contents.html010064400001440000001000000017510726531342000135460ustar00blbother00001460000001 FAQABOSS: Table of Contents

FAQABOSS: Table of Contents


Table of Contents


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
cpu.html010064400001440000001000000022510726070763500125060ustar00blbother00001460000001 FAQABOSS: Processors

FAQABOSS: Processors


Every system mentioned in the FAQABOSS uses SPARC processors. SPARC is an acronym for scalable processor architecture. SPARC International owns the SPARC standards and SPARC trademark. Sun and other companies--including Fujitsu and Ross (now BridgePoint)--have designed their own implementations based on various version of the SPARC specification. Those implementations may then be manufactured by yet other companies; Texas Instruments, for example, has long been Sun's principle CPU fabricator.

Older Sun systems--members of the Sun 1, Sun 2, and Sun 3 product lines--use Motorola's 68000 series of processors. By the time the '040 was available, Sun had committed itself to SPARC and had released the first systems built around it.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
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FAQABOSS: Hard Drives


With the exception of the Darwin platform (Ultra 5 and 10) and some other new offerings--which use IDE--and the UltraSPARC III-based systems--which use fibre channel--all of Sun's recent desktop systems use some form of SCSI. Most provide SCSI-2, Fast SCSI-2, or Fast Wide SCSI-2 with internal and external connectors. The external connector for the latter is an HD68 (high density 68-pin), while the others use an HD50.

Beyond performance issues, for internally mounted drives the physical connection is the most important matter affecting compatibility. Older systems use a standard 50-pin SCSI connector with separate power feed, while others use the single 80-pin SCA interface. In all cases I've seen, converting the latter to the former yields a package too large for the system enclosure.

No particular drive brand or firmware is required: if it implements one of the SCSI standards supported by the system's interface, it should work...not to say the old SCSI voodoo is unnecessary.


Last modified on April 12, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
index.html012077700001440000001000000000000726530737100155462contents.htmlustar00blbother00001460000001naming.html010064400001440000001000000033570726071175600131770ustar00blbother00001460000001 FAQABOSS: Naming Schemes

FAQABOSS: Naming Schemes


Sun has a penchant for renaming (and retroactively renaming) products: witness the renaming of SunOS 4.1.4 to Solaris 1.1.2, etc. Fortunately, it also likes to continue existing naming schemes for consistency.

The earliest SPARC systems had names in the style of the Sun 3 systems: 4/110, 4/330, 4/600. With the debut of the SPARCstation 1, Sun introduced a new naming convention but continued, for a time, to assign the older-style names, as well. For example, a SPARCstation 1 is also a 4/60, and a SPARCstation 2 is a 4/75. The older machines were then officially renamed SPARCstation 330, and so on.

Sun still likes to assign different names to essentially identical products. Rebadging a "workstation" as a "server" is common: Sun ships the system without a frame buffer and christens it a "server." Therefore, a SPARCserver 10 is a SPARCstation 10 without a frame buffer; an Ultra Enterprise 2 is an Ultra 2; and so on. With the mere addition of a frame buffer plugged into the expansion bus, the system becomes functionally identical to its sibling.

This document will refer to the names used at the introduction of each product. Incidentally, Sun stopped assigning the older-style names around the introduction of the SPARCstation 10. By that time, it had other naming problems to worry about, such as the number and speed of the processors in such configurable machines.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
obj-intro.html010064400001440000001000000025670726071003000136130ustar00blbother00001460000001 FAQABOSS: Objective & Introduction

FAQABOSS: Objective & Introduction


This document has two intended audiences:

  1. Those who are unfamiliar with Sun hardware but might be interested in obtaining some.
  2. Those who want some Sun hardware but need advice on what to buy.

For the first group, I try to provide a sufficient amount of background information to understand the recommendations that follow. For the second, I offer my own evaluations and suggestions.

As I concentrate on practical issues, I neglect systems and other hardware worthy of primarily technical or historical interest. For specifications, historical perspectives, and other matters, see the resources at SunHELP.

Likewise, I ignore new products currently available from vendors; information on them is easily found on news groups and web sites.

Furthermore, I provide no specific pricing information; prices vary geographically and fluctuate too rapidly for me to track them here.

Finally, I express my thanks to Bill Bradford and SunHELP for kindly hosting this document.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
the first group, I try to provide a sufficient amount of background information to understand the recommendations that follow. For the sos.html010060000001440000001000000026350726531074500123330ustar00blbother00001460000001 FAQABOSS: Operating Systems

FAQABOSS: Operating Systems


I'm finally convinced of what Sun has been saying for a while now: Solaris is faster than SunOS in most aspects, but slower in many ways because of increased functionality. On the slowest machines, it's so slow it's nearly unusable, making the increased functionality a moot point. It also makes better use of RAM but requires more of it. Some older workstations have maximum RAM configurations that are just too low to make Solaris a reasonable proposition.

