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Oracle screw over Solaris experts with new certification rules 2 comments

I can cut Oracle a lot of slack – they’re a big, slow organisation, and having swallowed Sun there are sure to be some bouts of indigestion, in between a few burps as the more troublesome bits get expelled.

But the latest update on how certifications are granted is ridiculous. Read the note on Oracle’s Education website:

Important Changes to Java, and Oracle Solaris Certifications

Beginning August 1, 2011, Java Architect, Java Developer, Solaris System Administrator and Solaris Security Administrator certification path requirements will include a new mandatory course attendance requirement.

The summary is – even if you pass the certification exams, you cannot be certified unless you attend a relevant hands-on course.

Your experiences may vary, but personally I have always found vendor-run training courses to be useless. They are not teaching you skills you need – they are teaching you how to do things the way the vendor wants you to. Training courses are not always the best way to learn things, and on every single one I’ve been on, there’s been someone who hasn’t bothered with the course pre-requisites – and so the training slows down to the pace of someone who is a total beginner. That is not the way to learn.

Perfect case in point – Sun used to say that to add a user, you’d fire up the admintool GUI. This even came up in the certification exam, and if you said anything other than ‘use admintool’, you’d fail that question.

Meanwhile, in the real world, people were editing passwd and shadow, running useradd, or hacking away at NIS and LDAP. No-one used NIS+ – so naturally, that too featured in the certification exams and the courses.

Vendors want to teach you how to use their specific tools to increase sales and penetration. Fine. But that isn’t teaching you the useable, transferrable skills you need to be a really good sysadmin.

By forcing course attendance, Oracle are making it clear that to be an ‘expert’ in Solaris, you have to a) have paid them lots of money for that bit of paper, and b) know how to use Oracle tools, over and above any real skill or understanding of the OS.

This is short-sighted, greedy, and stupid. It devalues the Solaris certifications by clearly showing them to be about making money for Oracle. It means that someone who invests heavily in Solaris and UNIX skills will be valued less by HR (and less technical managers) than someone who has paid Oracle a bucket load of cash.

It also unfairly penalises small businesses and consultancies. If you’ve got a few UNIX guys, why not pay for some books, let them self study, and then fork out £300 or so for a few exams? That’s a world away from having them out the office for 5 days, and paying upwards of £3000, for a course that is unlikely to give them any new knowledge.

This is wrong. This is ill-considered, and turns a useful way of showcasing your Solaris skills into a valueless exercise in fattening Mad Larry’s wallet.

Exploring Solaris Auto-Registration Comments Off on Exploring Solaris Auto-Registration

Last night I gave a presentation to LOSUG about Solaris Auto-Registration. Well, actually, auto registration was a part of it, but it also got into service tags (which I think are pretty cool).

The main point of all of this was to use auto registration and service tags as a way of showing how you need to poke and pull apart new features and applications to understand how they work. Only once you have that understanding can you make an informed choice on where or how to implement them.

A copy of the presentation in PDF format can be downloaded here:exploring_solaris_autoregistration.pdf

I hope people find it interesting, and that it encourages you to do some hacking around in your own infrastructure.

Solaris 11 Express is out Comments Off on Solaris 11 Express is out

Well, the covers have come off and Solaris 11 Express is out. This is going to come as a shock to any Solaris sysadmin who hasn’t played with OpenSolaris or OpenIndiana.

Out with the old:

  • no more UFS root
  • no more patch* commands
  • SVR4 packaging is still there, but deprecated in favour of IPS
  • no more Jumpstart
  • no more flash archives

In with the new:

  • ZFS everywhere
  • ZFS de-duplication
  • ZFS encryption
  • ZFS diff – see the changes between ZFS snapshots
  • AI (the Automated Installer) is how you’re going to be installing Solaris 11
  • IPS is the default packaging/patching system
  • the root account is now an RBAC role

Solaris 11 Express is basically free for any use other than production. The default IPS repository will be updated with critical bug fixes and security patches (think the old Recommended patch clusters) and there is a support repository, for those who have support contracts, which will have full access to all patches and updates.

