Sparc desktop vs x86 desktop
mcguire at neurotica.com
Thu Oct 16 11:10:51 CDT 2008
On Oct 16, 2008, at 7:21 AM, Dan Williams wrote:
> I have just bought a dual 900mhz Sparc machine with 2gb memory. for
> £130. I haven't got it yet. But I am quite sure it will be fast enough
> to use as a desktop machine. Also should be fairly quick at compiling
> bits and pieces.
> I haven't had a decent Sun machine for a few years so am looking
> forward to this one.
> I did have an Ultra 2 with dual 400 procs and it was my main machine
> for a good few years.
Ohhhh my. :) You are going to LOVE your new machine, then. I've
always loved the Ultra2; it's one of Sun's finest workstations. The
UltraSPARC-II processor is a good design...but the UltraSPARC-III
kicks the snot out of it. It's a whole different world.
For about a year until a recent upgrade, I ran the following on a
dual 900MHz UltraSPARC-III+ machine with 4GB of RAM and native FC
disks, a Sun Fire 280r:
- Eleven virtual machines (using Solaris "Zones" virtualization
- An email server for about 100 people, comprising:
= Incoming SMTP, 50K-70K messages per day, ~91% spam
= Spam filtering (heavy REGEXP processing)
= Virus scanning, for those few still running Windows
= POP3, IMAP, and IMAPS spool access
- Two web servers handling about thirty virtual hosts, most PHP-based
- Network monitoring system
- Real-time NEXRAD weather imagery processing system
- A biggish (20 queries/sec) database server
- Three Sun Ray thin client terminals (often running Firefox,
- All of my software development (editing, compiling, testing)
...All on a SINGLE 4U rackmount machine with two 900MHz UltraSPARC-
III+ processors (8MB L2 cache each) and 4GB of RAM. It was a bit
swappy with only 4GB (450 processes in the process table, "ps" output
scrolls and scrolls), but very responsive. I recently upgraded it to
a dual 1.2GHz UltraSPARC-III+ machine with 8GB of RAM.
Show THAT to an x86 fanboy and watch the pimply jaw drop. ;)
> I was looking at getting something similar, there was loads of old Sun
> machines on ebay a few years ago. Now there are only new expensive
> Although I was disappointed they stopped making desktops this might
> mean the 2nd hand prices of the latest ones will drop as people go
> over to Intel. Although they may go up if they are rare.
Sun discontinued the SPARC-based desktop machines for three main
reasons. First, it's very hard to make them cost-effective; they'd
have to trim their margins down to the near-nothing that the PC world
is accustomed to...which means they'd have to start making cheap
garbage. They tried that with the unbelievably crappy non-Sun-like
Ultra5 and Ultra10 machines; everyone with more than a smidgen of
real computer experience poo-pooed them loudly, and Sun listened.
(but apparently the Blade 100 [not 1000] was already in the pipeline,
too late to axe)
Second, the later UltraSPARC processors are *big*...it's not easy
to make a physically small machine with those. A proc/mem module for
a V480 is the size of a phone book and is definitely a two-hander.
These are not "desktop" processors.
Third, Sun is having great success with the Sun Ray product line.
These very effectively replace standalone desktops, and are being
deployed by the thousands. I use them myself here; they are
fantastic. There's not much point to try to make a low-cost
standalone desktop machine when they're making money (and happy
customers) with the Sun Ray line.
Port Charlotte, FL
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