SunOS is just too old for most of us. Don't use it unless you have a good reason.

The open-source Unix operating systems that support SPARC hardware--namely, Linux, NetBSD, and OpenBSD--are good alternatives on the older machines. They have lower resource requirements than Solaris and are recent and well supported.

Solaris is a good option for newer machines (SPARCstation 4 and up) equipped with enough RAM (say, at least 64 MB). It is particularly useful for providing robust SMP on the MP-capable desktop machines (SPARCstation 10 and 20 and Ultra 2).


Last modified on April 12, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
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FAQABOSS: Status


Status

I've made two major changes to the FAQABOSS from its previous incarnation:

  1. I've split sections into separate files for easier browsing via the web and to make the organization more apparent.
  2. Large portions of technical information have been removed now that the Sun Hardware Reference is once again being maintained. Furthermore, the information on MBus and the systems that implement it--once the bulk of the FAQABOSS--has been superseded by The Rough Guide to MBus Modules. I despise duplication of effort--especially mine--and want to keep this document focused on providing useful advice for purchasing old Sun hardware.

The old FAQABOSS is still available.

This document is copyright (c) 1999-2001 Brian L. Brush. You may distribute it freely in unmodified form.

Please address corrections and suggestions to brush@acomp.usf.edu. See the revision history for a list of changes.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
/home/blb/new-faqaboss.tar010064400001440000001000001700000726530736000156670ustar00blbother00001460000001arch.html0100644002344300234300000000476107260710203011353 0ustar blbusers FAQABOSS: Architectures

FAQABOSS: Architectures


Sun uses the concepts of kernel architecture and application architecture to describe its systems. Every processor has an associated kernel architecture and application architecture.

The application architecture for all SPARC processors--and, therefore, for all SPARCstations--is sun4. Solaris's deprecated arch(1) command will show the application architecture. All SPARC processors will run binaries for the sun4 application architecture. Thus, the copy of ls(1) on your SPARCstation IPC will work on your SPARCcenter 2000E (you lucky devil!). Even Sun's Ultra line uses the sun4 application architecture. One generally does not have to worry about the application architecture, because it hasn't changed for more than a decade.

The kernel architecture varies among SPARC processors. Both arch(1) and uname(1) will show the kernel architecture. Processors of different kernel architectures cannot use the same operating system kernel. Thus, you cannot boot your SPARCstation 20 with the same kernel that boots your SPARCstation IPC. Sun drops support for old kernel architectures in its O.S. For example, Solaris 2.4 was the last release that supported the sun4 kernel architecture (not to be confused with the sun4 application architecture). Here are some examples of machine families and their architectures:

System Name Kernel Architecture
Sun 4/330 sun4
SPARCstation 1
SPARCstation 2
SPARCstation IPC
SPARCstation IPX
sun4c
SPARCstation 4
SPARCstation 5
SPARCstation 10
SPARCstation 20
sun4m
SPARCserver 1000
SPARCcenter 2000
sun4d
Ultra 1
Ultra Enterprise 450
sun4u

See the Solaris 2 FAQ for information on hardware support provided by releases of Solaris.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
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FAQABOSS: Table of Contents


Table of Contents


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
cpu.html0100644002344300234300000000225107260707635011234 0ustar blbusers FAQABOSS: Processors

FAQABOSS: Processors


Every system mentioned in the FAQABOSS uses SPARC processors. SPARC is an acronym for scalable processor architecture. SPARC International owns the SPARC standards and SPARC trademark. Sun and other companies--including Fujitsu and Ross (now BridgePoint)--have designed their own implementations based on various version of the SPARC specification. Those implementations may then be manufactured by yet other companies; Texas Instruments, for example, has long been Sun's principle CPU fabricator.

Older Sun systems--members of the Sun 1, Sun 2, and Sun 3 product lines--use Motorola's 68000 series of processors. By the time the '040 was available, Sun had committed itself to SPARC and had released the first systems built around it.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
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FAQABOSS: Naming Schemes


Sun has a penchant for renaming (and retroactively renaming) products: witness the renaming of SunOS 4.1.4 to Solaris 1.1.2, etc. Fortunately, it also likes to continue existing naming schemes for consistency.

