Chapter 1: Introduction to Solaris 9

Chapter 1: Introduction to Solaris 9

In this chapter, you will

  • Cover the Solaris operating environment and the SunOS operating system

  • Learn about different types of Solaris certification exams available

  • Learn about the optional Solaris courses available through Sun Educational Services

  • Be given an overview of the exam's target material

  • Cover the certification process

  • Learn exam tips and tricks

Operating systems are the building blocks of computer systems and provide the interface between user applications and computer hardware. Solaris 9 is a multiuser, multitasking operating system developed and sold by Sun Microsystems (, and is one implementation of the UNIX operating system that draws on both the System V (AT&T) and Berkeley (BSD) systems. It has risen from little more than a research project to become the dominant UNIX operating system in the international marketplace today. Solaris 9 is the latest in a long line of operating environment releases based around the SunOS operating system, which is currently in version 5.9. Solaris is commonly found in large corporations and educational institutions that require concurrent, multiuser access on individual hosts and between hosts connected via the Internet. However, it is also rapidly being adopted by small businesses and individual developers through Sun's promotion of the 'Free Solaris' program. In this book, when we refer to 'Solaris 9,' many of the commands and procedures will apply equally to earlier versions of Solaris 2.x. Commands for Solaris 1.x are specified only where relevant.

Many desktop computer users have never heard of the word 'Sun' in the context of computing, nor are they usually familiar with the term 'Solaris' as an operating environment. However, almost every time that an Internet user sends an e-mail message or opens a file from a networked server running Sun's Network File System (NFS) product, Solaris 9 is transparently supporting many of today's existing Internet applications. In the enterprise computing industry, Sun is synonymous with highly available, highly reliable performance hardware, while Solaris 9 is often the operating environment of choice to support database servers and application servers. Sun's hardware solutions are based around the SPARC and UltraSPARC integrated circuit technologies, which currently support more than 64 processors in a single E10000 server system.

In recent times, two of Sun's innovations moved the spotlight from the server room to the desktop. First, Sun's development of the Java programming language, which promises 'write once, read anywhere' application execution across any platform that supports the Java Virtual Machine, has revolutionized the development of networked applications. In addition, Java 'applets' now appear on many web pages, being small encapsulated applications that execute client side, while 'servlets' power the back end of many three-tier applications, such as CRM and complex HR applications.

Secondly, Sun is promoting a 'free' version of Solaris 9 for the SPARC hardware platform. However, the release of a new version of Solaris for the Intel platform has been delayed. This means that organizations that have previously committed to using Microsoft Windows or Caldera/SCO OpenServer on the Intel platform, for example, can reuse the servers currently deployed with these operations by installing Solaris 8 for Intel, and upgrading when Solaris 9 becomes available. Sun has also made Solaris 9 more accessible for desktop users, offering the StarOffice productivity suite for free, or for a limited cost, shown in Figure 1-1. StarOffice is a product that is competitive with Microsoft Office-it contains word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database components that are fully integrated. In addition, StarOffice runs on many different platforms and in eight languages, meaning that a user on a Sun SPARCstation can share documents seamlessly with users on Linux and Microsoft Windows. The combination of a solid operating system with a best-of-breed productivity suite has given Solaris new exposure in the desktop market.

Click To expand Figure 1-1: The StarOffice productivity suite

This book is a complete guide to the Solaris 9 operating environment, and for the SunOS 5.9 operating system, meaning that we will try to cover, in detail, the operational aspects of Solaris and SunOS. If you simply need to look up a command's options, you can usually make use of Sun's own online 'manual pages,' which you can access by typing man command, where command is the command for which you require help. Or, you can retrieve the text of man pages and user manuals online by using the search facility at This reference will be most useful when you need to implement a specific solution, and you need practical tried-and-tested solutions. Although Solaris 9 comes with a set of traditional, unsecured remote access tools and servers by default, these are not always the best tools, in terms of security, that you should use in a production environment. For example, although ftp is fine for transferring files around a local area network, you should conduct remote exchanges of data using a secure file transfer system, such as sftp, which is a new utility supplied with the OpenSSH package. In outlining a solution to a problem, we generally introduce Sun-supplied software first, and then discuss the installation and configuration of third-party alternatives. You can also use this book as a reference for previous versions of Solaris, since much of the command syntax remains unchanged across operating system releases. Command syntax is typically identical across different platforms as well (SPARC and Intel).

If you've been keeping track of recent press releases, you may be wondering why Solaris has a version number of '9,' while SunOS has a revision level of 5.9. Since the release of Solaris 7 (SunOS 5.7), Sun has opted to number its releases sequentially with a single version number, based on the old minor revision number. This means that the release sequence for Solaris has been 2.5.1, 2.6, 7, 8, and now 9. Thus, many sites will still be running Solaris 2.6 without feeling too far left behind, especially if they don't require the 64-bit functionality for the UltraSPARC processors provided with Solaris 7 and beyond. Sun does provide 'jumbo patches' for previous operating system releases, which should always be installed when released to ensure that bugs (particularly security bugs) are resolved as soon as possible. Thus, most of the commands and topics covered in this book for Solaris 9 are equally applicable to Solaris 7, 8, and all previous releases of SunOS 5.x.

However, wherever possible, we have also included references to the SunOS 4.x operating system, which was retrospectively labeled the Solaris 1.x platform. This is because many installations have just started using SunOS 5.x in the past few years, and until Y2K problems emerged with SunOS 4.x, many sites still ran legacy applications on this platform (especially if they prefer the BSD-style SunOS 4.x to the System V-style SunOS 5.x operating system). Many Internet firewalls, mail servers, and news servers still run on SPARC architecture CPUs, and some of these models are not supported by the SunOS 5.x operating system.


Making the decision to upgrade from SunOS 4.x to SunOS 5.x was tough for many Sun installations.

Fortunately, with the release of Solaris 7, 8, and 9, 64-bit computing has arrived, and a stable platform has been established. Many of the changes between Solaris 7, 8, and 9 may appear cosmetic; for example, Larry Wall's Perl interpreter has been included since the Solaris 8 distribution, meaning that a new generation of system administrators will no longer have the pleasure of carrying out their first postinstallation task. However, other quite important developments in the area of networking and administration may not affect all users but be particularly important for the enterprise.

In this chapter, we cover the background to the Solaris 9 operating environment, which really begins with the invention and widespread adoption of the UNIX operating system. In addition, we also cover the means by which Solaris 9 can run cross-platform applications; for example, Solaris for Intel is capable of running Linux binary applications by using an application called Lxrun, which is freely available from Sun. Although earlier attempts to emulate other operating systems were largely unsuccessful (for example, WABI for emulating Microsoft Windows), Sun's development of Java can be seen as a strong commitment to cross-platform interoperability. In addition, Solaris 9 provides many network management features that allow a Solaris 9 server to act as a primary or backup domain controller to manage Windows NT clients using Samba-for example, if you want the reliability of Solaris 9 coupled with the widespread adoption of Microsoft Windows as a desktop operating system.

Finally, we review some of the many sites on the Internet that provide useful information, software packages, and further reading on many of the topics that we cover in this book.

Part I: Solaris 9 Operating Environment, Exam I