Thursday, May 26, 2005

Solaris and GUI management

Following up on this comment, which gets its roots from some other thoughts.

I've heard this criticism of Solaris elsewhere - it's a fairly common comment.

Is it justified? Well, yes and no. Let me take this on a bit further.

It's true, without question, that Solaris is largely lacking in GUI management tools. And generally I would have to say that those that are present are pretty poor.

So the criticism is justified? Well, not quite.

One reason that Solaris doesn't have and of that fancy management crap is that quite simply it doesn't need it most of the time. The CLI interfaces are pretty straightforward, and if you want to ignore those then just editing a few files won't tax anybody - the files used are in well defined locations with well defined contents, and all this is pretty stable. I've managed Solaris systems for well over ten years and never in that time felt the need for anything more than the tools that are provided.

In that sense, Sun's existing customer base - myself included - must take some of the blame for Sun's failure to provide fancy management tools. We (I know I have and I know other customers who have the same response) have repeatedly told Sun that we don't want dodgy GUI management tools. Given the negative response, is it any wonder that Sun haven't produced much in the way of groundbreaking works of art in this area?

(On the other hand, my experience of trying to do essentially trivial things with networking under RedHat was very frustrating. I can see why why RedHat admins need tools to help.)

One other thing: if you're spending that much time doing trivial things to your systems that the GUI vs. not argument makes any difference, then there's something fundamentally wrong with your admin framework.

OK, so the critcism is completely unjustified? Well, not quite.

The reality is that there are some great graphical admin tools, and the possibility for some additional ones. But there is precious little for the inexperienced or part-time admin. And if Solaris wishes to expand out of its datacenter roles, it must cater to wider markets.


10ksnooker said...

I think the history lesson that is missed on Sun during their years of MS hate is the numbers of point and click sys admins that are now in the computer market. Thank MS. Good enough is good enough.

Want proof, Dell server revenues up, Sun server revenues down -- quarter after quarter, after quarter.

Rack mount big tin IT departments are becoming a stagnant business at best -- growth lies in the small standalone servers maintained by mostly inexperienced users. Even Cisco has figured it out with their acquisition of Linksys. From what I can tell, Sun has no clue what a cable modem is. I thought Sun had it figured out with Cobalt, but I was proved wrong.

Further proof Sun doesn't get it, Sun buys StorageTEK -- why?

Peter Tribble said...

I wouldn't take revenue as a good indicator. On our network, we have a couple of old Sun netras that are basically doing the same work as half a dozen multiprocessor multigigabyte Xeon Dells on the Windows side. And take far more manpower to look after them as well.

Anonymous said...

RedHat Enterprise Linux RHEL (3,4,5) are very straightforward to perform all tasks via editing files. I admin all 4 "worlds", xBSD, Windows, Solaris and Linux. RHEL/CentOS is by far the easiest to get 'howto' information and get things up and running. Solaris is a byzantine mess of idiotic paths, legacy, posix and 'modern' system stuff, plus they changed the system5-ish rc.d in favor of svcadm/SMF. Then the Solaris history! I've got a copy of Solaris 1.x (SunOS 4.1.4) right here, and have been with Solaris every step since then. It’s a pile of changes, UI/GUI changes, deprecated utilities that get retained for backward compatibility and a bizarre evolution that is painful.

However, that being said, there is no other OS that supports the kind of robustness that Solaris does. The driver set is on the weak side, but the OS is very good at staying up for years, I never patch once its stable, never reboot, the Solaris servers tolerate unplanned power failures, they run forever, export NFS and provide NIS flawlessly, and rarely need rebooting.

But I will not buy for one moment that package management and system configuration is straight forward. Its utterly frustrating and asinine and hopelessly complicated. The reward for tolerating this mess is unparalleled stability. The HOWTO culture at Sun's forums is a basically a lot of arrogant jerks who extol Sun who, according to them, does not have flaws. If you ask complicated things you never get answers, and simple things get RTFM, FOAD and DIAF type responses.

Sun is also being a complete jackoff-jerkoff by charging for patches. I'm sorry, but that is the worst most pathetic way I've ever seen to get people to pay for support, and without pca (solaris patch check advanced) and a sunsolve account, patch management is stupid and frustrating.