The earliest SPARC systems had names in the style of the Sun 3 systems: 4/110, 4/330, 4/600. With the debut of the SPARCstation 1, Sun introduced a new naming convention but continued, for a time, to assign the older-style names, as well. For example, a SPARCstation 1 is also a 4/60, and a SPARCstation 2 is a 4/75. The older machines were then officially renamed SPARCstation 330, and so on.

Sun still likes to assign different names to essentially identical products. Rebadging a "workstation" as a "server" is common: Sun ships the system without a frame buffer and christens it a "server." Therefore, a SPARCserver 10 is a SPARCstation 10 without a frame buffer; an Ultra Enterprise 2 is an Ultra 2; and so on. With the mere addition of a frame buffer plugged into the expansion bus, the system becomes functionally identical to its sibling.

This document will refer to the names used at the introduction of each product. Incidentally, Sun stopped assigning the older-style names around the introduction of the SPARCstation 10. By that time, it had other naming problems to worry about, such as the number and speed of the processors in such configurable machines.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
obj-intro.html0100644002344300234300000000256707260710030012341 0ustar blbusers FAQABOSS: Objective & Introduction

FAQABOSS: Objective & Introduction


This document has two intended audiences:

  1. Those who are unfamiliar with Sun hardware but might be interested in obtaining some.
  2. Those who want some Sun hardware but need advice on what to buy.

For the first group, I try to provide a sufficient amount of background information to understand the recommendations that follow. For the second, I offer my own evaluations and suggestions.

As I concentrate on practical issues, I neglect systems and other hardware worthy of primarily technical or historical interest. For specifications, historical perspectives, and other matters, see the resources at SunHELP.

Likewise, I ignore new products currently available from vendors; information on them is easily found on news groups and web sites.

Furthermore, I provide no specific pricing information; prices vary geographically and fluctuate too rapidly for me to track them here.

Finally, I express my thanks to Bill Bradford and SunHELP for kindly hosting this document.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
old-faqaboss.html0100644002344300234300000012552607260712777013036 0ustar blbusers FAQABOSS

FAQABOSS: Frequently Asked Questions About Buying an Old (Used) Sun System


FAQ Status

This document is no longer under construction; I'm rewriting it and will soon release a new version (available for preview). Still, your help in compiling information, detecting errors, and promoting clarity is appreciated. Please address corrections and suggestions to brush@acomp.usf.edu. See the revision history for a list of changes.

Information in this document comes from James Birdsall's Sun Hardware Reference, from Brian Wong's Configuration and Capacity Planning for Solaris Servers, from personal experience, and from innumerable Usenet posts. Much material has also been provided by James Lockwood. Furthermore, he and many others have contributed valuable suggestions. This document is copyright (c) 1999-2001 Brian L. Brush. You may distribute it freely in unmodified form.


Who are you, and why are you qualified to write this FAQ?

I'm a Unix system administrator. Solaris is my specialty, and I work both as an employee and as a consultant. I worked at Academic Computing at the University of South Florida from October, 1994, until September, 1999. In those years, I helped move the department from a few low-end SPARCstations running SunOS 4.1.x to several mid-range Ultra Enterprise systems running Solaris 2.x. I'm now a system administrator at [company reference omitted due to instructions from on high]. For the gory details about me, check my C.V.


Why Buy a Sun?

This document is really intended for those who already want to buy one, but if you're still debating, I can mention some of my reasons. Many of them apply to the products of SGI, HP, IBM, and other Unix hardware vendors (and sometimes even Apple), as well.


Background

FIXME


Sun 3s

The Sun 3 line used Motorola's 68020 and 68030 CISC microprocessors. See the Sun Hardware Reference and the Sun-3 Archive for more information.


SPARCstations

Most individuals in the market for used Suns will want SPARCstations, which use Sun's SPARC processors (except, of course, for the exceptions). They range from very cheap, very slow machines made a decade ago to very expensive SMP desktop machines of recent manufacture. First, some background:

Architecture

Sun uses the concepts of kernel architecture and application architecture to describe its systems. Every processor has an associated kernel architecture and application architecture.

The application architecture for all SPARC processors--and, therefore, for all SPARCstations--is sun4. Solaris's deprecated arch(1) command will show the application architecture. All SPARC processors will run binaries for the sun4 application architecture. Thus, the copy of ls(1) on your SPARCstation IPC will work on your SPARCcenter 2000E (you lucky devil!). Incidentally, Sun's Ultra line also uses the sun4 application architecture. One generally does not have to worry about the application architecture, because it hasn't changed for the last ten years.

