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Solaris 10 Tests Yield Performance Gains

Users rave; FedEx says OS rekindles interest in Sun

November 22, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN JOSE -- While Sun Microsystems Inc. officially launched Solaris 10 here last week, the future prospects of the operating system—and perhaps of Sun itself—were being judged many miles away by early users such as the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and FedEx Corp.

Those organizations, which are longtime Sun shops, have been testing Solaris 10. And IT managers at both FedEx and the stock exchange said they're pleased with what the operating system has delivered thus far.

Prior to the development of Solaris 10, interest in Sun's systems "was somewhat dwindling" at FedEx, said Don Fike, the Memphis-based company's technical director. But now that FedEx's IT staffers have evaluated the new software, "interest is extremely high—a major shift here," he said.

Fike added that as a result of Solaris 10, FedEx's use of Sun servers, which run many of its mission-critical systems, would at least stay the same and might even expand.

Many of the major features built into Solaris 10 have been available for testing for some time. Over the past 18 months, Sun has gradually released large parts of the operating system, and the initial version is already available in full to users who participate in Sun's Software Express preview program. Commercial shipments are due by the end of January.

Key improvements include faster networking technology that Sun has built into the TCP/IP stack. Fike said the networking enhancements have "dramatically improved" the performance of network-intensive applications that run on Solaris-based systems at FedEx.

Bill Morgan, CIO of Sun Microsystems Inc.
Bill Morgan, CIO of Sun Microsystems Inc.

Another feature that Fike said is particularly valuable is a tool called Solaris Dynamic Tracing, or DTrace for short. DTrace lets users examine how applications interact with Solaris 10, and Fike said he has been able to identify performance problems in live code within 15 minutes by using the tool—regardless of which third-party application may be running.

IT executives at Philadelphia Stock Exchange Inc. said the networking improvements, coupled with the application-tuning capabilities of DTrace, have increased performance on their servers to such an extent that they expect to be able to reduce the amount of Sun hardware they need to maintain.

For instance, a trading application that currently runs on a 12-CPU Sun Fire 6800 server performed better when it was tested on a four-CPU Sun Fire 4800 equipped with Solaris 10.

Without the performance gains made possible by Solaris 10, the exchange faced the prospect of buying additional Sun machines to help support a new electronic options-trading system, said Thomas Wittman, senior vice president of trading system development. It was either that or "take a look at something else, whatever that something else might be," he said.

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