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Introduction to Oracle® Solaris Zones

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Updated: October 2017

Zones Concepts Overview

    Oracle Solaris Zones is a virtualization technology that enables you to consolidate multiple physical machines and services on a single system. Virtualization reduces costs through the sharing of hardware, infrastructure, and administration. Benefits include the following:

  • Increased hardware utilization

  • Greater flexibility in resource allocation

  • Reduced power requirements

  • Fewer management costs

  • Lower cost of ownership

  • Administrative and resource boundaries between applications on a system

The Oracle Solaris Zones partitioning technology is used to virtually divide the resources of a physical machine and its Oracle Solaris operating system to simulate multiple machines and operating systems. Each system that is created in a zone is dedicated to the programs running inside. Zones technology is used to provide an isolated and secure environment for running applications.

Oracle Solaris Zones provides two main types of zones, each having attributes that control how its operating system behaves and how it can be used. The instance of the operating system that is running directly on a machine is called the global zone. An instance of a virtual system running inside the global zone is called a non-global zone, or simply a zone.

A kernel zone is a non-global zone that runs a kernel and operating system that is separate from the global zone. The separate kernel and OS installation in a kernel zone provide for greater independence and enhanced security of operating system instances and applications. Oracle Solaris Kernel Zones can run an Oracle Solaris release, Support Repository Update (SRU), or kernel version that is different from that of the host system. The Oracle Solaris release in a kernel zone must be at least Oracle Solaris 11.2.

Every zone is configured with an associated brand. The brand is used to determine behavior when a zone is installed and booted. In addition, a zone's brand is used to identify the correct application type at application launch time. The default brand is solaris. The brand for a kernel zone is solaris-kz. The brand for a zone running Oracle Solaris 10 is solaris10.

When you create a zone, you produce an application execution environment in which processes are isolated from the rest of the system. This isolation prevents processes that are running in one zone from monitoring or affecting processes that are running in other zones. Even a process running with root credentials cannot view or affect activity in other zones. Use Oracle Solaris Zones to maintain the deployment model of one-application-per-server while simultaneously sharing hardware resources.

A zone also provides an abstract layer that separates applications from the physical attributes of the system on which they are deployed. Examples of these attributes include physical device paths.

Zones can be used on any system that is running the Oracle Solaris 10 or Oracle Solaris 11 release. The upper limit for the number of solaris and solaris10 zones on a system is 8192. The number of zones that can be effectively hosted on a single system is determined by the total resource requirements of the application software running in all of the zones, and the size of the system. System requirement concepts for zones are discussed in Chapter 1, How to Plan and Configure Non-Global Zones in Creating and Using Oracle Solaris Zones.

System requirement concepts for Oracle Solaris Kernel Zones are discussed in Hardware and Software Requirements for Oracle Solaris Kernel Zones in Creating and Using Oracle Solaris Kernel Zones.