The kernel architecture varies among SPARC processors. Both arch(1) and uname(1) will show the kernel architecture. Processors of different kernel architectures cannot use the same operating system kernel. Thus, you cannot boot your SPARCstation 20 with the same kernel that boots your SPARCstation IPC. The importance of kernel architecture is that Sun drops support for old kernel architectures in its O.S. For example, Solaris 2.4 was the last release that supported the sun4 kernel architecture (not to be confused with the sun4 application architecture). Here are some examples of machine families and their architectures:

System Name Kernel Architecture
Sun 4/330 sun4
SPARCstation 1
SPARCstation 2
SPARCstation IPC
SPARCstation IPX
sun4c
SPARCstation 4
SPARCstation 5
SPARCstation 10
SPARCstation 20
sun4m
SPARCserver 1000
SPARCcenter 2000
sun4d
Ultra 1
Ultra Enterprise 450
sun4u

Enclosures

A couple of the cases Sun used for workstations and peripherals have been given informal names. A lunchbox is literally the size and shape of a common plastic lunch box (but rather more difficult to open) and--in different incarnations--can hold a workstation or a bunch of disk drives. The common lunch box machines are the IPC and the IPX. A pizza box is literally the size and shape of a cardboard pizza box (but usually a bit thicker). There are several different pizza boxes of different designs and dimensions. The popular pizza box form factor was used for the SPARCstations 1, 2, 10, and 20, among others. See "Pictures of Sun Hardware" on SunHELP for images.

System Names

Sun has a penchant for renaming (and retroactively renaming) products: witness the renaming of SunOS 4.1.4 to Solaris 1.1.2, etc. Fortunately, it also likes to continue existing naming schemes for consistency. The earliest SPARC systems had names in the style of the Sun 3 systems: 4/110, 4/330, 4/600. With the debut of the SPARCstation 1, Sun introduced a new naming convention but continued, for a time, to assign the older-style names, as well. For example, a SPARCstation 1 is also a 4/60, and a SPARCstation 2 is a 4/75. The older machines were then officially renamed SPARCstation 330, and so on. This document will refer to the names used at the introduction of each product. Incidentally, Sun stopped assigning the older-style names around the introduction of the SPARCstation 10. By that time, it had other naming problems to worry about, such as the number and speed of the processors.

Operating Systems

I'm finally convinced of what Sun has been saying for a while now: Solaris is faster than SunOS in most aspects, but slower in many ways because of increased functionality. On the slowest machines, it's so slow it's nearly unusable, making the increased functionality a moot point. It also makes better use of RAM but requires more of it. Some older workstations have maximum RAM configurations that are just too low to make Solaris a reasonable proposition.

SunOS is just too old for most of us. Don't use it unless you have a good reason.

The free Unix operating systems that run on SPARC hardware--namely, Linux, NetBSD, and OpenBSD--are good alternatives for the older machines. They are lightweights compared with Solaris and are recent and well supported.

Solaris is a good option for newer machines (4 and up) equipped with enough RAM. It is particularly useful for providing robust SMP on the MP-capable desktop machines (namely, the 10 and 20).

Standard Equipment

Unless otherwise noted, all SPARCstations have some form of the following on their motherboards:

Some have parallel ports and on-board frame buffers; a few have more exotic additions like ISDN.


Now, after that interlude, some information on the SPARCstations:

SPARCstation 1 (4/60)

Code Name: Campus
Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: Fujitsu MB86901A or LSI L64801 @ 20 MHz
Weitek 3170 FPU
MMU: Sun 4c
Hardware Contexts: 8
Level-2 Cache: 64 KB write-through; direct-mapped, virtually indexed, virtually tagged, 16-byte lines; 50 ns cycle
RAM: 100 ns 1 x 9 or 4 x 9 30-pin SIMMs
16 slots
4 slots per bank
(64 MB max)
Bus: 3 Sbus slots @ 20 MHz (slot 3 slave-only)
Audio: AMD AM79C30A
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 720kB (early) or
3.5" 1.44 MB (later)
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" on sleds
Notes: The first SPARCstation is housed in a pizza box with three SBus slots. There is room for a floppy drive and two 3.5" hard drives. The maximum of 64 MB of RAM is impressive for such a vintage.
Conclusion: Dirt cheap but terribly slow; good for Linux or non-graphical use.

SPARCstation 1+ (4/65)

Code Name: Campus B
Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: LSI L64801 @ 25 MHz
Weitek 3172 FPU
MMU: Sun 4c
Hardware Contexts: 8
Level-2 Cache: 64 KB write-through; direct-mapped, virtually indexed, virtually tagged, 16-byte lines; 50 ns cycle
RAM: 100 ns 1 x 9 or 4 x 9 30-pin SIMMs
16 slots
4 slots per bank
(64 MB max)
Bus: 3 Sbus slots @ 25 MHz (slot 3 slave-only)
Audio: AMD AM79C30A
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" on sleds
Notes: Little more than a SPARCstation 1 with a faster processor clock--25 MHz vs. 20 MHz. Comparable to IPC.
Conclusion: Dirt cheap but terribly slow; good for Linux or non-graphical use.

SPARCstation IPC (4/40)

Code Name: Phoenix
Chassis: Lunch box
Processors: Fujitsu MB86901A or LSI L64801 @ 25 MHz
Weitek 3172 FPU
MMU: Sun 4c
Hardware Contexts: 8
Level-2 Cache: 64 KB write-through; direct-mapped, virtually indexed, virtually tagged, 16-byte lines
RAM: 100 ns 1 x 9 or 4 x 9 30-pin SIMMs
12 slots
4 slots per bank
(48 MB max)
Bus: 2 Sbus slots @ 25 MHz
Frame Buffer: On-board analogue bwtwo
Audio: AMD AM79C30A
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 1 x 3.5"
Notes: The IPC is a lunch box machine with two SBus slots. The on-board frame buffer is an analogue bwtwo--nearly useless for most modern applications, but usable with grayscale monitors (and color, too, if you like green screens). The floppy drive is standard equipment, and there is room for one 3.5" hard drive. The machine needs its maximum of 48 MB of RAM. Besides that, the most useful upgrade for this machine is a GX or Turbo GX frame buffer.
Conclusion: Dirt cheap and quite cute but terribly slow; good for Linux or non-graphical use.

SPARCstation IPX (4/50)

Code Name: Hobbes
Chassis: Lunch box
Processor: Fujitsu MB86903 or Weitek W8701 @ 40MHz
MMU: Sun 4c
Hardware Contexts: 8
Level-2 Cache: 64 KB write-through; direct-mapped, virtually indexed, virtually tagged, 32-byte lines
RAM: 80 ns 1 x 33 or 4 x 33 72-pin SIMMs
4 slots
(64 MB max)
Bus: 2 Sbus slots @ 20 MHz
Frame Buffer: On-board GX
Audio: AMD AM79C30A
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 1 x 3.5"
Notes: A step up from the IPC--faster processor, slower SBus. The maximum of 64 MB of RAM is slightly more useful, and the on-board GX frame buffer is infinitely more so. The system can use regular 36-bit-wide Fast-Page Mode SIMMs. Weitek's PowerUP runs an 80 MHz processor on the system's 40 MHz bus and claims performance equivalent to a SPARCstation 10, but I don't believe it--not even a Model 20. Still, it is probably the best of the sun4c bunch, even thought the SPARCstation 2 has some minor technical advantages.
Conclusion: Dirt cheap and quite cute but terribly slow; acceptable for interactive use under Linux.

SPARCclassic (4/15)

Code Name: Sunergy
Chassis: Lunch box
Processors: TI MicroSPARC @ 50 MHz
Level-2 Cache: None
RAM: 60 ns 1 x 33 or 4 x 33 SIMMs
6 slots
2 slots per bank
(96 MB max)
Bus: 2 Sbus slots @ 20 MHz
Frame Buffer: On-board cgthree
Audio: AMD AM79C30A
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 1 x 3.5"
Notes: A uniprocessor sun4m machine with 8-bit audio in a lunch box. There are reports of successfully using 32 MB SIMMs in the first bank of slots, for a total of 128 MB. SPARCclassic X was an X terminal made from a SPARC classic.
Conclusion: The first-generation MicroSPARCs are notoriously slow.

SPARCstation LX (4/30)

Code Name: Sunergy
Chassis: Lunch box
Processors: TI MicroSPARC @ 50 MHz
Level-2 Cache: None
RAM: 60 ns 1 x 33 or 4 x 33 SIMMs
6 slots
2 slots per bank
(96 MB max)
Bus: 2 Sbus slots @ 20 MHz
Frame Buffer: On-board cgsix
Audio: T5900FC
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 1 x 3.5"
Notes: An improvement on the SPARCclassic: accelerated frame buffer with 1 MB VRAM, expandable to 2 MB via VSIMM for higher resolution; on-board DBRI and 16-bit audio.
Conclusion: Definitely a better bet than the SPARCclassic.

SPARCstation 2 (4/75)

Code Name: Calvin
Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: Cypress CY7C601 @ 40 MHz
TI TMS390C601A FPU
MMU: Sun 4c
Hardware Contexts: 16
Level-2 Cache: 64 KB write-through; direct-mapped, virtually indexed, virtually tagged, 32-byte lines
RAM: 80 ns 4 x 9 30-pin SIMMs
16 slots
4 slots per bank
(64 MB max)
Bus: 3 Sbus slots @ 20 MHz
Audio: AMD AM79C30A
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" on sleds
Notes: The SPARCstation 2 is another pizza box like the SPARCstation 1. The processor, however, runs at 40 MHz, like that of the IPX. Unlike the IPX, it has 16 hardware contexts...not that you will notice the difference, because it, too, is quite slow.
Conclusion: Often not as cheap as it should be, and too slow.

SPARCstation 4

Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: TI MicroSPARC II @ 70 MHz or
TI MicroSPARC II @ 85 MHz or
TI MicroSPARC II @ 110 MHz
Level-2 Cache: None
RAM: 8 MB or 32 MB fast page-mode 5 V 168-pin JEDEC DIMMs
8 slots
1 slot per bank
(256 MB max)
Bus: 1 Sbus slot
Frame buffer: On-board TCX
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB optional
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" SCA
Notes: Designed to be Sun's most economical workstation at the time, it was positioned below the SPARCstation 5. It has an on-board frame buffer but only one SBus slot, and audio is available only via an optional card the plugs into a special connector on the motherboard.
Conclusion: Yuck.

SPARCstation 5

Code Name: Aurora
Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: TI MicroSPARC II @ 70 MHz or
TI MicroSPARC II @ 85 MHz or
TI MicroSPARC II @ 110 MHz or
Fujitsu TurboSPARC @ 170 MHz
Level-2 Cache: None or
256 kB (TurboSPARC)
RAM: 8 MB or 32 MB fast page-mode 5 V 168-pin JEDEC DIMMs
8 slots
1 slot per bank
(256 MB max)
Bus: 3 Sbus slots
Frame buffer: Optional S24 via AFX card
Audio CS4231
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB optional
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" SCA
Notes: Designed for use solely as a workstation, with no SMP support but much lower memory latency than SPARCstation 10 and 20. The TurboSPARC version, however, with its L-2 cache, loses that advantage. Versions with socketed CPU (all 70s, some 85s, and no 110s) are more easily upgradable; others require motherboard swap. Versions with 160 MHz TurboSPARC are upgraded. AFX bus and 24-bit S24 frame buffer that uses it are unique to this model.
Conclusion: Not as easily upgradable as MBus-based machines.

SPARCstation 10

Code Name: Campus-2
Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: One or two MBus modules
Level-2 Cache: On MBus module(s) (if present)
RAM: 70 ns 16 MB or 64 MB 200-pin SIMMs
8 slots
1 slot per bank
(512 MB max)
Bus: 4 Sbus slots @ 18 or 20 MHz
(16.6 or 20 MHz for Model 20)
Frame Buffer: Optional SX
Audio: T5900FC
Floppy Disk Drive: 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" on screw pads
Notes:

The 10 marks Sun's foray into desktop SMP (once again in the wake of Solbourne). In addition to four SBus slots, this pizza box system has two MBus slots for processor modules. The floppy drive is standard equipment, and there is room for two 3.5" hard drives. The maximum of 512 MB of RAM is once again impressive for its day, and the system can use four processors. For analogue audio I/O, the system requires a speaker box--unique to the SPARCstation 10--that incorporates the necessary serial audio codec. The rare SX model has an on-board 24-bit SX frame buffer.

The double-width MBus modules required to have four processors carry hefty price tags, and the system is somewhat limited by its 40 MHz maximum MBus clock. The low-end models are really low-end; the 10 offers a wide range of performance. Watch for my web page specifically for the SPARCstation 10.

James Lockwood has wisely suggested a separate section for the SPARCstation 10SX: coming soon.

Conclusion: Prices are reasonable, and SMP is cool.

SPARCstation 20

Chassis: Square pizza box
Processors: One or two MBus modules
Level-2 Cache: On MBus module(s) (if present)
RAM: 60 ns 16 MB or 64 MB 200-pin SIMMs
8 slots
1 slot per bank
(512 MB max)
Bus: 4 Sbus slots @ 25 MHz or
20 MHz (if MBus is @ 40 MHz)
Frame Buffer: SX
Audio: T5900FC
Floppy Disk Drive: Optional 3.5" 1.44 MB
SCSI Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5" SCA
Notes: The 20 is a 10 in a new case with upgraded internals: higher maximum MBus clock rate (50 MHz) and faster SBus (no longer tied to MBus speed) capable of 64-bit transfers. The only lost feature is ISDN support. Support for SX frame buffer is standard equipment, but VSIMM required is optional (see the Frame Buffer FAQ). Older case can hold floppy drive and special CD-ROM drive internally; later case can hold full-size CD-ROM drive. Speaker and all audio circuitry are internal (with external ports)--no more funny speaker box!
Conclusion: Snappier than a 10, with a corresponding price premium.

Notes on Components

AMD AM79C30A
"Telephone quality" audio chip capable of 8 KHz monaural audio input and output that supports mu-law and A-law but not linear encoding; found in sun4c systems and SPARCclassic.
T5900FC
DBRI (Dual Basic-Rate ISDN) chip for audio I/O that, in addition to audio, supports ISDN (dual B channels plus one D channel) but requires an NT1 in the US to connect to a line; found in LX, 10, and 20. Those systems require a CS4215 codec to generate and receive audio.
Crystal Semiconductor CS4215
Serial audio codec capable of up to 48KHz 16-bit stereo using mu-law, A-law or linear encoding. The 10 houses it in an external speaker box; the LX, 10SX, and 20 have it on the motherboard.
Crystal Semiconductor CS4231
Approximately the same as the T5900FC/CS4215 combination but without ISDN and an external codec; found in SPARCstation 4 (as an option), 5, and the current Ultra line.

Big Iron

Yes, the SPARCcenter 2000 is physically impressive, but remember that size doesn't matter. If you need the power and expandability of a 2000 and can afford it, you should be looking at a newer platform. I doubt many individuals are in such a position.

The story for the SPARCserver 1000 is somewhat different, but it still isn't a practical machine for most individuals. The 1000 is essentially a 2000 in a desktop enclosure with only one XDBus instead of two. Although it uses less power and is less expensive, the system's architecture is designed for moving large amounts of data: the higher latency suffered by most smaller operations is not good for most single-user workstations.

The only important difference of the E versions--the SPARCcenter 2000E and SPARCserver 1000E--is higher clock rates for the XDBus and SBus.

The 1000(E) and 2000(E) will run only Solaris 2.x; SunOS 4.x does not support sun4d.

The other big machines, such as the 4/600 and friends, are real beasts designed to fit the same card cages as the old 3/xxx machines and offer no performance advantages to the individual.

I dare say the Cray CS6400 is beyond the current scope of this document. It holds up to 64 60 MHz SuperSPARC (later UltraSPARC?) processors with 2 MB of cache each and 16 GB of RAM and requires 220 V three-phase power at 60 A. It runs a modified version of Solaris that can be partitioned into 16 virtual domains and requires an SSP (System Service Processor--usually a SPARCclassic) with a JTAG card. Now out of production and never very popular, it is the ancestor of Sun's Enterprise 10000. Lust fodder, indeed!


Disks

SCA

SCA is an 80-pin SCSI connector that provides power, data, and device configuration (e.g., SCSI target ID). SCA is found on the 4, 5, 20, and most later machines equipped with SCSI, including Ultra workstations and Enterprise servers. The 4, 5, and 20, in addition, use a special drive mounting arrangement unique to their enclosure.

Fast SCSI

Fast SCSI (10 MB/s) was introduced with the second board revision of the 4/600 and included on the Classic, LX, Voyager, 4, 5, 10, 20, and later machines. No faster on-board SCSI interface was offered until the release of the Ultra 1/140E and /170E (Creator models), which had on-board fast wide SCSI (20 MB/s).


Memory

Parity

Most of the system architectures use the parity bits provided by memory modules, so non-parity modules will not work. Also, so-called logic parity modules will likewise cause problems.

33-bit SIMMs

Some machines, such as the IPX, specify use of 1 x 33 and 4 x 33 SIMMs, which apparently have only one parity bit for all four bytes instead of a parity bit for each byte in the width of the chip. Regular fast page-mode 36-bit-wide SIMMs (i.e., Pea Sea) of the appropriate speed also work in such systems.

36-bit SIMMs should not, however, be mixed with 33-bit, as some memory controllers will discover the extra bits and use them for extended parity information and then fail when they encounter 33-bit SIMMs.

30-pin & 72-pin SIMMs

The form factor of the 30- and 72-pin SIMMs used is the industry standard.

