Mark Mulligan wrote:
Hi Community,

I was wondering if any customers had done an evaluation on the administrative time or cost (same thing really) improved by using the efficiencies of Solaris Containers vs. managing individual servers with just one Solaris 10 global zone or one Solaris 8/9 instance. This is a hot topic at one of my customer's site right now where some think that the costs are about the same, i.e., one Solaris Container = one Solaris 8/9 instance or S10 global zone only....taking that further, ten Solaris Containers = cost of managing ten Solaris 8/9 instances or S10 global zones only.

Any thoughts, opinions, studies are appreciated.

I am not a sun customer so my comments might not carry much weight.
However, I think that administrative cost in only one aspect of the
saving with virtualization.  The biggest component is probably
consolidating many under-used systems onto a single machine that will
get higher overall utilization.

In terms of administrative costs, something that is a full virtual
machine (VM), like Xen or VMWare, will probably cost the same as a
separate box since you have to manage each instance anyway.  With
zones, because you have a single system image, there are some things
that can be done in common for all of the zones.  For example, patch
and pkg maintenance is done in the global zone and the tools are
smart enough to also manage each non-global zone.  Likewise for some
kinds of performance analysis (e.g. using dtrace in the global zone
to monitor what is happening in non-global zones and even between
non-global zones).

However, I have not heard of any formal analysis that tries to quantify
these benefits.  My guess is that although there is some benefit, it
is not a huge percentage of the overall administrative cost of managing
each zone vs. managing individual systems.  This is an area where we
would like to do more work going forward to improve this.  The one thing
is that with zones we have more opportunities than you could ever
have with separate VMs.  Likewise, we have more opportunities
for sharing and better resource utilization than you can get with
separate VMs, but that is not an administrative factor.  Zones will always
be much more lightweight than a full VM which is why there is a place
for both.  I don't think we ever try to propose zones as a win
just on the sysadmin saving alone.

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