Virtualization. Despite being around for years it has suddenly become a hot topic today and it seems that everyone is trying to get a piece of the action. Sun is no different.

Virtualization has been around since the mainframe days but virtualization as we usually see today started with VMware (to the best of my knowledge). VMware has had available for years a few different products that allowed you to dedicate and entire machine to hosting virtual machines or simply run other operating systems on your desktop PC. Today’s computers are more powerful than ever before and even the cheapest of computers today typically has some power to spare. With the abundance of computers with excess power continuing to grow, it is no wonder virtualization has gotten to popular.

About a year ago VMware noticed that virtualization was getting more popular and decided that then was the time to really hook people. They released a free virtualization product (and since then some more) allowing people to run virtual machines on their computer for free.

Soon other virtualization techniques came to market, many of them also free. VirtualBox is one of them and is a relatively new entry into the virtualization market but is already showing some great promise. Unlike some other virtualization products, VirtualBox is cross platform covering the usual suspects like Windows, Linux and Mac. Of course, being from Sun it also runs on Sun’s Solaris and OpenSolaris operating systems.

VirtualBox, while young, shows great promise and it is available for free (for personal using and testing). It brings together some of the things I love about VMware. Simple to manage, cross platform and easy migration from one host machine to another. Some of what VirtualBox adds is native iSCSI initiator support, Remote Desktop Protocol support for running virtual machines and the ability to run on Windows, Linux, Mac and Solaris. It even supports the seemless mode seen in VMware’s Fusion and Parallels.

If you’re looking for a free way to get into virtualization then give VirtualBox a shot. I think you’ll be impressed.

One of the first things I really hoped ZFS could do when I heard about it (and its ability to share using iSCSI) was the ability to resize things at will. Resizing file systems is something that has been possible for a while but it has never been this easy, at least in my mind. With the ability to resize storage volumes you can put a ton of disks into a single system and then share out exactly what is needed to your systems and then resize if you need more later on. Today I got a chance to test ZFS’s ability to resize volumes as well as how Windows handles the task.

Although the ability to resize file systems has been around for a while it has never been as easy as it is today. Linux has been able to resize file systems for some time and the latest versions of Windows provides the ability right in Disk Management. I run a number of Windows systems and the ability to resize NTFS iSCSI volumes is what I’m primarily interested in.

Click read more to learn how this is done. This isn’t a full how-to but more of an overview of how to make it all happen.

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Just a quick note on how to work with packages in OpenSolaris. pkg is used to manage packages.

pkg refresh

Will cause the system to refresh what packages are available.

pkg image-update

Will initiate a system upgrade.

pkg install SUNWiscsitgt

Will start an install OR upgrade of the SUNWiscsitgt package

One of the things I need to test is using iSCSI to store data on some Windows servers. Here is a quick synopsis of how to create a storage pool and then create a ZFS dataset that can be shared using iSCSI

Create the pool from the available disks, if they don’t already exist. Be sure to read docs on what kind of pool you want to create. I’m using raid-z

zpool create raid-z test /dev/dsk/c0t1d0 /dev/dsk/c0t2d0 /dev/dsk/c0t3d0 /dev/dsk/c0t4d0

Create the data set and share it using iSCSI

zfs create -s -V40G test/iscsi
zfs set shareiscsi=on test/iscsi

You should now have 40GB of iscsi based storage available. Use iscsi-initiator on Windows XP/Vista/Server 2003 to attach to the iscsi target, assign a drive letter and format.

A really good friend of mine likes call me an OS whore from time to time. It’s all in fun but he is right, I am. I can’t make up my mind which OS I like the best. Windows, Linux, Windows, Mac? Which is it? To be honest, I don’t know. I change my mind depending on my current needs, current capabilities of the operating systems of the day and I really just like to tinker. I also like to use whatever works based on what I need to get done.

Although my current favorite OS is definitely OS X I’m not exactly afraid to try out other operating systems. OpenSolaris is an OS I’ve played with before simply because I wanted to get to know ZFS, an incredible file system that should not be over looked. I have written about ZFS before but haven’t really worked with it much since then.

My interest in OpenSolaris and ZFS has been renewed as of late because of the need for a good amount of storage in the most cost effective manner possible. In the coming weeks I’ll be posting quite bit as I learn how to use OpenSolaris. Many posts will simply be reference information for myself and others might be more educational. Stay tuned.