Home > Articles > Operating Systems, Server > Solaris

Preparing for Solaris 9 Installation

  • Print
  • + Share This
There are two basic considerations before installing Solaris. First, make sure that you can run Solaris before you try the installation and fail. Second, think about how you want to organize your disks and how to integrate your machine into your network. This sample chapter introduces these issues, including some background on how Solaris, disks, memory, and networking slot together.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Verifying your hardware environment

  • Verifying disk space

  • Preparing network information

It's no good leaping into an installation before thinking about exactly how you are going to set the machine beforehand. Although Solaris is almost as easy to install as Windows or Mac OS, it does require a little bit more planning up front. I know it's tempting to rip the cellophane off those disks and start plugging away. However, the planning and preparation you do now will save you time both during the installation and after the installation has completed.

There are two basic considerations. First, you must make sure that you can run Solaris before you try the installation and fail. Second, you need to think about how you want to organize your disks and how to integrate your machine into your network (if you have one).

In this chapter, I'll introduce these issues, including some background on how Solaris, disks, memory, and networking slot together.

Supported Hardware

The first thing you should do is ensure that your machine is actually capable of running Solaris in the first place. Solaris supports two basic computer systems—those based on the SPARC chip, which include all the machines available from Sun themselves, and an Intel (or x86) version which runs on most Pentium-based IBM compatible PCs. With some exceptions and caveats, any PC capable of running Windows is also capable of running Solaris.


Scalable Processor Architecture (SPARC)—it's basically a range of processors similar to Intel's x86 range (which includes everything from the humble 8086 to the most recent Pentium 4) and the PowerPC chip used in the Apple Mac series of machines. SPARC is actually a group of interested organizations who agree and develop the SPARC standard and includes Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu to name but a few.

SPARC Platforms

It's actually easier to say which systems from Sun are not supported rather than listing all of those that are. In essence, Solaris 8 and 9 both support any Sun platform based on either the SuperSPARC and HyperSPARC CPU (sun4m) or UltraSPARC (sun4u) architectures—the old sun4c architecture is not supported. That explicitly excludes the following machines:

  • 600MP systems

  • SPARCstation Voyager

  • SPARCstation 1/1+2/IPC/IPX/ELC/SLC

That means that at the very low end you will need a SPARCclassic or a SPARCstation 4, 5, 10, or 20. Or for a slightly better experience, use one of the machines based on an UltraSPARC processor, such as an Ultra 1 or 2 or any of the Enterprise machines, right up to and including the top-of-the-range Sun Fire 15K server.

In the new workstation range, the new Ultra 5, 10, 30, and 60 workstations, or the even-better Sun Blade 100 workstation, are also good alternatives. The new range of Ultra workstations is based on the same PCI architecture used by PCs and also uses similar IDE disks and other low-end components to make owning such a machine relatively inexpensive. The price of a Sun Blade 100 workstation is about the same as the cost of a high-end PC, although in raw performance there is probably not a lot of difference between the two platforms.

A Postcard From ...

It may seem strange—especially if you come from the PC world—to consider running Solaris on machines like the SPARCclassic, which has a CPU speed of less than 100MHz. In fact, even the top-of-the-range UltraSPARC processors have not made the 1GHz barrier, broken by PCs some time ago.

In reality, the SPARC range of processors is significantly more powerful than the Intel range of processors, MHz for MHz, and the motherboard and other design considerations that go into a SPARC-based machine make it significantly faster than a GHz PC for raw processing tasks.

In all other respects, any device which you will find fitted as standard to a SPARC machine is supported automatically by Solaris—there would be no reason for Sun not to support an element of their own hardware within their own operating system!

Third party devices will generally require a separate driver of some kind—but you shouldn't need to make use of this until after you have installed the system in the first place.

Intel Platforms

Specifying which machines are supported on the Intel platform is of course significantly more difficult. The Sun servers are a fairly small collection of machines developed by just one company. The modern PC has different motherboards, processors (if you include Intel, AMD, and other Intel compatibles), and other core components such as graphics cards, SCSI and IDE interfaces, and more.

Sun Screen

As mentioned elsewhere in this book, Solaris 9 Intel was dropped by Sun early in January 2002, not long after the first, relatively stable, early-access beta for the platform had been released. Solaris 8 still works and is available for the Intel platform (in fact, I use it on my own network and have for about 18 months now). The guidelines given here should apply to either Solaris 8 or 9 for Intel, whether or not Solaris 9 is ever fully released.

Although Sun has tried very hard to support as wide a range of platforms as possible, it's impossible to explicitly say whether your system will be 100 percent compatible. To help you make that decision, you must check out the Sun Hardware Compatibility List (HCL), which you can find at the Sun Solaris web page (http://www.sun.com/solaris).

If you are using a mainstream motherboard from one of the major manufacturers, including EpoX, Abit, Microstar, Asus, and others, or you are using an Original Equipment Manu-facturer (OEM) machine provided by a company such as Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, or IBM, then it's highly likely that your machine will support Solaris. Solaris is also able to support multi-processor boards from most of these manufacturers.

For other components of your system, use the following rough guide:

  • Graphics cards: Most of the popular graphics cards are supported, including those from ATI, NVidia, Matrox, Hercules, and others, including variations of the core chipsets (for example, the NVidia TNT2 chipset is used in a number of cards from many different manufacturers—Solaris supports the chipset, not the card).

  • Monitors: Any multisync monitor should work fine, and fixed rate monitors should work okay, provided your graphics card supports the resolution offered by your monitor.

  • Solingo

    A multisync monitor is one that can adjust to different horizontal and vertical frequencies in order to run at different resolutions. Most modern monitors are multisync, because they suit and work with more machines that way. Older monitors (anything older than about five years) may be fixed sync, meaning that they work either at a single resolution, or at a very reduced range of resolutions and refresh rates.

  • Mice: Most PS/2 and serial mice should work, although be warned that the advanced features such as scroll wheels and additional buttons (beyond the standard two) offered by mice such as the Microsoft Intellimouse or the Logitech Wheel-mouse will not be supported.

  • SCSI adaptors: The main SCSI, SCSI-2, Fast SCSI, and SCSI-3 solutions from Adaptec, Compaq, DPT, Intel, and QLogic are supported natively. You may need drivers for some models of SCSI-3 adaptors, particularly the 39160 from Adaptec.

  • Solingo

    Small Computer Systems Interconnect (SCSI), is a connection standard that allows multiple devices—hard disks, CD-ROM drives, scanners, and so on—to be connected to a single machine over a single cable. Similar to USB, although SCSI supports faster transfer rates, and Firewire (IEEE1394/i.Link), SCSI is still the interconnect standard of choice for high-speed, high- availability machines.

  • Network adaptors: The more popular makes and chipsets from 3Com, Compaq, DEC, D-Link, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Kingston, Linksys, and SMC are supported natively at both 10Mbit and 100Mbit speeds. For Gigabit models, support may be provided natively, but check the HCL.

If you are in any doubt at all, check the HCL for more details, and even if that doesn't include your precise configuration, you may find that your machine is still supported. If it's any consolation in this respect, my motherboard is not officially supported according to the HCL, but has been running Solaris 8 for 18 months without one single failure in that time!

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account