Solaris 11: Manual vs Automatic Networking Basics

There are two different network configuration modes/profiles in Solaris 11, Automatic and Manual.  This Network Configuration Profile (NCP) is determined during installation.  For Manual mode, the ipadm and dladm commands are used to make changes.  For Automatic mode, netadm and netcfg are used for configuration.

* The “None” option for networking during a text-based install will default to Manual mode *

To check the current mode of the system, use the command:

# netadm list

If it is in Manual mode, it will return this output:

netadm: DefaultFixed NCP is enabled; automatic network management is not available.

‘netadm list’ is only supported when automatic network management is active.

If it is in Automatic mode, it will return a list starting with the line:

# netadm list

TYPE        PROFILE        STATE

ncp         Automatic      online

To get into Manual mode, enter the command:

# netadm enable -p ncp DefaultFixed

To get into Automatic mode, enter the command:

# netadm enable -p ncp Automatic

Manual Mode

To configure the network from scratch (using the ipadm/dladm commands), make sure that the DefaultFixed profile is enabled to enter Manual mode.  Once Manual mode is enabled, the ipadm and dladm commands can be used to change the network configuration.  It is important to note that with the ipadm command, all changes made will remain after a system reboot.

This mode is ideal for systems with Static network configurations.

Automatic Mode

In Solaris 11, Automatic mode is a slightly refined version of the Network Auto-Magic (NWAM) Architecture.  This is a reactive method of networking that utilizes the Automatic NCP or one of many User-Defined NCPs to manage basic networking based on preferred property values stored in these profiles.  When changes are made, the system will activate a Network Configuration Unit (NCU) within the NCP. There are two types of NCUs, Link NCU’s and Interface NCUs:

–       Link NCU – represents Physical devices.

–       Interface NCU – represents IP interfaces.

The Automatic NCP is a system-defined profile and cannot be modified by a user.  It contains one Link NCU and one Interface NCU for each physical link on the system.  For this particular profile, Physical links take precedence over Wireless links when its time to activate an NCU.  This profile changes dynamically when new links are inserted or removed from the system.

The User-Defined NCPs are basically just custom NCPs that are controlled by the user.  With this method, users must explicitly add and remove NCUs from the profile.  An advantage to this method is that users can preemptively add links that are not currently inserted in the system.   To create, edit, and destroy User-Defined NCPs, the netcfg commands are used.  Loading in a User-Defined NCP can be accomplished with the command:

# netadm enable –p `User-Defined NCP`

Once basic networking has been achieved, there is something called the Location Profile that loads system-wide network configuration information.  This includes:

–       Condition under which it is activated

–       Naming service to use

–       Domain name

–       IP Filter rules

–       IPsec policy

There are two main Location Profiles predefined by the system, NoNet and Automatic.  Basically NoNet is activated if there are no available networks, and Automatic is activated if there are (as long as no other profile supersedes it).  These profiles can be modified, but there are additional read-only copies stored on the system as a backup.

This mode is ideal for systems with Dynamic network configurations.

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