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A Slightly Skeptical Notes on SA-299 Topics

(Advanced System Administration for the Solaris 9 Operating System )

News Recommended Solaris certification books Test taking strategy Sun Certified System Administrator for the Solaris 9 Exam Part II SA-299 topics SA-202-S1o topics Networking inetd services
RPC Swap Crash dumps NFS Autofs /automounter RAID Volume manager ACL
LDAP RBAC syslog Using name services: DNS clients

LDAP clients

NIS Jumpstart




[Jan 18, 2006] Advanced System Administration for the Solaris 10 Operating System course (SA-202-S10).

Differences with Solaris 10 course are minor (one module was deleted, and one module added: "An Introduction to Zones" that contain rather superficial description of zones). It looks like old, Solaris 9 based, training material are suitable for preparation to the second part of the Solaris 10 Certification exam.


Module 12 - Performing Smartcard Authentication


Module 15 - Introduction to Zones

[Jan 16, 2006] Solaris 8 Memory Architecture

A common question pre-Solaris 8 users ask is "Where has all my memory gone"? The vmstat command, used to report virtual memory statistics, often reports that free memory (measured in Kbytes in the free column) is zero or close to zero on a pre-Solaris 8 system that has been up and running for a while.

Most likely, memory is being used to cache file system data, since the virtual memory system is shared by applications, data, the kernel, and file system data. By default, any free memory is used to cache data read from or written to the file system (including NFS). The size of the file system cache is dynamic -- it grows or shrinks depending on free memory.

The idea of this memory allocation scheme is to simultaneously enhance file system performance and optimize the use of an important system resource -- virtual memory. The two computing tasks of running applications and reading and writing data compete equally for system memory.

Generally, sharing a pool of memory is not an issue on small memory systems with low compute power, but with today's powerful desktop systems and servers, the file system cache can overwhelm the memory pool and make application performance suffer. Another drawback is that file system performance is tied to how quickly the virtual memory system can free memory.

Even worse, it is difficult to measure memory usage amongst the consumers of memory on the system. The vmstat command is often the first tool users run to examine virtual memory usage, but pre-Solaris 8 versions do a poor job of indicating why a system is paging (running an algorithm that moves data out from physical memory to disk, and back into physical memory from disk).

So, the question becomes: is it because the system is caching file system data, or is it because memory is a bottleneck and the system is struggling to keep up?


Module 1 - Describing Interface Configuration [Grade A]

MiniReview: Overall this is a good module with a lot of useful information. See also Softpanorama Solaris Networking Links

Module 2 - Describing the Client-Server Model [Grade C]

MiniReview: In this module two distinct topics were mixed:

[Not in Exam] Module 3 - Customizing the Solaris Management Console

Module 4 - Managing Swap Configuration [ Grade D]

MiniReview: This is extremely weakly written module that doesn't address the main question: when to add swap space and how to determine that you need to add it. Also discussion of virtual memory is on "for dummies" level; BTW this is advanced system administrator course.

Module 5 - Managing Crash Dumps and Core Files [Grade C]

MiniReview: This is OK module but usefulness is limited as it teaches you only about how to get the dump (and configure how and were it will be produced) but does not even hint how the results can be used at all. Even on the level of using Sun support to troubleshoot those problems.

Module 6 - Configuring NFS [Grade A]

MiniReview: This is a very good module that contains a lot to practically important information.

Module 7 - Configuring AutoFS [Grade B]

MiniReview: This is a good module that explains the topic with good level of details but still at the level that can be understood.

Module 8 - Describing RAID and the Solaris Volume Manager Software [Grade B]

MiniReview: This is an OK module as it skips unnecessary level of RAID and concentrate on three most common and useful. The usefulness of striping for the current harddrive with its complex electronics and cache mechanisms is very problematic, though.

Module 9 - Configuring Solaris Volume Manager Software [Grade B]

MiniReview: This is an OK module that teaches useful procedures that can increase the reliability of the system. Does not tell about one unique feature of SVM, the ability to share disks between one server and its cold backup server (for Sun storage products only).

Module 10 - Configuring Access Control Lists (ACLs) [Grade A]

MiniReview: This is a very good module that really goes in the details of what are capabilities of ACL and even suggests some ways how you can benefit from them.

Module 11 - Configuring Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) [Grade C]

MiniReview: This is an average module that tries to explain how RBAC is organized but does it in a very incoherent, clumsy way. You need to read additional sources to understand virtues and limitations of RBAC.

[Not in Exam] Module 12 - Performing Smartcard Authentication

Module 13 - Configuring System Messaging [Grade B]

MiniReview: This is a good module that goes into sufficient depth of the topic without sacrificing clarity.

Module 14 - Using Name Services [Grade B]

MiniReview: The content basically matches Solaris Naming Services Architecture Chapter of the book Solaris and LDAP Naming Services Deploying LDAP in the Enterprise By Tom Bialaski and Michael Haines

Module 15 - Configuring Name Service Clients [Grade C]

MiniReview: This is an OK module that tried to link several services and explain how you can benefit from switching to LDAP. LDAP part lacks clarity. See also

Module 16 - Configuring the Network Information Service (NIS) [Grade B]

MiniReview: This is a good module as it explains NIS in sufficient details to use it in practical situations just after the completion of the course. The pluses of minuses of various scenario of usage are not covered well and the key question, "Why NIS is still useful?" remains unanswered. The problems with NIS+ reliability and complexity that doomed Sun implementation of NIS+ are not mentioned too.

Module 17 - Configuring the Custom JumpStart Procedure [Grade F]

MiniReview: This is a clumsy and extremely bad written chapter that actually mixes two different labs:

Material was cut and pasted from different sources and never reconciled into a single logical stream. Many notions are represented twice with slightly different working (cut and paste effects).

Actually a very strange, unnecessary complex lab, as NIS was just learned and now applied to a pretty complex topic that present challenges for student even when discussed in isolation from NIS. With NIS many students are simply lost. I cannot understand why they did not use DHCP for boot server as in this case it can cross the segment lines.

See [PDF] Configuring JumpStart™ Servers to Provision Sun™ x86-64 Systems

If you think that the main usage of jumpstart server is from a laptop over a direct connection with target client via a crossover cable, then wisdom of artificially mixing NIS and Jumpstart became really problematic (unless your explicit goal is to confuse the students and kill the Jumpstart implementation in as many enterprises as possible :-)

Module 18 - Performing a Flash Installation [Grade C]

MiniReview: This is an OK chapter that explain a relatively new feature introduced in Solaris 8. No good lab though.



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