[rescue] SATA on SPARC systems

Mike Spooner mike.spooner.ux at gmail.com
Mon Oct 9 14:29:48 CDT 2017

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Sun, 8 Oct 2017 22:07:37 -0500
> From: Jerry Kemp <sun.mail.list47 at oryx.us>
> To: The Rescue List <rescue at sunhelp.org>
> Subject: [rescue] SATA on SPARC systems ::WAS:::::Re: Saved this Ultra
>         10 from Central Mich U Surplus Sale
> Message-ID: <0d45b63c-7393-96f6-bade-b42c3c852b7e at oryx.us>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8; format=flowed
> I have them on my personal archive.
> Not that I have spent a significant sum, but I have purchased several SATA
> controllers, and have not had luck yet on SPARC base systems.
> I'm up for another round of this if everyone else is.
> If someone has a HDD controller in their SPARC system, with SATA drives
> *successfully* hanging off of it, please share.
> Jerry

Forgive this rather long post, but SATA-with-SPARC and the Ultra-10 in
general are worthy of it!

Since 2013, I have been using a SUperSSpeed S301 SLC SATA drive as the
primary drive in my 1993 SPARCstation-10 (!), via
an ACARD ARS-2160S SATA-to-68pin-Ultra160-SCSI adaptor drive-size box, in
turn via an Antares Microsystems 20-050-0061
single-ended Wide-Ultra-SCSI SBus card, all mounted internally without any
case mods needed.

This is *waaay* faster than even 68-pin Wide-Fast-SCSI rotating rust HDDs
attached to a SunSwift SBus card. This is in spite of
the fact that the SS10 (180MHz CPUs on 40 MHz mainbus with 20 MHz SBus)
cannot drive the SSD disk at anywhere near it's maximum
I/O rate... it is still vastly better than an HDD.

Although there several makes of SATA-SCSI adaptor, due caution is needed.
Addonics made a truly awful one, couldn't get much better than 600Kb/s
and 75 IOPS through it, even with an SSD, which rendered it a rather
pointless item - my 1996 direct-attach SCSI HDDs (Quantum LPS525S) can do

There are also several models from ACARD, all are either pretty good or
*very* good. The ARS-2160 and ARS-3120 adaptors are handy because they are
compatible with both LVD SCSI and Single-Ended SCSI, which gives extra
flexibility when choosing the SCSI HBA card you'll need.

Only thing to watch out for is to get the right connector-variant: the
ARS-2130S and ARS-2160H use 80-pin SCA SCSI connectors, whereas the
ARS-3120 (no "S")
and ARS-2160 (no "H") have 68-pin SCSI connectors - which is most likely
what you would want for internal drives/cables in an Ultra-10 etc.

Downside is that these adaptors are not cheap (although compared to HDD
prices way back in 1993, they are!).


You might be able to grovel some up on ebay or Amazon a little bit cheaper.

At the risk of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, you would want a
"Sun-bootable" SCSI card to go with it - one with OpenBOOT Forth ROM chip,
rather than a PC-BIOS ROM chip. Several "PC" SCSI PCI cards will work, but
only for secondary storage, not to boot the system. If you are going to
get a Sun-branded SCSI card, make sure it is LVD-SCSI or Single-ended SCSI:
HVD SCSI is not supported by the adaptors and will damage them.

One thing to watch for when doing this in a Sun SPARC system, the Solaris
"poweroff" command doesn't explicitly flush SCSI device buffers, so will
cause filesystem corruption. For my SS10, I wrote a small C program that
issues "SCSI flush device buffer" commands, and edited the /etc/rc5 script
to invoke it
as the last thing it does before "init" cuts the power - and then remember
to use "init 5" to power-off the system rather than "poweroff". Using "init
0" then manually
flipping the power-switch is also OK, "init 0" *does* issue an explicit
"SCSI flush device buffer" command to SCSI disks.
The alternative to this all this malarkey would be to use an SSD with a

For the Ultra-10, there is also a rather complex graphics situation (two
differently-behaving versions of the on-board ATI Rage chipset, depending
on motherboard revision -
the original ones cannot do simultaneous 8-bit and 24-bit colour so can
result in colour-flashing; and some users maintain that the on-board
graphics performance is usable
but just barely).  Long and short of it is that getting either a (vertical)
Sun Creator UPA graphics card or a Raptor-GFX8P PCI graphics card (Solaris
2.6 and later have built-in
drivers for those) is a much better bet. In principle you could even put a
single-board UPA Elite-3D card in there, but that might be going a bit too

Finally, if anyone wants to take my spare 440MHz Ultra-5/10 CPU (with 2Mb
L2 cache) off my hands, drop me a line. It reliably long-term overclocks to
472MHz with just a couple of OBP commands.

Mike Spooner

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