Solaris 11 Express also qualifies for Oracle Premier Support. If you have SPARC kit, you’ll need at least OBP version 4.17 to use the Automated Installer (AI), but it looks like you can still use the text installer with older OBP versions.

You can find more details in the Solaris 11 Express FAQ.

snv_151 seems to be the the ON build used, which is a bit newer than snv_147 used for OpenIndiana (the team are working on an oi_148 release at the moment – have a look at the OpenIndiana Wiki)

All in all, Solaris 11 Express looks to be pretty much what was expected. It’s going to be ‘commercial’ OpenSolaris – it was pretty much always my understanding that OpenSolaris would push new features, and that those would be rolled into the Solaris product as and when they matured. Things didn’t quite work out that way over the last few years – OpenSolaris became too new, with too many new features, and with the dropping of Solaris SX:CE, there was no real merging of products going on.

What I want to know is – how will JASS work with the new operating environment?

Solaris 09/10 is out Comments Off on Solaris 09/10 is out

Oracle have announced that Solaris 09/10 is out. Along with a number of new features, two things really stick out:

1) Oracle have begun putting a lot of effort into tuning and integrating Solaris and Oracle. If you’re an Oracle database shop and you’re not running Solaris, you need to be paying close attention to this, because it’s the future for Mad Larry’s database cash-cow.

2) Perpetual licensing. Gone is the stupid 90 day eval – if you’re doing anything that’s not production, you get Solaris for keeps.

Except for any included software package or file that is licensed to you by Oracle under different license terms, we grant you a perpetual (unless terminated as provided in this agreement), nonexclusive, nontransferable, limited License to use the Programs only for the purpose of developing, testing, prototyping and demonstrating your applications, and not for any other purpose.

Clearly the short sighted and ill considered “90 day evaluation” clause generated enough of a negative backlash from customers for Oracle to change tack. Hopefully with some of the confusion out of the way more people will be picking this up and playing with it.

Oracle Premier Support on Dell and HP – why this matters Comments Off on Oracle Premier Support on Dell and HP – why this matters

So there were a rash of news reports about Oracle pulling third party support contracts for Solaris x86 – specifically with HP and IBM. It seems this was all a storm in a teacup, handled with the usual communicative excellence from Oracle (seriously, guys, *come on*).

Oracle have announced new support agreements with HP and Dell. This is important for a couple of reasons, which I’ll explain here as the mainstream press seems to have conveniently glossed them over in their rush to backpeddle on their previous “OMG Solaris is dying!” claims.

Firstly, it’s becoming clear that Oracle are having a lot more success than Sun when it comes to showing other x86 server suppliers who wears the trousers. Sun’s line was pretty much “Your customers want it, so go on, sell Solaris licenses and support – please”. Oracle’s new deal with HP and Dell is a lot more impressive:

Oracle today announced Dell and HP will certify and resell Oracle Solaris, Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM on their respective x86 platforms.


Customers will have full access to Oracle’s Premier Support for Oracle Solaris, Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM running on Dell and HP servers. This will enable fast and accurate issue resolution and reduced risk in a company’s operating environment

It’s not just Solaris – it’s Oracle’s entire stack: Solaris x86, Oracle Linux, and Oracle VM. It’s clear Oracle are able to use their database sales .

The second big development has really been overlooked:

World-class Oracle Solaris support on any certified x86 system on the Solaris Hardware Compatibility List (HCL)

That’s right – Oracle are offering Premier Support for Solaris on all certified systems on the Solaris HCL. That’s over 500 server systems – all qualifying for Premier Support.

This is even more relevant when taken in the context of Oracle’s previous comments about increasing investment in SPARC. Why divert development effort to the low x86 end, when you can get your hardware partners to supply the really cheap, low margin gear? Give your customers a neat upgrade path, using the same Solaris OS on a tightly integrated Oracle x86 cluster.

Then supply the customers another upgrade path when they really need to scale – Solaris on SPARC, all the way up to beefy M9000s. The OS is the same, the database is the same, and Oracle can provide customers with a well defined and (relatively) painless upgrade path – which they supply.

This is a real shot in the arm for Solaris x86 and will go a long way to allay the fears of sites who’ve chosen to deploy on x86.

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