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SmartOS FAQ

Who is the ideal user of SmartOS?

Anyone who runs a computer for a server.

What are some examples of who would use SmartOS?

  • Developers
  • Cloud Providers
  • Carriers
  • ISV Appliance Makers
  • Mobile Device Manufacturers
  • Service Providers
  • Enterprises
  • Next generation HPC

Is any Joyent customer currently using this product?

SmartOS powers Joyent SmartDatacenter, the commercial cloud computing management software in JoyentCloud, Joyent’s public cloud. It is also used by Joyent’s service provider customers around the world who have licensed SmartDataCenter to run their own public clouds.

How is this project different from VMWare, Red Hat, Citrix and Microsoft’s HyperV?

One of the main differences is that we use SmartOS in production as part of our own mission critical infrastructure. We’ve tested and pounded on it for over five years, and it is a proven operating system as a result.

SmartOS contains ZFS, which is a copy-on-write extremely safe storage system. ZFS is critical, because it changes the underlying economics of cloud computing. If you can increase multi-tenancy you can make either your offering cheaper, or your margins higher. This means you can be more competitive, by keeping your costs low.

SmartOS has DTrace, which allows detailed analysis and performance monitoring of live production systems, with little to no overhead. We call this “introspection”. Introspection is critical, because it allows the operator or user to determine potential bottlenecks with their choice in hardware, or physical architecture, and provide end-users (developers, sysadmins, etc) with the ability to see where the latency is being introduced in their applications. This means faster applications, and faster applications means better scale.

In the hardware virtualization world, multi-tenancy can have seriously negative effects on performance. With SmartOS, those effects are eliminated by guaranteeing minimal performance while allowing bursting to the maximum available level in a physical server.

Our KVM implementation is the lightest weight hardware virtualization implementation out there because KVM to a Unix OS is process-based, and being process-based, we can run it inside of OS-level virtualization, and our KVM implementation can inherit all of the advantages of OS-level virtualization.

Because our OS-level virtualization is on top of ZFS, and because it’s on top of a robust, scalable VNIC (Virtual Network Interface) implementation, it can inherit the properties of those two systems too. This means that there are no additional layers of abstraction and no additional overhead. It’s as close to end to end bare metal as you can get.

Why would anyone currently using a traditional OS want to switch to SmartOS?

Using SmartOS negates the need for a dedicated SAN because of ZFS, the combined file system and logical volume manager that gives dedicated and guaranteed access to file systems in a multi-tenant environment. Eliminating centralized storage and moving to a distributed model gives customers peace of mind and decreases their (and their provider’s) risk. Because the implementation is clean and lightweight end to end, users get better visibility with DTrace and better ability to diagnose and quickly fix problems. This leads to lower risk that customers could lose data. And this is a carrier grade OS, able to take on the growing demands for compute that can handle the date-intensive real-time (DIRTy) applications and machine-to-machine interaction in the cloud.

What are the business benefits of this Native KVM?

Because we’re running KVM in SmartOS, businesses get the benefit of using DTrace and ZFS,
both of which can be used to drive higher utilization and can result in higher revenues per customer, higher profits due to efficient use of hardware, and happy customers.

What can we do with SmartOS on August 15?

Download it, put it on a USB key, plug into a server and use it to run that server.

Why is Joyent making their production OS available to the world?

Modern operating system work is important. It’s fair to say that the performance and scalability required by a world full of datacenters and devices is something that many systems have not been designed to handle. We’ve created an operating system that can handle the future of computing, and we want others to have access to it.

Why did you open source SmartOS?

SmartOS has always been open source. It is a highly specialized distribution of Illumos. We are announcing that we have contributed back our port of KVM to the open source project.

What kind of OS license is SmartOS using?

SmartOS is distributed under the file-based CDDL license, and under the MIT license where stated. The KVM work is licensed under GPL.

What is available to support my efforts with SmartOS?

Like we do with our other major open source project, Node.js, Joyent will continue to support the community’s use of SmartOS through open source channels, like our Github repository. Joyent is the largest production user of the OS, so supporting it well is important to us.

Joyent also offers professional services to developers and providers who wish to deploy SmartOS. You can learn more about our services here.

Why do you call SmartOS an operating system and not a cloud operating system?

SmartOS is an ideal operating system for people who are running clouds, but it is also ideal for machine-to-machine and any other use case that requires a modern operating system with enterprise grade storage capabilities, unprecedented levels of visibility and a choice of virtualization options.

How is SmartOS different from Eucalyptus, Cloud.com, or OpenStack?

SmartOS is an operating system, not cloud orchestration software. SmartOS leveraging SmartDataCenter, Joyent’s commercial cloud computing management software, offers a complete cloud solution that includes both cloud orchestration and a modern operating system.

Doesn’t that mean Eucalyptus, Cloud.com, and OpenStack can take advantage of SmartOS?

Yes, they can.

Where can I find more detail on the technologies listed above?

To learn more about SmartOS, visit www.joyent.com/smartos or look right here.

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One Comment

  1. oranico
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Hi Joyent – Are there any more details available on how the ZFS distributed storage system under SmartOS works? Do you have any example hardware architecture configurations?