Solaris is a UNIX-based operating system introduced by Sun Microsystems in 1992 as the successor to SunOS.
Solaris is known for its scalability, especially on SPARC systems, and for originating many innovative features such as DTrace and ZFS. Solaris supports SPARC-based and x86-based workstations and servers from Sun and other vendors, with efforts underway to port to additional platforms.
Solaris is certified against the Single Unix Specification. Although it was historically developed as proprietary software, it is supported on systems manufactured by all major server vendors, and the majority of its codebase is now open source software via the OpenSolaris project.
Usage with installation
Solaris can be installed from physical media or a network for use on a desktop or server.
Solaris can be interactively installed from a text console on platforms without a video display and mouse. This may be selected for servers, in a rack, in a remote data center, from a terminal server or even dial up modem.
Solaris can be interactively installed from a graphical console. This may be selected for personal workstations or laptops, in a local area, where a console may normally be used.
Solaris can be automatically installed over a network. System administrators can customize installations with scripts and configuration files, including configuration and automatic installation of third-party software, without purchasing additional software management utilities.
When Solaris is installed, the operating system will reside on the same system where the installation occurred. Applications may be individually installed on the local system, or can be mounted via the network from a remote system.
Usage without installation
Solaris can be used without separately installing the operating system on a desktop or server.
Solaris can be booted from a remote server providing an OS image in a diskless environment, or in an environment where an internal disk is only used for swap space. In this configuration, the operating system still runs locally on the system. Applications may or may not reside locally when they are running. This may be selected for businesses or educational institutions where rapid setup is required (workstations can be "rolled off" of a loading dock, the MAC address registered into a central server, the workstation plugged in, and users can immediately leverage the desktop) or rapid replacement is required (if a desktop hardware failure occurs, a new workstation is pulled from a closet, plugged in, and a user can resume their work from their last saved point.)
Solaris can be used from an X terminal, which can boot from embedded or network accessible firmware and display a desktop immediately to the user. Applications and the operating system run remotely on one or more servers, but the graphical rendering (and occasionally the window manager) is offloaded to the X terminal. In the case of a desktop hardware failure, an X terminal can be easily replaced, and a user can resume their work from their last saved point.
Solaris can also be used from a thin client. Applications, operating system, window manager, and graphical rendering runs on one or more remote servers. Administrators can add a user account to a central Solaris system and a thin client can be rolled from a closet, placed on a desktop, and a user can start work immediately. If there is a hardware failure, the thin client can be swapped and the user can resume their work from the exact point of failure, whether or not the work was saved.