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Welcome to the SmartOS Documentation. Here you'll find everything you need to get started using SmartOS and participating in the community. Information about what's new in recent releases can be found in the SmartOS Changelog.

Quick Start

Not sure where to begin? Try the SmartOS Quick Start Guide!

SmartOS In a Nutshell

SmartOS is a specialized Type 1 Hypervisor platform based on illumos.  It supports two types of virtualization:

  • OS Virtual Machines (Zones, Containers): A light-weight virtualization solution offering a complete and secure userland environment on a single global kernel, offering true bare metal performance and all the features illumos has, namely dynamic introspection via DTrace
  • Hardware Virtual Machines (KVM, Bhyve): A full virtualization solution for running a variety of guest OS's including Linux, Windows, *BSD, Plan9 and more

SmartOS is a "live OS", it is always booted via PXE, ISO, or USB Key and runs entirely from memory, allowing the local disks to be used entirely for hosting virtual machines without wasting disks for the root OS.  This architecture has a variety of advantages including increased security, no need for patching, fast upgrades and recovery.

Virtualization in SmartOS builds on top of the foundational illumos technologies inherited from OpenSolaris, namely:

  • ZFS for storage virtualization
  • Crossbow (dladm) for network virtualization
  • Zones for virtualization and containment
  • DTrace for introspection
  • SMF for service management
  • RBAC/BSM for auditing and role based security
  • And more

SmartOS is typically "installed" by downloading and copying the OS image onto a USB key and then booting that key.  On the first boot a configuration utility will configure your base networking, allow you to set the root password, and allow you to select which disks to use to create the ZFS Zpool which will provide persistent storage.

When you log into SmartOS you will enter the hypervisor, aka "global zone". From here you can download VM Images using the imgadm tool, which are pre-configured Container and HVM virtual machines.  You can then use the vmadm tool to create and manage both containers and hardware virtual machines.

An important aspect of SmartOS is that both OS (Zones) and hardware virtual machines are both built on Zones technology.  In the case of OS virtualization, the guest virtual machine is provided with a complete userland environment on which to run applications directly. In the case of HVM virtualization, the qemu or bhyve process will run within a stripped down Zone.  This offers a variety of advantages for administration, including a common method for managing resource controls, network interfaces, and administration.  It also provides HVM guests with an additional layer of security and isolation not offered by other virtualization platforms.

Finally, instances are described in JSON.  Both administrative tools, imgadm and vmadm, accept and return all data in JSON format.  This provides a simple, consistent, and programmatic interface for creating and managing VM's.

Code of Conduct

As a participant of the illumos community, all projects related to Triton (including SmartOS, Triton, Manta, etc.) we have adopted the illumos Code of Conduct.


The scope of the code of conduct extends to SmartOS, Triton, and Manta resources including mailing lists, chat, social media, and GitHub repositories.


Conduct violations involving the Triton community may be reported by contacting instead of, or in addition to as the case may be warranted.

How to Use this Site

This documentation can provide you with a variety of resources for users at all levels.  To get started, download SmartOS now, and be sure to review the Hardware Requirements. Once installed, refer to our Users Guide to help you learn your way around SmartOS.

When you have questions, refer to the SmartOS Community section for pointers to our IRC chat rooms and mailing lists.  When you're ready to start improving and adding your own customizations to SmartOS please refer to our Developers Guide.

SmartOS is a community effort, as you explore and experiment with SmartOS please feel free to edit and contribute to this site to improve the documentation for other users in the community.

About Triton

SmartOS is a fundamental component of the Triton Data Center (Triton) product. Triton source and images are available for at no cost and powers several public and private clouds around the globe, namely the MNX Public Cloud.  As you use SmartOS you will come across hooks that are used by Triton, such as file systems and services named "smartdc".

If you are interested in evaluating the full Triton Data Center product, please contact