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Getting Started with Solaris 10 and ZFS

March 24th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Solaris 10 LogoI’ve been itching to write more about Solaris 10 and ZFS now that I’ve got it working on my budget server. Unfortunately, I’ve been out of town this last week and haven’t had a chance to write much. Before I write up the full install and setup process, I thought I’d give you a little teaser.

You can get started at the Solaris home page. Incidentally, www.solaris.com will redirect you to the page on sun.com, in case you forget the URL. The first thing you’ll want to do is start downloading the x86 install disc image, because this will take a while. From the Get Solaris page you need to select the download option or sign up to have a software kit sent to you in the mail. If you have a DVD drive, I would recommend the compressed DVD image download if you’re running Windows. It comes in four parts, which are heavily compressed. Once you download all four parts, the decompression and disc creation routine will take quite a while. It took about an hour (if I remember right) just to make the image on my 2.4GHz P4 machine. Add burning time on top of that.

Once you have the install disc ready to go, the rest of the process is pretty easy. You can get an overview at “How to Quickly Install the Solaris 10 1/06 OS” and there’s a pretty good Solaris x86 FAQ available from sun.drydog.com as well.

  1. scott
    March 26th, 2007 at 16:59 | #1

    I’m waiting with bated breath! Once I have a look at your guide, I’ll probably build a system based on the specs in your previous post.

    As much as I hope ZFS will be included in Leopard, and hopefully in a very Apple™ way, I don’t really have a computer to take advantage of it. My PowerMac only has 2 drive bays (who thought to design the PowerMac that way) and my main computer is now my MacBook Pro. Unless they build in fantastic support for USB drives, I think a solution would be weak.

    In other words, I think it makes sense for me to build a system to house a number of hard drives purely for the purpose of hosting storage.

    Anyways, thanks for taking the time to write about this.. I can’t wait to hear more.

  2. scott
    March 26th, 2007 at 19:49 | #2

    I’ll probably be building a system just like yours, except with 320gbs rather than 250’s (since I already have one SATA 320gb), and then a smaller slave drive.

    Again, I really want to thank you for taking the time to write about this because your blog and your writing is by far the most accessible I’ve seen so far in the ZFS/Solaris/Home NAS realm.

    I wonder if, at some point, you might address the appropriate amount of RAM necessary for a solution such as yours? I see you put 1GB in your system, do you think this is the minimum amount? (By minimum I don’t mean the bare minimum, I mean the smallest amount of RAM that you’d put into such a box for your personal use from a cost-benefit perspective).

  3. March 26th, 2007 at 19:04 | #3

    @scott – Sorry to keep you waiting! I’ve been traveling for two weeks and it’s hard to keep up with blogging when I’m working long hours and eating out every day.

    Like you, my main computer is a laptop (BlackBook), but I also have two boxes running Windows at home and I really wanted to consolidate storage. I actually considered a Mac Pro just for the four internal drives, but really that’s a ludicrous idea. It makes far more sense to buy a budget server than pay the extra $1000 to go from an iMac to a Mac Pro.

    If you’re looking for more than 5 drives, there are some really easy solutions using a newer SATA II controller card and port multipliers. Some of these cards have Solaris 10 support too. I’ll try to bring in discussion of those too. For now, my solution is 5 drives in the storage array.

  4. scott
    March 30th, 2007 at 19:05 | #4

    So, because I figured your guides would ultimately get me up and running, I went ahead and put in a newegg order based on your specs. I got a lesser CPU because I wanted a retail version, and only 512MB ram, but ordered 3 320GB Seagate hard drives because I already had one SATA drive in my Power Mac.

    The parts came in yesterday and I put it together. Sadly, I found that one of the drives was dead (confirmed this by putting it in the Power Mac). I complained bitterly to Newegg that this had made my $40 overnight shipping charge useless, so they refunded me a bit of that, and are currently overnighting me a new hard drive while I send my other one back.

    I decided to begin the Solaris installation because that would give me an opportunity to try and deal with some problems. Although I did have trouble getting it going (mistakes in the setup), I did eventually get it loading. As you stated, it picked up the ethernet and video card by default, which is a nice development based on the last Solaris installation I attempted.

    Solaris also detected the three hard drives, which I tossed into a RAID-Z to see how it would work. I knew it was going to be easy, but the whole process is just so seamless.. it’s incredible.

