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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

In the quest for a reliable operating system, many companies continue to choose SolarisTM. Recent releases of Solaris books address varying degrees of user and administration experience and also specialize in individual concepts. Some of the latest additions to the existing Solaris repertoire include: Solaris Administration: A Beginner's Guide by Paul Watters (Osborne McGraw-Hill); Solaris System Management by John Philcox (New Riders); Solaris Internals: Core Kernel Architecture by Jim Mauro and Richard McDougall (Sun Microsystems Press, A Prentice Hall Title); and Sun Cluster Environment, Sun Cluster 2.2 by Enrique Vargas, Joseph Bianco, and David Deeths (Sun Blueprints, Sun Microsystems Press, A Prentice Hall Title).

Solaris Administration: A Beginner's Guide
Paul Watters
Osborne McGraw-Hill
Network Professional's Library
ISBN 0-07-213155-1
407 Pages
Blueprints Section Included

The novice Solaris administrator, whether new to systems administration or new to the Solaris system, often needs a logical explanation or a procedure described in a step-by-step manner. In Solaris Administration: A Beginner's Guide, Paul Watters defines Solaris-specific vocabulary, naming conventions, and demonstrates the most common Solaris processes. He divided the book into four major parts: Installation; Single Host Administration; Managing Internet Services; and Managing Intranet Services.

The initial section, Installation, presents an overview of the Solaris system in the Introduction to Solaris chapter. Watters describes Solaris installation and configuration through: Installing Solaris SPARC (Scalable Processor Architecture); Installing Solaris Intel; and Using the Common Desktop Environment (CDE). The second chapter features a superb description of the SPARC design and its accompanying advantages, especially for readers completely unfamiliar with the SPARC platform. The author even provides some comparisons between the SPARC and Intel architectures and performances.

Single Host Administration, the second section, concentrates on routine use and management within a Solaris environment. Watters examines Shell Usage and Programming; Shell Programming; Managing Users and Groups; Processes and System Resources; and Package Management and Software Installation. In addition to the command-line interface, processes, signals, file ownership properties, and user/group maintenance, this part also details Solaris implementations of system resources, process management, packaging tools, and their counterparts -- archiving utilities. Part III: Managing Internet Services features the techniques and services utilized for Electronic Mail; the Domain Name Service (DNS); The Internet Daemon; Remote Access; Web Services; and Security. The concluding section illustrates the protocols, services, and utilities to share peripherals and files within an organization. The individual chapters address: Samba; the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and its configuration; the Network File System (NFS); the Network Information System (NIS+); and Printing.

By necessity, any administration book must include explanations of several processes and systems, each of which could easily fill a complete book on its own. Some examples of this are networking, Sendmail, DNS and BIND, TCP/IP, and security. In Solaris Administration: A Beginner's Guide, Watters (who co-authored Solaris: The Complete Reference with Sriranga Veeraraghavan, Osborne McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-212143-2, $49.99) provides a solid foundation in Solaris administration procedures. He also demonstrates the basics of configuring administration tasks and related features and services. The author outlines the new capabilities in Solaris 8 and emphasizes important considerations using Notes and Tips throughout the book. An eight-page Blueprints insert in the middle of the book illustrates a Solaris-Based Network, the Linux vs. Windows NT/2000-Based Network, the Linux vs. Windows NT/2000 Boot Process, and the Solaris Boot Process. Solaris Administration: A Beginner's Guide is an excellent book and explains Solaris administration concepts and procedures through a combination of description and visual representation in an easy-to-read manner. Experienced administrators will appreciate its thorough and practical content; beginners will value its readable and comprehensive approach.

Solaris System Management
John Philcox
New Riders
ISBN 0-7357-1018-X
297 Pages

The role of a systems manager requires both technical and managerial skills. It demands the authority and planning to implement policies coupled with the technical expertise to realize what is needed. As both an experienced systems administrator and a former systems manager, author John Philcox addresses the challenges of effective systems management of a Solaris environment through three sections: The System Manager, Management of the Solaris Environment, and Management of the Solaris Network.

The first part, The System Manager, defines the responsibilities of a systems manager and some of the job's fundamental concerns with chapters that discuss: Job Description, The IT Budget, Delivering the Goods, and Testing. In the succeeding division, Management of the Solaris Environment, Philcox surveys some of the more technical and simultaneously strategic aspects of systems management. These include: Solaris Installations and Upgrade; Solaris Security; Disaster Recovery and Contingency Management; Strategic Management; Tactical Management; Working with PCs; and Shells and Public Domain Software. These chapters highlight some of the most current trends within the corporate structure from a systems management viewpoint. The author discusses 24x7 operations, presents scenarios of both a new installation and an upgrade, and examines the multiple facets to consider before establishing a disaster recovery policy. The final part analyzes Management of the Solaris Network and reviews the associated issues of Internet Protocol Version 6, Network Monitoring, and Network Management Tools. The appendix, Resources, features Further Reading and Useful Resources on the World Wide Web.

