[rescue] Sun is purple - not blue....

Ray Arachelian ray at arachelian.com
Sun Mar 22 09:52:33 CDT 2009

Robert Darlington wrote:
> I'm not aware of too many cases (pronounced "any cases") where a $20k
> workstation is faster than a sub $5k PC in any respect.  Even my company
> stopped dropping the cash for the hefty clusters that were over $100k for a
> 700% performance boost using a couple nVidia boards in a PC for under
> $10k.   (We design, build, and sell CT systems).
Depends on what you use them for, and where the bottle necks are. If all
you've got are just webservers without much to do other than serve up
static images and act as a proxy to a middle layer running an
application, you don't need anything beefy. Infact, a low end P3, or
Netra is plenty for this.

If you're running something that does a lot of I/O such as a database, a
high end PC server with lots of memory and lots of I/O connects will
work fine, but will generally not be as fast as a mid-end Sun. Then
again, in those cases we're probably talking Oracle, where you pay per
CPU, so if you don't really need it, you're better off from an money
point of view with the x86 box.

If by workstation you mean something to do a lot of calculations with,
then you'll need something with a beefy FPU or, to go the way you
suggest, with dual GPUs.

If you want to consolidate a lot of older machines into many fewer (for
example, because Sun will no longer support them, except at insane
prices), you'd need something like the T-Series, so you can do LDOMs and

If your application cannot be split up across a farm, you'll need
something with a lot of CPUs, and a lot of memory, something mid-end. In
those cases you'll get a large push from management to rewrite the app.

If your application is rendering movies, well, you'll still need a
cluster, though more modern PC's will mean that you'd need less of them.

If by workstation you mean something to run a web browser, email, and a
few other apps, well, no that's not much of a workstation, and a low end
PC will do just fine.

In practice, I find few machines running at more than 10-20% CPU
utilization for most of their lifetime. There are exceptions, usually in
the form of spikes.

But these days, I find the push is to close down extra data centers, and
consolidate existing older hardware into zones and LDOMs. As good as the
high end stuff is, the economy is pushing stuff to be cheaper and
smaller. This also means less money from support contracts to Sun and
IBM, so they too will have to lower their prices.

Many companies do not use support contracts, so for those, commodity x86
hardware is the way to go, and they'll replace hardware themselves by
keeping cold or hot spares around in the data center, then sending
someone or asking remote hands to do the replacing.

Others, require support contracts from vendors, those that do, are
looking to reduce their costs by upgrading to larger machines that can
handle more virtual instances of whatever apps they need to run. So yes,
you won't be seeing loads of very expensive clusters much anymore. This
path however, requires far more I/O - while the vCPU's can handle the
load just fine, sometimes the NICs get saturated, or disk I/O gets

I find that in the long run, support contracts tend to be far more
expensive than the machines themselves, and it's a hokey stick curve -
as the product gets older, support gets very expensive.
So it doesn't pay to keep that e450 or 4500 running. Also, the rack
space and energy costs get expensive, so why would they continue to run
them in an expensive data center - when they can be replaced by more
modern machines? Instead, those old boxes get moved into the main office
to be used as dev boxes, or tossed, and they get replaced by fewer more
modern ones, and giving up the rack space in data centers, or instead of
running 5 datacenters, they go down to 2 (prod/dr), and those two have
fewer machines.

If the economy continues down this path, we'll eventually see the
support contracts being dropped as well, and with those, a lot more x86
migrations. Sad, but Sun and IBM will shrink from DC's to be replaced by

It'll be interesting what happens when the economy starts to pick up
again. Will there be a drive to build up again? Or will they continue as
frugally as possible?

Still, if stuff does get tossed out, see if you can rescue some of the
machines. Having friends who work at data centers help - I wish I still
had those contacts. :-)

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