This FAQ describes some of the popular questions around this offering; this page will be refreshed with content periodically.

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What is the SPARC M7 chip and where can I get more details?

SPARC M7 was recently introduced at HotChips 2014 as the 6th SPARC chip Oracle has introduced since the Sun acquisition in 2010. The Chip, based on 20 nm manufacturing technology, packs 32 cores per socket (with upto 8 threads per core), new DDR4 DRAM and PCIe Gen3 support, along with Application Accelerators that are called "Software in Silicon".
You can get more details from the HotChips presentation.

What is Software in Silicon and which features can I access?

Oracle's revolutionary Software in Silicon technology in the SPARC M7 processor extends the design philosophy of engineered systems into a chip. Co-engineered by Oracle's software and microprocessor engineers, Software in Silicon implements accelerators directly into the processor to deliver a rich feature-set that enables databases and applications to be developed and run faster.
There are four features that form the core of Software in Silicon. They are: Hardware support for these features is enabled by Solaris functions and APIs.
Internally, Oracle is taking advantage of all of these features in the next releases of the database. Individual accelerators have the potential to increase performance by an order of magnitude (10x for decompression routines) and also freeing up valuable CPU resources by performing these functions in separate units. For example, Decompression units run data decompression with performance equivalent to 16 decompression PCI cards or 60 CPU cores.
We would like all applications written for M7 and Solaris to take advantage of the power of these features; hence, we are encouraging application developers to learn about and code into applications these same performance advantages.
In particular, we are starting out by focussing on Application Data Integrity (ADI).

What is ADI and how does it help me?

Real-time Application Data Integrity(ADI, for short), is designed to safeguard against invalid, stale memory reference and buffer overflows. The hardware does this by allowing software to mark software buffers with special versions. The first 4-bits of the Pointer can be used to store a version number and this version number is also maintained in the memory cache lines. When a pointer accesses memory, the hardware checks to make sure the two versions match. A SEGV signal is raised when there is a mismatch.
This can also be done in Software, but it is very slow (often 100 times slower) as it requires annotating code at every load and store and writing routines to check. By doing these checks in hardware, applications run at near clock speeds, thereby removing a key obstacle of using this in development cycle only.
Oracle uses this in the DB product, but it can also be used in any application. Solaris Studio tools make it easy to detect these errors and pinpoint the exact location where the error occurred and where a corresponding allocation took place, so the fix can be traced back to its origin, not just to the execution location.
In the Software in Silicon Cloud environment, we offer a library that can be preloaded into an application which annotates malloc calls with the right coloring supported by hardware. Applications that use their own memory allocation, rather than the system standard malloc, can write their own extensions and we provide a cookbook and examples to guide the process.

What is the Software in Silicon Cloud?

SPARC M7, introduced at HotChips 2014 as the latest Oracle/Sun Systems chip, introduces new instructions especially geared towards helping popular Software applications (in particular Oracle DB). The Software in Silicon Cloud is an authorized and authenticated, self-managed portal that enables developers to create a personal, secure networking environment of Solaris Zones (VMs) based on SPARC M7, SPARC T5 and x86 systems.
Users can upload their applications and test data, and validate correct execution of their applications on Oracle Solaris. An intuitive user interface has been created to make the administrative tasks of creating VMs preloaded with Oracle Solaris and various software packages, uploading or downloading files, creating terminals/desktop and testing as simple as possible. The user interface simplifies these complex actions in a safe, secure environment created using features of Oracle Solaris.

How can I access the Software in Silicon Cloud?

The Software in Silicon Cloud is open to all OPN partners and SPARC customers who are (at this time) SPARC M7 Beta participants. In order to start the process of applying to be a beta participant, click on the "Sign Up" button on the portal and this will take you to a form which will get us started on this. Ultimately, it is a Beta program for SPARC M7 servers, so participation is entirely at Oracle's discretion. Post-release, we expect this program will be more generally open to all SPARC and Solaris customers and OPN partners.
Once you are authorized to use the cloud, you can access it by using your Oracle Single Sign-On credentials. The first time you login to the site you will be asked to register a username and password. This username and password will be used to authenticate yourself when starting a terminal session or a desktop on any of the Virtual Machines you create. The password is also used as the root password for Virtual Machines you create.
Once you have logged in, registered a username and password and created at least one VM, you can access the VM by creating a terminal or desktop from the user interface.

What is OSGD, why do I need it and what do I get with it?

OSGD stands for Oracle Secure Global Desktop and it is the secure way to access VMs within the Cloud. It is a more secure and efficient interface than VNC. OSGD delivers a full GNOME desktop or any application from the VM directly to the client (desktop). OSGD works well on Windows, MacOS, Solaris and Linux desktops. We use OSGD to deliver both a full GNOME desktop as well as an XTerm. The following describes some common issues we've seen come up with its usage:

When I start up a desktop I see a popup with the warning "The panel encountered a problem while loading "OAFIID:GNOME_MixerApplet". Do you want to delete the applet from your configuration?" What do I do?

Select "Don't delete."

Once a desktop is open it covers my entire screen. How do I exit the desktop?

There are actually several ways to exit a desktop:

I'm only able to start a single desktop on a single VM. Why?

This is a hard limitation in Oracle Secure Global Desktop (OSGD). The limit will remain one. A desktop is rather intrusive dominating the users entire screen. Working with multiple desktops would be extremely cumbersome.

I signed out of my session but the xterm and desktop I started on two of my VMs are still operational. Shouldn't they terminate when I sign out of the lab?

Xterm and desktop sessions are not terminated when the session is terminated.
Think of the user interface as being a provisioning environment. The user uses it to create the VMs they will use for their testing and those virtual machines are linked using a private network. Just as dedicated hardware continues to run whether it is attended or not, the VMs in the environment continue to run once they are provisioned until the user explicitly Halts them or deletes them from their environment. Xterm and desktop sessions running on the VMs also continue to function once the UI session is terminated.
If the user really wants to terminate their xterm and desktop sessions they should exit from them either before or after ending their UI session. The user should be aware that, even though the exit the Xterm or desktop session their VM continues to run.
If the user wants to stop their VMs from running while 'unattended' they should 'halt' the VM. When the user wants to continue their work they will need to reboot the VM from their dashboard in the UI.

Issues with VMs (Solaris Zones)

Software in Silicon Cloud is based on a private network of VMs sharing a common filesystem for data sharing. VMs in the Software in Silicon Cloud are implemented with Solaris Zones (formerly called Containers) that run Oracle Solaris with a commonly defined stack. You can build out your network with 1-5 zones. The Dashboard typically shows you details about each zone and the zones are accessed securely through an XTerm or Global Desktop (using OSGD as defined above).
A typical Solaris Zone can be configured with one or more of the following: Whereas the zones are secure, virtualized partitioning of resources, these are some of the common questions received from users:

I'm able to create a number of VMs but then I suddenly can not create more. Why?

Users are currently limited to five VMs in any combination of x86 or SPARC. The number of VMs the user currently has open is displayed in the Status section of their Dashboard. Five seems to be a reasonably large number for most testing. If anyone identifies a need for more than five active VMs during testing we will consider expanding the limit.

How do I become root of the VMs I have created?

Initially the root password is set to a random character string stored in /rootPassword on each of the Virtual Machines the user creates. Note that the root password is different on each of your VMs. After using "su" to become root you are free to change the root password using "passwd root".

There are several packages I think are rather fundamental that are not part of the software stack in the basic Solaris template booted in my VMs. Are there any plans to expand the basic templates?

We will consider making additions to the packages loaded in the default template based on the universal nature of the requested packages.
In the meantime you can easily install additional packages using IPS. See the User Guide for details.

How do I accomplish X11 forwarding?

I need to change my default login user to another user (e.g., "oracle"). to run the interactive Oracle DB installation (e.g, ./runInstaller).
In order to get the ./runInstaller GUI to work you need to do the following:

Uploading and Downloading Files

File transfers between the user's local systems and their Virtual Machines in the Software in Silicon Cloud are accomplished using the up and down arrow actions on your Software in Silicon Cloud dashboard. Note that these actions are always available, whether you have created any VMs or not, and are active whether you have selected a VM or not.
File transfers between your local system and your Software in Silicon Cloud environment always take place to or from a file system dedicated to your environment and NFS mounted as /data on all of your VMs. This mechanism provides simple distribution of files uploaded from your local system to your VMs and a convenient location for gathering files together to be transferred from your VMs back to your local system.

How do I transfer files between my local system and my Virtual Machines in the Software in Silicon Cloud?

To upload files from your local system click on the "up" arrow and interact with the dialogue popup to select the files to transfer. The username and password requested are the username and password you created during the registration process the first time you accessed swisdev.oracle.com.
To download files to your local system first place the files to transfer in the /data directory mounted on any of your VMs. Click on the "down" arrow and interact with the dialogue popup.
See the User Guide for additional details.
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Last updated 10/16/2014.