SmartOS as a virtualization platform

Clever and Smart


As described so far, SmartOS is ideally suited for testing systems in virtual machines. If you want to build a cloud or use SmartOS professionally in some other way, you will not get far with manual administration. Provisioning and configuration management software is recommended for automation purposes.

The method of booting SmartOS via PXE has already been mentioned, and detailed instructions are available [4]. Programs such as Puppet or CFEngine are useful for configuration management. However, Chef [5] is supported best, with Joyent providing various Cookbooks [6] itself. More experimental, but perhaps worth a look, is the FIFO project, which implements a web-based GUI for managing virtual machines on SmartOS [7].

Installing Chef is possible in three ways: the Omnibus installer by Chef/Opscode, which is still considered experimental; the fat client by Joyent; or manual installation using PKG-SRC. Monitoring options include a Nagios Remote Plugin Executor (NRPE) for the global zone. Joyent always uses Zabbix [8] monitoring.

Although SmartOS theoretically runs on various server hardware, you would again do well to be guided by Joyent for production use. They recommend, for example, SAS connectivity for storage instead of SATA. Also, a sufficient amount of memory is never a bad thing. More details can be found in a post by Joyent employee Keith Wesolowski [9].


SmartOS is an interesting platform that combines Solaris ZFS, Zones, and DTrace technologies with the Linux KVM hypervisor. Its use in the Joyent cloud shows that SmartOS is suitable for professional use. Managing SmartOS is relatively simple because it is largely restricted to two commands. The machine-readable JSON format for configuration simplifies the integration of SmartOS in environments with web services. Finally, the system can be centrally administered by configuration management with Chef and LDAP.


  1. SmartOS:
  2. Linux-to-SmartOS cheat sheet:
  3. vmadm JSON Quick Reference:
  4. PXE boot:
  5. "Chef" by Tim Schürmann, ADMIN , Issue 01, 2010, pg. 68
  6. SmartOS cookbooks:
  7. FIFO project:
  8. "Zabbix" by Thomas Drilling, ADMIN , Issue 07, 2012, pg. 34
  9. What Do Joyent and Others Run In Production?

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