[rescue] Mainframe on eBay

Skeezics Boondoggle skeezics at q7.com
Fri Sep 16 21:58:49 CDT 2005

On Fri, 16 Sep 2005, Patrick Finnegan wrote:

> Because they're nowhere near the same thing.  IBM's boxes are good
> hardware that doesn't break anywhere near as much as E10ks do.  We've
> got E10k's and F6800s at work, and as someone else noted, they seem to
> consume CPUs/CPU boards as well.  Anyways, the point of a mainframe is
> fast memory and fast I/O, which are two things you don't get
> (comparitively) with an E10k.

Well, I was mostly poking at the notion that machines that just a couple 
of years ago were still sold new for > $1M are now available on Ebay for 
less than $10K was astonishing; seriously, who here 2-3 years ago would 
have ever even considered owning a box that big?

I've never had the chance to work with an E10k, other than goofing around 
at the local Sun office or on the trade-show floor at SC99 here in PDX. 
:-)  But I hadn't heard so much negativity about the high-end Suns; one 
guy (an Oracle DBA) I worked with had run big databases on a 10K and said 
it was a great box; another friend who worked at amazon.com gave it more 
mixed reviews.

I admit I'm kind of surprised to hear the big SunFires getting slagged; I 
mean, Sun allegedly put *huge* amounts of engineering effort into 
extending the reliability of their high-end hardware, from the CS6400 to 
the 10K and on into the SunFires, weren't big Suns supposed to be getting 
_more_ reliable?  I mean, it takes 'em damn long enough to ship each 
succeeding generation, you'd think they'd be getting better at it by now?

Or is it not so much the machine, or that people don't understand how to
build a proper environment to house such a thing?  I mean, _most_
datacenters I've been in or involved with are well engineered, and usually
wildly _overbuilt_.  If you aren't providing clean power and decent
cooling then your z900 is likely going to fare as badly as your E10k, but
I can't imagine that's the case at a place like Amazon, which threw whole
boxcars full of investment cash at building their IT infrastructure...

Huh.  Guess I'm just gettin' old and out of touch.  I ran a SC2000E that
had close to 12 years of power-on time and was solid as a rock.  I ran my
own network of US-II machines for three years in a proper machine room
(100.0% uptime for CY2003) and two years down here in my basement, and
while I did have a couple of bad modules (the infamous E$ problems), all
this time I've experienced the usual reliability I've come to expect from 
Sun gear over the last 15 years...

Well, I'd still take on an E10K if I could.  Besides, with prices so damn
low, and with so much kit out there for sale, you can easily stock up on a
few spares. :-)  And since Sun seems destined (determined?) to be an AMD
box shifter, the E10K will be quite a prize for any serious SPARC
collector, someday.

> I think it makes more sense to go after a cheaper mainframe box, like an
> S/390 G6 or something. :)

Well, I'm an old DEC geek, turned Unix geek, turned general-purpose
non-IBM geek.  I just never got into that whole world; IBM always left me
cold.  I have great respect for their engineering (especially in the
employment of explosive bolts) and for their commitment to doing some of
the coolest R&D around.  I'm greatly impressed by POWER/PPC, and I think
IBM is the only company out there that can keep the awful prospect of
Intel/x86 hegemony at bay.  But AIX is a hateful abomination, and their
cozying up to and enabling of M$ in their early years is unforgiveable. 

Gosh, today I'm just full of opinions... or somethin', at any rate. :-)

-- Chris

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