System Administration Guide, Volume 1

Swap Space and Virtual Memory

The Solaris software uses some disk slices for temporary storage rather than for file systems. These slices are called swap slices. Swap slices are used as virtual memory storage areas when the system does not have enough physical memory to handle current processes.

The virtual memory system maps physical copies of files on disk to virtual addresses in memory. Physical memory pages which contain the data for these mappings can be backed by regular files in the file system, or by swap space. If the memory is backed by swap space it is referred to as anonymous memory because there is no identity assigned to the disk space backing the memory.

The Solaris environment uses the concept of virtual swap space, a layer between anonymous memory pages and the physical storage (or disk-backed swap space) that actually back these pages. A system's virtual swap space is equal to the sum of all its physical (disk-backed) swap space plus a portion of the currently available physical memory.

Virtual swap space has these advantages: