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Sun Picks Athlon For Cobalt Servers 125

ncc74656 writes: "In this TechWeb article, AMD may have achieved one of its longtime goals of getting the Athlon into the server market. Sun's Cobalt division is set to unveil a single-processor Internet-appliance server next week that will use the Athlon. Since there's still no 760MP chipset, there won't be any MP Cobalt boxen for a while ... but not everybody needs MP, and this is still a step in the right direction."
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Sun Picks Athlon For Cobalt Servers

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  • To be fair, I think the usage of "boxen" for computers in English has nothing to do with the fact that the word is the correct plural in German (as this post so obscurely points out).

    On the other hand, the fact that someone is close-minded enough to get hung up about a playful nonstandard plural is also quite amazing.

  • I was reading a hardware article, probably over at Tom's... anyway, It mentioned that when they overheat, P3s shut down. Athlons do not... anyone see the cost potential on a blown fan here?
  • 10 watts may not make not make or break your air conditioner, but how many server rooms have a single machine? The company I work for currently has 112 dual processor servers.

    The "10 watt difference" suddenly is 537.6kwh/day, or 193536kwh/year.

    Even if you look at that in terms of just how much the electricity itself costs, we'd be paying $27,095.04 more a year if we were using (the currently non-existent) dual athlon boxen.
  • The hardware is not such a big issue for me. (Unless it's some sorta pre-packaged Cobalt-like device that nobody's really heard of). Thanks for the two suggestions. I am interested in that sort of thing... software to make a homebrew linux box seem more like a Cobalt. No so much for me (I've been admining Solaris, IRIX, and Linux for years now), but for potential clients that want a Cobalt-like box to manage themselves.
  • by Fross ( 83754 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @06:24AM (#508554)
    Now in a serious server environment, it seems to me that money is probably not as big an issue, so this kind of negated one of Anthlon's main advantage over a Intel chip right off.

    Not necessarily true... a saving of $100 per processor adds up when extended to a server farm, particularly when multiprocessor machines are (eventually!) added. given that in certain configurations the athlon outperforms the PIII Mhz per Mhz, that gains some more.

    I think what is pushing the envelope here though is RDRAM - buying a Gig of SDRAM is much cheaper than RDRAM ($280 vs $1452, at a glance on pricewatch), as high-end Intel chipsets require it.

    The best point about this happening is it may bring the Athlon in as the choice for the desktop machine as well, if the company sees it performs the same or better and is cheaper.

    Secondly, assuming you have lots of servers in an enclosed area, heat is a big deal; you want good air condition system. A room full of Athlons is HOT. This further offset the "true" cost of using Athlon servers

    I wouldn't agree. The only signs I've seen of Athlons generating lots of heat is when they're overclocked. A friend of mine runs his Thunderbird 850 at 950Mhz at 20 celsius (about 50F), with a decent cooling system.

    Any company that is buying machines for use as servers is going to spend the extra $30 per machine to get a good cooling system, regardless of processor type. Those boxes come with 3 fan ports, a heat sink the size of a brick... usually a room with lots of servers in it is bloody cold because of all the airflow!

  • The Jargon file [] entry for the word "Boxen []".

  • laggy API that only performs decently on $75,000 Sparc servers + 92.815% x86 compatible CPU = disaster!!!

    Mark my words, I will disconnect from a website/FTP server/game server if I find out that it's an AMD-driven Cobalt. Furthermore, Cobalt is Intel's color. They should've called this series "Jade". Either way, when this server series gets recalled because of the potential of spontaneously crashing due to the CPU's inherent incompatibilities, I'll be the only one who's laughing.

  • Although I'm happy for AMD for getting its Athlon another major contract, it's not exactly all new ground for AMD. Cobalt has always made inexpensive low-end servers with pretty much every thing you need built in. Those servers had a modified version of Redhat, Apache and all else you can think of on an AMD K6-2 chip (our current server pool uses AMD K6-2 300s). Its true that with the Athlons, