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Getting Started with SmartOS

SmartOS is a live image distribution of Illumos, designed specifically for the purpose of running virtual environments. The features of SmartOS that make it an attractive option for running virtual environments lends itself to the way it was designed. Specifically, you do not install SmartOS in the traditional sense. Instead, the running system is contained entirely within memory although you can store some data persistently on disk. Generally, the design of SmartOS and the benefits it provides breakdown in the following way:

  • Upgrades are trivial: This means no unnecessary complications working with patches. To upgrade a SmartOS release, you just reboot into a new image.
  • Increased disk space No need to use disk space on an OS install. All disk space is dedicated to virtual machines and user data.
  • Increased disk performance: Typically with other systems, you install the OS to a pair of mirrored disks and then pool the remaining disks for data. With SmartOS, you contain all your disks in the same RAIDZ pool, increasing performance.
  • Additional security: Most of the system files are read-only. In addition, /etc is re-created on each boot, making it much harder to exploit.
  • Increased stability: With other OSes, system commands become dysfunctional once root disks start to fail. This does not happen with SmartOS.
  • Purpose built: Much simpler to install and provision, especially when you have a large number of machines.

The SmartOS ISO is a bootable CD image containing, the Illumos kernel, and the SmartOS boot archive. You can copy the image to any medium and load it on boot through any multiboot bootloader. This makes it easy to convert the image into a bootable USB thumbdrive or PXE boot image.

You can find the default single user mode root password for a given release on the boot media in /platform/root.password. The default single user mode root password changes from release to release. Otherwise the root password is simply "root".

System Requirements

The more memory you can dedicate to SmartOS the better due to it running as a live image. The SmartOS hypervisor requires:

  • A minimum of 1GB of RAM
  • 64-bit x86 CPU

All other compute resources available will be used for virtual instances.

To take advantage of hardware virtualization features available in many CPUs, SmartOS requires an Intel CPU with VT-x extensions or AMD CPU with AMD-V extensions. This should work with most modern Intel or AMD CPUs.

SmartOS can run in a virtual machine. However, if nested virtualization is unavailable, some HVM features will not function.