Hardware pickup: New Sparc servers!

Now I’m not the one to normally brag about getting new hardware that I’ve acquired (I am collecting on a regular basis), but I have recently been given some hardware that just makes me giddy with excitement! A friend of a friend of mine was looking to get rid of some computer hardware and I was fortunate enough to get to choose some of it to save from the scrap heap. I got 3 Sun Microsystems Sun Fire servers that are in good shape. One is a Sun Fire R280 which is basically complete with the exception of a RAM module that I will have to seek out. It has both its CPU slots populated and a couple of high performance hard drives, so the system is basically complete with that minor exception. The other two systems are both the same: Sun fire V440 machines. These have both been upgraded to have all 4 processors but are missing hard disks at the moment.

Now what will I do with these machine you might ask? Well I’m still deciding but it will certainly be fun setting them up and using them. I will have to dream up some kind of processor intensive use for them. I’m still thinking about which operating system to install on them. Fortunately being one of the newer sparc architectures, most Linux and BSD operating systems will have pretty good support for them. At the moment I’m thinking of putting FreeBSD on one, and Debian on one of the others. I may use the BSD one to build all the packages for the sparc platform just for the heck of it! I’m planning on scrapping one of the V440s for spare parts for the other one. It appears to have a problem I haven’t been able to diagnose yet, but it has many spare parts that may be useful if I ever need to replace any in the working one. There may not be much wrong with it so I will try to get the management console working over serial first to find out what is wrong with it. The serial adapters I have don’t seem to communicate with the V440 machines, but work with the R280. I suspect that the newer ones require different serial adapters that I will have to seek out.

I was hoping to find some parts for my SparcStation 20, I found some hard disks that may fit but didn’t find what I wanted most. I am after a Mbus module that has one or two super sparc processors on it, but was unable to find one. That being said I was very happy to find what I did! I never imagined I would ever get to have machines such as these ones, and I am very very grateful to the person who donated them to me! They certainly will get looked after!


2 Responses to “Hardware pickup: New Sparc servers!”

  1. August 29, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Re: “I am after a Mbus module that has one or two super sparc processors”

    The faster dual-CPU SuperSPARC modules (50MHz) are pretty darned rare (and cost $8000 back in the day) and are only officially supported in the SPARCserver-600 series, and won’t work in the SS20 unless downclock the main bus speed from 50 MHz to 40 MHz via the jumpers on the motherboard.

    The slower dual-CPU SuperSPARC modules (40MHz) also require the same downclock on the SS20 – they were originally intended for the SS10.

    If you have Boot PROM version 2.25R fitted (or see http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Ross-Sun-Sparc-SS-10-20-HS-20-30-Boot-PROM-OBP-2-25R-/160689276956?pt=COMP_EN_Servers&hash=item2569d3c81c), you can use even the fastest HyperSPARC modules… alright, I admit that the dual-200MHz ones still cost several arms and legs even on eBay, but dual 100MHz modules can be had very cheap if you are patient, and dual 125MHz modules are out there too.

    • August 29, 2012 at 11:18 am

      The module I have in the machine is a dual 50Mhz Supersparc with 1Mb Cache so I was ideally looking to add to that (the mainboard may already be clocked to 40Mhz?). I was able to get a Ross hypersparc that was about 70-90 Mhz working (I forget what the part no. was), but it was only a single processor and it did something funny to the geometry of one of my disks. I suspect a fresh format/install would fix it but I’m not sure why that would happen!

      I believe the ROM version is something like 2.19 or something like that, so it is possible to get many modules working but unfortunately without an ROM upgrade not the highest speed ones. I may look into getting one that you’ve linked to. In any case I wanted to keep this machine running the supersparc mostly because I wanted the machine to be authentic to the time it was made. So I would be looking for supersparc modules around the 50Mhz and at most 70Mhz. This is also partly cause I’ve been warned about the heat generated by the faster chips, and it gets quite hot around these parts! I have spotted a 50Mhz single processor module I may try and get my hands on.

      If I were to happen upon a second machine however I would be keen to set it up with Ross chips in it so as to have something a bit speedier to play with. Although NetBSD works fairly well on the old slow processors!

      On a side note I have set up FreeBSD version 8.1 on the sunfire R280. It was a pretty smooth install, and have been able to build most things from ports with some annoying exceptions. I found when I was testing some other OS’s on it that debian Sparc64 would freeze and FreeBSD 9.x would kernel panic, I didn’t try anything else.

      The two V440 machine require some of those sun configuration cards it seems, I’m in the process of getting a few and will have to keep an eye out for some hard disks for them. I hope to be able to set up Debian on one of them.

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