SPARCstation 4 & 5

The SPARCstation 4 and SPARCstation 5 use fast page-mode 5 V 168-in JEDEC DIMMs. Thus they can use the DIMMs of the correct density from Apple PowerMac 7500s, 8500s, and 9500s if they have parity.


Processors

MBus

Sun's MBus, introduced with the SPARCsystem 600MP in 1991, is a circuit-switched processor/memory bus designed to support multiprocessing. In addition to the 6xx series, the SPARCstation 10 and 20 use the MBus to provide SMP capabilities. Each of those machines has two MBus slots; each slot holds one MBus module; each MBus module provides either one or two processors (see MBus module configurations).

Systems based on the MicroSPARC series of processors (including SPARCclassic, SPARCstation LX, SPARCstation 4, and SPARCstation 5) use the MBus only implicitly, as it is integrated into the processor along with the memory controller and SBus interface. Those machines are therefore incapable of SMP.

MBus Modules

There are different types of MBus modules:

MBus Module Configurations

Several considerations constrain the use of multiple MBus modules in the same system:

In summary, the only non-SuperCache modules that are capable of SMP are the later SM40s (and possibly the SM50s in the SPARCstation 20). Only combinations of SuperCache modules with processors in the same series are likely to work together.

Yet to come: XDBus, Weitek PowerUP, Cycle products.


Keyboards

Type 1

No information.

Type 2

The Type 2 keyboard was introduced with the Sun 2 model line (?). It has large flat areas around the keys and a distinctive, wedge-shaped profile. There is an RJ connector on the back to connect to the CPU via an RJ cable. The mouse is completely separate on earlier models; on later models like the 2/50, the keyboard and mouse both connect to an adapter which converts to a DB15. With such an adapter, a Type 2 keyboard and Sun 2 mouse can be used with a Sun 3.

Type 3

The Type 3 keyboard was introduced with the Sun 3 model line (?). It has much smaller flat areas around the keys than a Type 2, and the front edge is curved downward rather than being a wedge. It connects to the CPU with a male DB15 on the end of an captive coiled cable. The mouse plugs into an RJ connector in the back of the keyboard.

Since a Type 4 keyboard can be used with a system expecting a Type 3 with only a connector adapter, presumably a Type 3 keyboard can be used with a system expecting a Type 4.

Pin Signal Pin Signal
1 RxD0 8 GND
2 GND 9 GND
3 TxD0 10 Vcc
4 GND 11 Vcc
5 RxD1 12 Vcc
6 GND 14 Vcc
7 TxD1 15 Vcc

Type 4

In progress.


Revision History

June 8, 1999
Early version first announced on comp.sys.sun.hardware.
June 11, 1999
Added SPARCstation 5 and MBus info.
June 17, 1999
Added SPARCstation 10 and frame buffer info for IPC and IPX.
July 2, 1999
Updated speculation about compatibility of 36-bit SIMMS; added SPARCstation 20 info.
July 8, 1999
Added 160 MHz TurboSPARC to list of SPARCstation 5 processors.
July 21, 1999
Added information about SM50 in SPARCstation 10.
August 6, 1999
Confirmed comment about SM20 in SPARCstation 10. Added links to mention of Linux, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. Added more about SPARCstation 5 memory. Completed section on Sun 3s. Started to answer "Why Buy a Sun?" Made a slew of corrections and additions with comments from James Lockwood.
November 23, 1999
Added SPARCclassic, SPARCstation LX, and SPARCstation 4; added information about audio systems, CS6400, and AFX/S24.
December 21, 1999
Started work on keyboard section.
January 19, 2001
Removed references to my employer after objections from H.R.
March 29, 2001
Updated section on standard equipment and added sun4u to table of kernel architectures. Changed note on FAQ status.

Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.
status.html0100644002344300234300000000264607260713235011771 0ustar blbusers FAQABOSS: Status

FAQABOSS: Status


Status

I've made two major changes to the FAQABOSS from its previous incarnation:

  1. I've split sections into separate files for easier browsing via the web and to make the organization more apparent.
  2. Large portions of technical information have been removed now that the Sun Hardware Reference is once again being maintained. Furthermore, the information on MBus and the systems that implement it--once the bulk of the FAQABOSS--has been superseded by The Rough Guide to MBus Modules. I despise duplication of effort--especially mine--and want to keep this document focused on providing useful advice for purchasing old Sun hardware.

The old FAQABOSS is still available.

This document is copyright (c) 1999-2001 Brian L. Brush. You may distribute it freely in unmodified form.

Please address corrections and suggestions to brush@acomp.usf.edu. See the revision history for a list of changes.


Last modified on March 29, 2001, by Brian L. Brush.