    Anyways, I’m still looking forward to your guides – I think they’re necessary, because the documentation on building this stuff for personal use is pretty weak. Also, I’m not sure if my Samba setup is correct (though I did get it working quite well). I’m having issues with Solaris’ user system right now, to make sure that the data which I’m making available over my network is secure.

    But thanks for the initial hardware tips, and I’m looking forward to reading your write-up.. just to see if my process is the most efficient one.

  5. March 31st, 2007 at 10:07 | #5

    @Scott – Your system sounds great and I’m glad to hear the hardware worked for you too. I’m really glad that I switched out and went with this AMD board from Asus. It’s so much easier when the video and LAN just work.

    Now I’m worried that my install guide might disappoint! I hope you’ll stick around and provide some feedback on future posts so I can continue to tweak it and make it better for those that come after us.

    And yeah, isn’t ZFS amazing? Setting up my RAID-Z pool was literally one command line.

  6. scott
    March 31st, 2007 at 17:31 | #6

    Of course.. and actually, I spoke too soon. I got Samba running, and although I have my Mac mounting the share when it allows for Guests, I’m having a lot of trouble getting user accounts to work properly.

    Maybe your guides will touch on this.. in the mean time I’ve been scouring the Samba documentation. What is throwing me off is that I set it up as they describe, so I’m not sure exactly what is going on.

    That said, I enjoy this blog and will stick around for posts outside of the ZFS realm too! It’s really well written. Sidenote: NewsFire has to be my most-used OS X application.

  7. emmanuel
    April 7th, 2007 at 23:19 | #7

    I got inspired as well. I went for a AMD 3600, 1 GB, a couple of seagates 320GB and a spare PATA drive to use as boot device. I also went for the ideal (for my purpose) casee: a cooler master Itower 930 which comes with a 4 hot-swap SATA 2 drive bays.

    I unfortunately can’t share your success (it started with 2 days to understand that the mobo is very sensitive to memory (placing the 2 512M in slots 1 and 3 (and not 1 and 2) was key)).

    I am also starting to guess that Solaris Express won’t work (v55, v59 and v61 so far) . No network, no video, no grub properly setup. Was that to be expected?
    I’ll download Solaris 10 overnight to give that a try.

  8. scott
    April 8th, 2007 at 15:29 | #8

    Are you using the same motherboard that we are? If so, there should be no compatibility issues.. I popped the DVD in, the installation process went smoothly, and everything was detected. Are your hard drives in the correct priority order in bios? That’s what stopped grub for launching for me initially.

  9. April 8th, 2007 at 15:46 | #9

    @emmanuel – I never tried Solaris Express so I can’t comment on that directly. However, the Solaris 10 install with this motherboard was very smooth. I’m guessing that you have the same one since you mention the RAM slot configuration. The color coding got my attention there, so I had to go to the manual to get it straight the first time.

  10. emmanuel
    April 9th, 2007 at 03:43 | #10

    @scott: I went for the M2NPV-VM (firmware:0705)

    Install of S10 has gone better currently. No network it seems (I tired to play with the BIOS as well to no avail) but X is better and grub works.

    X runs weird: if I try to set a UK keyboard (spare part) in kdmconfig I lose the mouse cursor. Running xorgconfig sends the screen in a frenzy that requires a forceful power down.
    I managed to have a screen by setting kdmconfig to the sun server and later edit by hand the config file (color depth was wrong).

    To do (and your help would be appreciated): setting the network card (is that nge0?) to test NFS and system updates; getting a screen cursor.

    Other than that: the sata drives were picked up easy. Zpool and ZFS raidz confirgured in less than five lines. If only the rest of the system could be that easy…

    Future: mailserver, print server, internet proxy…..
    But I’ll take it a spoonful at a time.

  11. scott
    April 9th, 2007 at 14:45 | #11

    @emmanuel – i’d love to help, but building this box is literally all of the exposure I’ve ever had to Solaris other than one previous (failed) attempt to check it out. It’s not pretty, and I don’t have the patience to try and learn it. In other words, i have no idea how to get you started on any of your problems.

    I have, however, read that ZFS has been ported to FreeBSD:


    I don’t think it’s compatible with AMD yet, but maybe in a short period of time it will be, and maybe this will present an alternative.

    Hopefully Weldon can help you with some of your Solaris issues

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