Solaris System Management describes and identifies an immense amount of information and policy-making techniques. Philcox demonstrates the logical approach to effectively complete systems management responsibilities within a Solaris environment. The general principles he describes can be implemented within any environment; the specific examples he presents are for the Solaris system. The author's technical expertise coupled with his systems management experience make this book excellent. It details the considerations and planning that precedes corporate guidelines and standards while also describing the technical viewpoint. This book provides an enormous amount of information and is a must for anyone involved in policy making.

Solaris Internals: Core Kernel Architecture
Jim Mauro and Richard McDougall
Sun Microsystems Press
A Prentice Hall Title
ISBN 0-13-022496-0
657 Pages
A Web-supported updates book

The wide range of current computer books addresses a variety of individual topics and differing level of computer user. The more specialized your selected field, the fewer books there are, particularly for the more advanced reader. For the computer professionals blessed with a technical curiosity regarding how operating systems really work, Mauro and McDougall have written an excellent book exploring and explaining Solaris internals. They have organized the chapters according to four major topics: Introduction to Solaris Internals; The Solaris Memory System; Threads, Processes, and IPC; and Files and File Systems.

The authors begin with An Introduction to Solaris and a brief history of the operating system's development. The following chapters explore Kernel Services, Kernel Synchronization Primitives, and Kernel Bootstrap and Initialization. In Part Two, The Solaris Memory System, Mauro and McDougall examine the Solaris Memory Architecture, Kernel Memory, and Memory Monitoring. Some of the concepts discussed in this part include virtual addressing, page scanning, the paging algorithm, the kernel map, the kernel memory slab allocator, and swap space.

Threads, Processes, and IPC contains The Solaris Multithreaded Process Architecture; The Solaris Kernel Dispatcher; and Interprocess Communication. These chapters address the concepts of Solaris processes; their structure; the Procfs (Process File System); signals; queues; schedulers; IPC (Interprocess communication; shared memory; and semaphores. The concluding section details the Solaris file system through Solaris Files and File I/O; File System Overview; File System Framework; the UNIX File System; and Solaris File System Cache. These chapters detail everything about the Solaris file systems: their structure; Application Programming Interfaces (APIs); system calls; file descriptors; 64-bit files in Solaris; and pathname caching. The Appendices contain A) Kernel Tunables, Switches, and Limits; B) Kernel Virtual Address Maps; and C) A Sample Procfs Utility.

Solaris Internals provides a lot of information about how operating systems, and Solaris in particular, really function, including the algorithms, data structures, and respective implementations. The beginning history gives the reader a perspective regarding the development of the Solaris system. Mauro and McDougall explain the essential theory of Solaris and furnish the details of different flavors of UNIX, as well as any differences that may exist among hardware platforms. Since the book covers Solaris through System 7, the authors have initiated the Web site to post updates, errata, utilities, and any changes to the kernel in System 8. As of this writing, there haven't been any new modifications or additions to the kernel.

I really liked this book, because it presented the concepts of an operating system and described how each attribute was utilized according to the operating system and the architecture. Although not a beginner's book, Solaris Internals does provide a lot of basic information for those who know and understand the principles involved, although not the individual platform and architecture combination. Mauro and McDougall present a valuable reference for Solaris systems administrators and developers, which is exceptionally well-written, organized, and supported.

Sun Cluster Environment, Sun Cluster 2.2
Enrique Vargas, Joseph Bianco, and David Deeths
Sun Blueprints
Sun Microsystems Press
A Prentice Hall Title
ISBN 0-13041870-6
389 Pages

Two of the most popular concepts and implementations currently available are high availability and clustering. The design of the Sun Cluster 2.2 provides a setting for a highly available system -- a difficult concept to explain. It is often confused with fault-tolerance, but the costs and implementations differ. Vargas, Bianco, and Deeths explore this framework through two parts: Infrastructure and Implementation.

The authors of Sun Cluster Environment, Sun Cluster 2.2 begin the Infrastructure section with a presentation of High Availability with definitions and descriptions of Reliability, Availability, and Serviceability Fundamentals. They then explain the basics of clustering, and the Sun Cluster 2.2 Architecture through Sun Cluster 2.2 Architecture and Sun Cluster 2.2 Components. The second section, Implementation, includes Sun Cluster 2.2 Administration, Highly Available Databases, Sun Cluster 2.2 Application Notes, Sun Cluster 2.2 Data Services, and Beyond Sun Cluster 2.2. The Appendices contain A) SCSI-Initiator ID and B) SC2.2 Data Service Templates.

This Blueprints book demonstrates the concepts and implementations required to utilize the Sun Cluster 2.2 technology to complete a highly available clustering environment. This series is written for experienced systems administrators utilizing the Solaris environment and those who wish to increase their knowledge of new technologies. It addresses the concepts, uses, and processes in an effective style and describes currently available products, options, and troubleshooting procedures.

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 15 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialties is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Her writing has also appeared in Linux Magazine, Performance Computing, and Network Administrator. Elizabeth can be reached at: