Time (JIT) compiler and a new version of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Also, applications that do 64-bit integer arithmetic will run faster when compiled with new versions of Sun compilers for Solaris 7, as the compiled code will make more efficient use of the 64-bit hardware registers.

Reliability, availability, and serviceability features implemented in Solaris 7 include:

Other performance enhancements include an improved implementation of the poll(2) system call (used extensively in all types of applications), allowing for more file descriptors to be polled more frequently. For TCP/IP, selective acknowledgement functionality has been added (RFC 2018), improving TCP performance for large data transfers over long connections.

Solaris is a multithreaded operating system; the kernel executes as threads on available hardware processors and the fine-grained multithreading of Solaris provides concurrency in many areas of the kernel, such as network and disk device drivers, or the memory management and process management code. A POSIX-compliant threads library allows for the development of applications that can take better advantage multiprocessor hardware platforms. 64-bit Solaris 7 increases the number of lightweight threads that can be created and executed on a system, improving application scalability.

The ease-of-use features added to Solaris 7 are:

Finally, Solaris 7 is truly a global operating environment, with expanded unicode support (Unicode 2.1 standard) enabling the development of multilingual applications. Native language support has been extended to 37 languages and 95 locales. Support for the new Euro currency symbol is also included.

In addition to Solaris 7, Sun will release three server extensions -- Easy Access Server 2.0, Enterprise Server 1.0, and ISP Server 2 for departmental, data center, and ISP customers, respectively.

Solaris 7 is set to ship next month and will start at $450 for the desktop version and $695 for the server version. Solaris Easy Access Server 2.0 is priced at $595. Solaris ISP Server 2, scheduled to ship in December, will cost $5,995. Solaris Enterprise Server is not expected until the first half of 1999.

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