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Low Risk SPARC Refresh: A Primer on SPARC Solaris Migrations

These days every IT department is familiar with x86 server virtualization, a useful strategy to reduce hardware footprints, provisioning time, downtime and increase flexibility and reliability.

But few know that the same paradigm can be also applied to SPARC servers.

Taking advantages of the latest SPARC server platforms and consolidating legacy SPARC systems without changing applications onto a more cost-effective, scalable, agile and flexible infrastructure, is pretty easy and can be achieved with a zero risk approach.


By virtualizing (P2V) legacy SPARC servers into Oracle Solaris zones or Oracle VM for SPARC LDOMs, so that all system peculiarities (system ID, configurations, software installations, etc)  are captured and available on the new servers. In this way, one of the most complex and difficult processes, a full OS and software reinstallation/configuration, is skipped and the business risk associated with the migration is dramatically reduced.

Consider that all systems deployed starting from Feb 2000 can be virtualized and run on latest SPARC systems.

Whether they need to be migrated into a Solaris Zone or an LDOM, can be determinate by the Solaris version of the legacy system.

Basically :

  • If the legacy system is running Solaris 8 or Solaris 9 or Solaris 10 9/10, then it can be virtualized into a Solaris zone
  • If the legacy system is running Solaris 10 1/13 or Solaris 11, then it can be virtualized into a Solaris zone or an LDOM

It is also possible, with Oracle VM for SPARC and Oracle Solaris Zones, to create from very simple to pretty complex virtual environments made of a wide range of Solaris versions.

For example, the picture below shows various levels of virtualization technologies available on SPARC M Servers :

BLOG - Solaris

From the bottom to the top can be identified :

  • The server platform.
  • PDOMs, the first level of virtualization, available only on high end server platforms. They are formerly known as Dynamic Domains and are electrically isolated hardware partitions that can be powered up and down without affecting any other PDOMs
  • LDOMs. Each PDOMs can be further virtualized using the hypervisor-based Oracle VM for SPARC or can natively run Oracle Solaris 11.  LDOMs can run their own Oracle Solaris kernel and manage their own physical I/O resources.  Different Oracle Solaris versions, running different patch levels, can be run within different LDOMs on the same PDOM
  • The next virtualization level is Oracle Solaris Zones (formerly called Oracle Solaris Containers), available on all servers running Oracle Solaris. A zone is a software-based approach that provides virtualization of compute resources by enabling the creation of multiple secure, fault-isolated partitions (or zones) within a single Oracle Solaris instance.

While similar virtualization technologies from other vendors cost several thousands of dollars per year, PDOMs – on high-end SPARC servers, LDOMs – on every SPARC system and Oracle Solaris Zones are virtualization options that come at no cost with a valid support contract on SPARC servers.

In conclusion,  a technology refresh of SPARC systems can  :

  • significantly reduce the risk of running business critical applications on old hardware
  • increase the security – thanks to Silicon Secured Memory features
  • improve overall system performance
  • be accomplished with minimal effort and a zero risk approach

For more information on how this strategy could benefit your business, contact Cintra today!

Written by Daniel Procopio, Director of Systems, Cintra Italy – May 2017

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