Creating Solaris 11 Vagrant boxes out of Unified Archives

I am using Vagrant with Virtualbox for many years to automate test environments on my notebook. I absolutely love it, it allows me to spin up Solaris and Linux virtual machines in any way I need it. If you also have a need for a very convenient and affordable LAB environment, give it a try.

There is an additional challenge if you want to use Solaris VMs. Because there are no prepared Solaris base images (aka boxes), which you could just download from the web. I assume it is legally not allowed to redistribute Solaris.

Luckily Solaris has already a very powerful technology for handling OS images Unified Archives (UARs), which you likely use already for your OS deployment. In this post I will show how you can convert a Unified Archive hands-free in approximately 10 minutes into a Vagrant box.

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Remote Management of ZFS servers with Puppet and RAD

A few months ago I had the chance to test an Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance (ZFS SA) and the appliance made a very good impression on many areas. It especially brought to my mind again, that ZFS shines even more if you use it as NAS (Network Attached Storage), as central fileserver which shares its storage capacity for example via NFS.

But I did not really like the distributed storage configuration. E.g. a database server needs the correct ZFS properties set on the ZFS storage appliance via the web-interface or the custom CLI and also the corresponding NFS mount options in /etc/vfstab on the database server. Maybe this sounds like no big issue to you, for example, if you are also the admin responsible for the storage appliance, or if you have a perfect collaboration with the storage team. But especially if you want to automate the storage configuration, this distribution adds a significant complexity.

Of course I wanted to manage the configuration with Puppet like a local ZFS filesystem.
I don’t yet have a ZFS SA at work to deal with, but the availability of the new RAD REST interface in Solaris 11.3 motivated me to experiment with an own Puppet resource type to manage the remote ZFS filesystems directly on the client server.

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Puppet with Solaris RAD

Solaris 11.3 beta ships with a REST-API for the Solaris Remote Administration Daemon (RAD), which makes RAD finally easy to use with Ruby and Puppet. The following is a small experiment to test its capabilities.

Puppet provides a nice abstraction layer of the configuration of a system. A Puppet manifest is usually easier and faster to understand than a documentation with many CLI commands. But there is no magic involved, Puppet usually executes also the same CLI commands in the background. With the debug option you can observe this command executions.

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Zfsdir: Simple ZFS management with Puppet

ZFS is a great filesystem, with many, many features. But for all that it is still easy to manage, in my opinion easier than other filesystems. Managing storage is usually a high risk task, which makes automation harder. Would you change the size for a critical filesystem with an automated method? If it is an ext3 filesystem on LVM and software-raid, maybe not. If it is on ZFS, a low risk modification of the quota could be enough, e.g. zfs set quota=800g rpool/criticalfilesystem. That’s easy to automate. Nowadays automation becomes even necessary because, the amount of ZFS filesystems is growing. And if you like to use more features you likely need to set more ZFS properties.

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Known issues in Puppet on Solaris 11.2

Update 25th Dec 2014: With the latest Solaris SRU ( the important bugs which are listened here, are fixed for me. Also Puppet, Facter and Hiera are now shipped in a modern version.

With 11.2, Puppet is shipped for the first time directly with Solaris. I think it is a quite good first release, but of course not yet perfect. Puppet itself is open source software and Oracle also published all patches and Puppet types under the CDDL, so you would have the option to maintain your own build.

The huge open source community is an important part of Puppet, maybe the most important. But with Solaris you have the additional advantage that you have this open source software also covered under your usual Oracle Premier Support. With no additional cost!

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Solaris 11.2 released

After a short public beta phase, Oracle made Solaris 11.2 generally available last week. You can download it from in various forms like the usual install ISO, Unified Archives and as Virtual box appliance.

There are many, many new features, but also a lot of small incremental improvements.

Some of the new key features are:

  • Openstack
  • Kernel zones
  • Puppet
  • Unified Archives
  • Elastic Virtual Switch

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Control the size of the ZFS ARC cache dynamically

Last updated on: 25th Dec 2014

Solaris 11.2 deprecates the zfs_arc_max kernel parameter in favor of user_reserve_hint_pct and that’s cool.

ZFS has a very smart cache, the so called ARC (Adaptive replacement cache). In general the ARC consumes as much memory as it is available, it also takes care that it frees up memory if other applications need more.

In theory, this works very good, ZFS just uses available memory to speed up slow disk I/O. But it also has some side effects, if the ARC consumed almost all unused memory. Applications which request more memory need to wait, until the ARC frees up memory. For example, if you restart a big database, the startup is maybe significantly delayed, because the ARC could have used the free memory from the database shutdown in the meantime already. Additionally this database would likely request large memory pages, if ARC uses just some free segments, the memory gets easily fragmented.

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Puppet and SMF in Solaris 11.2

In a former post I covered already my enthusiasm for Puppet support in Solaris 11.2. But what does it really mean? Is Puppet now the strategic systems management framework for all the Solaris stuff? In my opinion this is definitely not the case. The Solaris developers invested many years into good base technologies for systems management like the “Service Management Facility” (SMF). And with new Solaris releases, more and more systems configuration moves into SMF, into so called “SMF properties”. For example since Solaris 11 the DNS servers need to be configured in SMF properties and no longer in /etc/resolv.conf.
So if Puppet can talk to SMF the full power of SMF is also available in Puppet. In this post I will show how the managing of SMF in Puppet is possible in Solaris 11.2.

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