3.1 About the Operating Systems

These are my personal views and not related to the views of the Linux and/or OpenSolaris, or in general, the Open-Source community.

Linux: Linux is the kernel or core of an OS called GNU/Linux system, where the GNU Project provides the software and applications that runs on the Linux kernel. The Linux kernel, originally written by Linus Benedict Torvalds, is a UNIX-clone, which is POSIX compliant and was initially targeted towards the Intel x86 architecture. As rightly mentioned in the Linux Information Sheet by Michael K. Johnson at http://www.tldp.org, "Linux is a completely free reimplementation of the POSIX specification, with SYSV and BSD extensions (which means it looks like Unix, but does not come from the same source code base), which is available in both source code and binary form. Its copyright is owned by Linus Torvalds <torvalds@transmeta.com> and other contributors, and is freely redistributable under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL)".

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OpenSolaris: Linux powering a GNU/Linux system is a good system, but is it the best? Probably no. And if the same query involves running a mission-critical real-time million dollar system, probably "guaranteed" no for many years to come. Thus, we choose to tread carefully into the realm of the 'big boys'; either SVR4 or BSD Unixes like HP Tru64 UnixHP-UX, IBM-AIX and the ultimate commercial UNIX of all, Sun Microsystems' SOLARIS. OpenSolaris is the open-source build of SOLARIS; with initial release 2008.11 meant for x86 platform and on June 1, 2009, OpenSolaris 2009.06 was released, with support for both the x86 and SPARC platforms.

The power of Solaris comes from the 100% pre-emptive nature of its underlying kernel SunOS. The SunOS architecture is way too complicated to explain here in detail, but quintessentially speaking, one of the very preliminary distinguishing feature that separates SunOS kernel from Linux/FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD and other such OSes is the killer real-time multi-threading support that SunOS has for applications/binaries running on it. Solaris is the ONLY OS kernel on earth which is 100% pre-emptive in nature, running not processes but threads in Kernel space simultaneously and not alternatively; this technically speaking means, SunOS has a LWP threading model (see document link later on for details) which maps a single user-space process with a single kernel-space thread. Thus, SunOS kernel supports a real-time 1:1 scheduling model wherein each application thread has its own LWP, and the SunOS kernel is used to schedule all application threads. As a result, a SPARC system running Solaris 10 serves out Apache webserver requests much faster than on Linux. Additionally, Sun focuses on high performance computing whereas the main function of the Linux kernel is portability, ease of use etc. A must read for all to understand what makes Solaris one of the best commercial UNIXes on earth: http://www.sun.com/software/whitepapers/solaris9/multithread.pdf

To be precise, on a non-SMP system, there isn't much to choose from between Linux and OpenSolaris. But, once you start scaling to multiple processors heavily, the difference between Linux and Solaris (OpenSolaris included), is apparent. Solaris wins hands down! It is the killer OS for serious people!

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