A picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Below is a quick walkthrough of my experience booting and installing the Fishworks VMware appliance; my thoughts follow.
Thoughts: First off, as a VMware appliance and an introduction to Fishworks, this virtual machine is extremely well done; it gives users a low “activation energy” method to try out Fishworks. There’s a lot more effort involved getting a sixty-day loaner from Sun, as neat as that program is – even the logistics of racking and cabling the machine are relatively expensive in terms of time, after all. Of course, there are limitations inherent to a virtual machine; for example, I’d love to see how VMware ESX performs using a hybrid storage pool, but only real hardware can answer that. However, for most of my questions about Fishworks, the VM fits the bill.
Once you hit the VM’s virtual power button, it boots up quickly – faster than most OpenSolaris machines, subjectively – and the initial configuration is straightforward. Although I didn’t try it, it does appear that the machine can be completely configured from the command line, either at the console or over SSH. Once the system is configured, you have HTTPS or SSH remote administration access; however, SSH does not give you a standard Solaris shell, such as sh or bash. Instead, you get an interface very similar to Solaris’ zonecfg – a command line interface with multiple modes. (I suspect that a shell can be launched on the machine somewhere, somehow – it may even be documented – but I wouldn’t be stunned if it’s “unsupported.”)
The six-step configuration process via the web interface is smooth and consistent, and not particularly time-consuming – you get this sense that this is truly intended to be an appliance. My only complaints: The online docs were not immediately helpful (seriously – links to Wikipedia?), and when something does go wrong, you don’t get much more immediate help than this:
By far, the best part of the configuration interface is step six – the storage configuration. You see a list of your configuration choices, with availability, performance and capacity rated. The left-hand column shows a pie-chart breakdown of your storage utilization, with the tiny “Reserved” slice surely being a jab at NetApp. (Well, maybe not – but as a NetApp user, it sure got my attention.) Simply pick your RAID type, click “commit” and you’re on your way. Genius.
All in all, very impressive. Makes me wish even more that I had a pair of 7410s to put behind ESX. And Exchange. And SQL Server. And my CIFS and NFS users… you get the idea.