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System Administration Guide: Basic Administration
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Overview of System Types

System types are sometimes defined by how they access the root (/) and /usr file systems, including the swap area. For example, stand-alone systems and server systems mount these file systems from a local disk. Other clients mount the file systems remotely, relying on servers to provide these services. This table lists some of the characteristics of each system type.

Table 6-1 Characteristics of System Types

System Type

Local File Systems

Local Swap Space?

Remote File Systems

Network Use

Relative Performance

Server

root (/)

/usr

/home

/opt

/export/home

Available

Not available

High

High

Stand-alone system

root (/)

/usr

/export/home

Available

Not available

Low

High

OS Server

/export/root

Diskless client

Not available

Not available

root (/)

swap

/usr

/home

High

High

Low

Low

Appliance

Not available

Not available

Not available

High

High

Description of a Server

A server system contains the following file systems:

  • The root (/) and /usr file systems, plus swap space

  • The /export and /export/home file systems, which support client systems and provide home directories for users

  • The /opt directory or file system for storing application software

Servers can also contain the following software to support other systems:

  • Solaris OS services for diskless systems that are running a different release


    Note - OS client‐server configurations, where only one system is running a Solaris release that implements the new boot architecture can result in major incompatibilities. It is therefore recommended that you install or upgrade diskless systems to the same release as the server OS before adding diskless client support. New boot (GRUB) was introduced in the Solaris 10 1/06 release on the x86 platform and in the Solaris 10 10/08 release on the SPARC platform.


  • Clients that use a different platform than the server

  • Solaris CD image software and boot software for networked systems to perform remote installations

  • JumpStartTM directory for networked systems to perform custom JumpStart installations

Stand-Alone Systems

A networked stand-alone system can share information with other systems in the network. However, it can continue to function if detached from the network.

A stand-alone system can function autonomously because it has its own hard disk that contains the root (/), /usr, and /export/home file systems and swap space. Thus, the stand-alone system has local access to OS software, executables, virtual memory space, and user-created files.


Note - A stand-alone system requires sufficient disk space to hold its necessary file systems.


A non-networked stand-alone system is a stand-alone system with all the characteristics just listed, except it is not connected to a network.

Diskless Clients

A diskless client has no disk and depends on a server for all its software and storage needs. A diskless client remotely mounts its root (/), /usr, and /home file systems from a server.

A diskless client generates significant network traffic due to its continual need to procure OS software and virtual memory space from across the network. A diskless client cannot operate if it is detached from the network or if its server malfunctions.

For more overview information about diskless clients, see Diskless Client Management Overview.

Description of an Appliance

An appliance, such as the Sun Ray appliance, is an X display device that requires no administration. There is no CPU, fan, disk, and very little memory. An appliance is connected to a Sun display monitor. However, the appliance user's desktop session is run on a server and displayed back to the user.

The X environment is set up automatically for the user and has the following characteristics:

  • Relies on a server to access other file systems and software applications

  • Provides centralized software administration and resource sharing

  • Contains no permanent data, making it a field-replaceable unit (FRU)

Guidelines for Choosing System Types

You can determine which system types are appropriate for your environment by comparing each system type based on the following characteristics:

  • Centralized administration

  • Can the system be treated as a field-replaceable unit (FRU)?

    This means that a broken system can be quickly replaced with a new system without any lengthy backup and restore operations and no loss of system data.

  • Does the system need to be backed up?

    Large costs in terms of time and resources can be associated with backing up a large number of desktop systems.

  • Can the system's data be modified from a central server?

  • Can the system be installed quickly and easily from a centralized server without handling the client system's hardware?

  • Performance

  • Does this configuration perform well in desktop usage?

  • Does the addition of systems on a network affect the performance of other systems already on the network?

Disk space usage

How much disk space is required to effectively deploy this configuration?

This table describes how each system type scores in terms of each characteristic. A ranking of 1 is most efficient. A ranking of 4 is least efficient.

Table 6-2 Comparison of System Types

System Type

Centralized Administration

Performance

Disk Space Usage

Stand-alone system

4

1

4

Diskless client

1

4

1

Appliance

1

1

1

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  Published under the terms fo the Public Documentation License Version 1.01. Design by Interspire