SPARC Hardware

SPARC Hardware

Sun has developed a wide range of hardware systems over the past few years, many of which are still supported by Solaris 9. These systems are based on the Scalable Processor ARChitecture (SPARC), which is managed by a SPARC member organization ( http://www.sparc.org/). In addition to Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu (http://www.fujitsu.com/) and T.Sqware (http://www.tsqware.com/) also build SPARC-compliant CPU systems. System vendors that sell systems based on SPARC CPUs include Amdahl Corporation (http://www.amdahl.com/), Tatung (http://www.tatung.com/), Tadpole ( http://www.tadpole.com/), and Toshiba (http://www.toshiba.com/). Vendors of system boards and peripherals for SPARC CPU–based systems include Hitachi (http://www.hitachi.com/ ), Seagate (http://www.seagate.com/), and Kingston Technology ( http://www.kingston.com/).

Although media critics and competitors often paint SPARC systems from Sun as stand-alone, vendor-specific traps for the unwary, the reality is that a large number of hardware vendors also support the SPARC platform. It should also be noted that software vendors such as Red Hat also support SPARC versions of Linux, which proves that Solaris is not the only operating system that powers the SPARC platform. The SPARC standards can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.sparc.org/standards.html.

Often, administrators of Linux and Microsoft Windows systems who are used to “PC” hardware are incredulous to discover that some supported systems (such as the SPARCclassic) have CPUs that run below 100 MHz. This must seem a slow CPU speed in the age of Intel CPUs and their clones reaching the 1-GHz mark. However, CPU speed is only one component that contributes to the overall performance of a system—SPARC systems are renowned for their high-speed buses and very fast I/O performance. In addition, many SPARC systems were designed for continuous operation—it is not unheard of for systems to have several years of uptime, compared to several days for some operating systems. The many impressive features of the Solaris operating systems were developed with the SPARC hardware platform as a target, and these systems naturally have the best performance. The following is an actual uptime reported by the technical editor:

 $ uptime
1:36pm up 718 day(s), 22:44, 1 user, load average: 0.23, 0.15, 0.13

However, Sun has not ignored hardware developments and emerging standards—in recent years, Sun has created the Ultra series of workstations and servers that feature a PCI local bus and compatibility with Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA) multisync monitors commonly sold with PC systems. Of course, SPARC systems have always supported the SCSI standard, and all SCSI devices will work with Solaris. At the same time, Sun has proceeded with innovations, such as the 64-CPU Enterprise 10000 system, which can operate as a single system with massively parallel computational abilities, or it can be logically partitioned to act as up to 64 different systems. Imagine being able to control an entire application service provider (ASP) with no apparent “shared hosting” to the client, which is actually being serviced by a single physical system. Although the up-front cost of an E10000 far exceeds that required for 64 systems running Linux or Microsoft Windows, only one administrator is required to manage an E10000, while 64 different systems might require more than one administrator.

Supported Platforms

SPARC systems have an application architecture and a kernel architecture: most modern Sun systems have an application architecture of type 4, while the latest UltraSPARC systems have a kernel architecture of type u. Thus, UltraSPARC systems are known as sun4u systems. One of the great advantages of SPARC is that systems with the same application architecture can run the same binaries; thus, the binary of an application compiled on an Ultra 1 should work on an E10000. However, the kernel architecture has changed significantly over the years, so that systems with different kernel architectures cannot boot the same kernel. While an Ultra 1 and E-450 can boot from the same sun4u kernel, a SPARCstation 5 must boot from a sun4m kernel.

Table 2-1 shows a list of common application and kernel architectures for some type 4 Sun systems.

Table 2-1: Common Application and Kernel Architectures for Sun-4 Systems

Application

Kernel

Architecture

System Name

4

C

sun4c

SPARCstation 1

4

C

sun4c

SPARCstation IPX

4

M

sun4m

SPARCstation 5

4

M

sun4m

SPARCstation 10

4

D

sun4d

SPARCserver 1000

4

D

sun4d

SPARCcenter 2000

4

U

sun4u

UltraSPARC 5

4

U

sun4u

Enterprise 220R

You will need a Sun-4 architecture system to run Solaris 9, or any kind of modern UNIX kernel for that matter. (Your old 3/60 really does belong in a museum!) Even some Sun-4 architectures have had support deprecated in Solaris 9, mainly because of the requirement for a minimum of 96MB of RAM. The following SPARC systems are supported under Solaris 9:

