[rescue] best rackmount Sun (used) for $1k

Skeezics Boondoggle skeezics at q7.com
Sun Jul 30 05:38:57 CDT 2006

On Sat, 29 Jul 2006, Patrick Giagnocavo wrote:

> > >What would you folks recommend, assuming I want a 4U or less Sun
> > >SPARC-based machine, 2GB RAM or more, for about $1,000 ?
> > >
> > $450 Buy It Now w/4x 450 CPUs, 4 Gig RAM, 2x 18 Gig HDs and include 
> > rack rails... Of course, $90 to ship, but that's 2-3 day form CA, not 
> > Ground ;^)

That's an awesome price.  $450 + shipping for a fully-loaded box like that 
is insane; not even 3 years ago they still cost $5K, *used*.  If I didn't 
already have a couple of them, I'd be tempted. :-)

> Assuming this has the same basic memory subsystem as the E250 and Ultra
> 2 (non-PCI version), I would have to pass.  I found those too slow for
> some of the tasks I threw at them - this is for a lower-end production
> machine, not a rescue.

Was there a PCI version of the Ultra 2?  I mean, the only PCI one I've 
ever heard of was Pete Wargo's prototype box; every U2 I've ever seen is 

Anyway, if you're not familiar with the specs, the memory in the 420R is 
576 bits wide (512 + ECC) and runs at 112.5Mhz with the 450Mhz CPUs (4:1), 
but runs at 120Mhz with the 360Mhz CPUs... which is why I always wished 
Sun would qualify the 480Mhz CPUs (that were only available for the E450) 
so you could run them in the 420R at 4:1 and get the faster bus speed 
(120Mhz was the fastest UPA implementation shipped?) and have the bigger 
8MB cache...  Ah, well.

> Come on, I am willing to spend up to 10 honeybees here ... don't give me
> this low-end stuff :-)  

The sub-$1k 280R's are almost always going to contain 750's or 900's - and 
possibly the early 900's that weren't copper and had some bugs, as I 
recall?  A 280R with the 900Mhz "cu" US-3's, or the 1050's or 1200's, are 
almost always more than $1k, since those are still very capable machines.  
We still run those in production at $WORK.

I got some of the first batch of 420Rs when they were first out, in early 
2000.  With the exception of the awful connector used for the memory riser 
card [0] the 420R is still a great machine.  It's a little long in the 
tooth now, but it's 4-way (nice for threaded apps), is PCI (including a 
64-bit, 66Mhz slot), has that big fat wide memory path and fairly low 
latency (the E450 is the fastest 4-way US-II box but it sure doesn't fit 
in 4U of rack space! :-) and it's a real workhorse.  I ran them in a 
production environment for four years continuous duty with > 5 nines of 

Old SPARCs still pack plenty of punch.  In 1995-96 I was on the team at 
the largest ISP in the PNW and we learned first hand just how much abuse a 
SPARC box could take.  I've seen 110 interactive shell users on a SS5 when 
"fast" Pentium machines fell over completely at 30 or less.  I've seen 
SS20's that processed 450,000 emails a day for 25,000 users.  I've built 
one of the first web servers in the world to handle a million hits a day 
with NCSA (or early Apaches) on SunOS 4, with 120 virtual domains on one 
SS20.  I've run a farm of four 420Rs behind a LocalDirector that sustained 
over 10,000 http connections/sec[2] (through peaks that lasted 8 hours a 
night) with 100% uptime over a year.  I've seen things you people wouldn't 
believe.  Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.  I've watched C 
beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.  All those moments 
will be lost in time like tears in rain...

-- Skeez

[0] That connector was the one nasty flaw in the 420R; a Sun engineer 
told me directly it was a dreadful mistake they'll never make again!

[1] I still have two 420Rs and two 220Rs here at home.  That nasty heat 
wave affected us here last week and I couldn't keep the computer room cool 
enough, and ruined my 352-day uptime streak - almost a year since we had a 
power failure that outlasted my UPSes - by having to shut down.  Damn!  
Even at home, I *scoff* at those who "settle" for 5 measly nines.  Never 
reboot!  Never surrender! :-)  Of course, with old machines, you never 
know what's going to not come back up once you shut it down...

[2] I read that Apache on the new T1 chip w/32 threads handled 20,000 
connections/sec in an early benchmark run.  It's phenomenal to think that 
after just three years I could have replaced those 420Rs with just a 
single 1U box that eats less than 300W?  Amazing...

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