Installing Solaris 11 on Intel x86-64 Platform

I first used SunOS back in the early 1900s when I worked for Lotus Development Corporation porting Lotus 123 to Unix and, since then, have always liked the operating system. In fact, I am still a Solaris 10 SCSA (Solaris Certified System Administrator). Oracle Solaris 11, released on November 11th 2011, is the first major release of the Solaris operating system since Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems. Note that Oracle Solaris 11 (SunOS 5.11) is not the same as Oracle Solaris 11 Express which was released in November 2010; Oracle Solaris 11 Express was a preview release of Oracle Solaris 11.

The major highlights of Oracle Solaris 11 are:

  • 64-bit kernel only. No more 32-bit kernel support.
  • New packaging system called Image Packaging System (IPS).
  • BSD commands are depreciated. No more /usr/usc by default.
  • The GNU toolchain and utilities are installed by default. Includes both GCC 3.4.3 and 4.5.3
  • ZFS root by default.
  • Improved text mode installer.
  • The default shell is Bash. No more Bourne shell.
  • CUPS is now the default printing mechanism
  • Automated Installer instead of JumpStart
  • A new command line tool, Distribution Constructor, for building pre-configured, bootable customized images.
  • A fast reboot option allows certain system and firmware checks to be bypassed so as to minimize system downtime.
  • The SMF Repository is now layered to provide better control over administrative customizations for service and system configuration and their preservation during a system update.
  • A new utility, sysconfig, for unconfiguring and reconfiguring a system, replaces the legacy sys-unconfig and sysidtool utilities.
  • Zones are significantly easier to create and manage, more flexible and functional, and provide more facilities for resource management and monitoring.
  • Networking support for zones has been significantly enhanced.
  • NFS servers are now supported in a non-global zone.
  • The root account is now a role by default. Authorized users can assume the root role rather than directly logging into root.
  • The networking stack was re-architectured to unify, simplify and enhance observation and interoperability of network interfaces and features.
  • Sockets are no longer STREAMS-based.
  • FTP server changed to proftpd with an improved feature set and enhanced security.
  • ZFS now has support for encrypted datasets, deduplication, shadow migration to native filesystems, backup/restore with NDMP, and much more.
  • New volume management framework for removable media. Now similar to Linux
  • Support for virtual console terminals as in Linux.
  • GNOME 2 desktop by default.

In addition to the above list, there are hundreds of other significant enhancements. For a full list, see here and read the Solaris 11 Release Notes. Many Solaris 10 features are not part of Oracle Solaris 11. See here for more information.

I recently needed to check out the new packaging manager in Oracle Solaris 11 for a project that I was working on. Rather than set up a separate system, I chose to install the OS in VirtualBox. Because it is a 64-bit kernel, if you want to run Oracle Solaris 11 in VirtualBox, the underlying hardware must be 64-bit. You can use the Oracle Solaris 11 Live Media, available only for x86 based systems, to explore a complete Oracle Solaris 11 environment without installing it onto a system. Once you have a RAM-based instance of Oracle Solaris 11 up and running, you can start a graphical installer to install the OS. The GUI installer installs a fixed selection of software with minimal configuration, including a full desktop environment.

The following screenshots show the major stages of an Oracle Solaris 11 installation on VirtualBox. There are plenty of screenshots for Oracle Solaris Express 11 installs available on the Internet but I have yet to come across a set for an Oracle Solaris 11 install. Hence this post. I assume that you are familiar with Solaris 10 installs in general and VirtualBox installs in particular. I am not going to provide a blow-by-blow account of the installation process; the screenshots speak for themselves.

This is what your screen should look like when the LiveCD is up and running in VirtualBox.

solaris 11 install slide 1

After you click the install icon.

solaris 11 install slide 2

Setting up your disk(s). I choose to use the whole of the virtual disk.

solaris 11 install slide 3

Date, time and timezone configuration.

solaris 11 install slide 4

Add a user and give the system a name.

solaris 11 install slide 5

The configuration review screen.

solaris 11 install slide 6

Start of the actual software installation.

solaris 11 install slide 7

After software install and reboot.

solaris 11 install slide 8

I was surprised to see the GNOME 2 desktop!

solaris 11 install slide 9

Yes, it really is the GNOME 2 desktop.

solaris 11 install slide 10

This is what the screensaver looks like when activated.

solaris 11 install slide 11

And, finally, the new package manager.

solaris 11 install slide 12

All in all, installing Oracle Solaris 11 is fast, smooth and hassle-free. The whole GUI installation is much slicker than that for Solaris 10. I like what the developers have done!

3 comments to Installing Solaris 11 on Intel x86-64 Platform

  • Hi Finn,

    I much prefer Gnome shell but the question that a lot of people will be asking.

    How long is Solaris going to support Gnome 2?

    Looks really good though, I like it.

    • Chuck,

      Gnome 2 is new to Solaris. Prior to Solaris 11, the desktop choice was either CDE or the Java Desktop (which BTW was quite nice compared to CDE).

  • Kenton Wilson

    They are using ‘bash’ as the default shell instead of ksh93?!?! Bash is way, way slower than ksh93 and has fewer features as well. What is the $#(@*& are they thinking?!?!