SPARCclassic

SPARCstation LX

SPARCstation 4

SPARCstation 5

SPARCstation 10

SPARCstation 20

Ultra 1 (including Creator and Creator 3D models)

Enterprise 1

Ultra 2 (including Creator and Creator 3D models)

Ultra 5

Ultra 10

Ultra 30

Ultra 60

Ultra 450

Enterprise 2

Enterprise 150

Enterprise 250

Enterprise 450

Enterprise 3000

Enterprise 3500

Enterprise 4000

Enterprise 4500

Enterprise 5000

Enterprise 5500

Enterprise 6000

Enterprise 10000

SPARCserver 1000

SPARCcenter 2000

Some popular systems are no longer supported, particularly those in the sun4c family. Often, these systems can be upgraded with a firmware or CPU change to be compatible with Solaris 9. In addition, a minimum of 96MB of RAM is required to install Solaris 9— the Web Start Wizard will not let you proceed unless it can detect this amount of physical RAM, so be sure to check that your system meets the basic requirements before attempting to install Solaris 9.

Note 

Some machines listed in Table 2-1 will support Solaris 9, but only in 32-bit mode.

System Components

A typical Solaris SPARC workstation consists of the following components:

  • Base unit (aka “pizza box”), which contains the motherboard, SCSI controller, and SBUS cards

  • Frame buffer or graphics card

  • SCSI or IDE units connected by SCSI or IDE cables to the SCSI or IDE controller in the pizza box

  • CD-ROM drive, internal or external (SCSI or IDE)

  • DVD-ROM drive, internal on newer systems

  • Speaker box and microphone, external

  • Two serial ports (A and B)

  • A parallel port

  • A tape drive, internal or external (DAT/DDS/QIC and so on)

  • Mouse (mechanical or infrared) and keyboard (type 4 or type 5)

As noted, most desktop workstations come in a “pizza box” chassis, although earlier Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) and similar systems had a “lunch box” chassis. Both of these designs were more compact than their PC counterparts. Servers generally come in two versions: stand-alone or rack-mountable. The version numbers on servers also differ with their chassis type. The 220R, for example, is the rack-mounted version of the stand-alone E-250, while the 420R is the rack-mounted version of the stand-alone 420. The 220R and E-250 have two CPUs each, while the 420R and E-450 have four CPUs each.

Let’s examine two SPARC systems in detail; a workstation (UltraSPARC 5) and a server (UltraSPARC E-450). The UltraSPARC 5 system is a popular, low-end desktop model. Although it has been replaced in this category by the new, lower-cost Sun Blade 100 (available for around $1,000), it remains a popular workstation for business and home use. It supports UltraSPARC-IIi CPUs with speeds ranging from 270 to 400 MHz. Internally, it features 16KB instruction and data caches, while it supports from 256KB to 2MB of external cache memory. In terms of memory and disk capacity, the system supports up to 512MB of physical RAM, a CD-ROM, a 1.44MB floppy disk, and two hard drives, making it possible to enable volume management. The system has three peripheral ports—two serial and one parallel—and it has a built-in Ethernet adapter and supports 10–100-Mbps transmission rates. The system also features a PCMCIA bay, which allows a wide variety of PC-type hardware to be connected.

While the UltraSPARC 5 is comparable in performance to desktop PCs, the E-450 is a workgroup-level server that features symmetric multiprocessing, larger numbers of disks, fast buses, hot swapping, and more cache RAM per CPU. The E-450 supports up to four UltraSPARC-IIi CPUs, operating at 250–480 MHz. Internally, it features 16KB instruction and data caches per CPU, and up to 4MB of external cache per CPU—for a four-CPU system, that’s a total of 16MB of external cache. The system also features two UPA buses operating at 100 MHz, supporting up to two CPUs on each bus. With respect to mass storage and memory, the system accepts up to 16 dual inline memory modules (DIMMs), giving up to 4GB of physical RAM. Some 20 slots for hard disks provide a large pool of hot-swappable volumes on a fast SCSI-3 bus. A CD-ROM and floppy disk drive are also supplied, and a DDS-3 internal digital audio tape (DAT) drive for backups. In addition, hot-swappable power supplies can be installed into the chassis, enabling two different power sources to be utilized.



Part I: Solaris 9 Operating Environment, Exam I
 
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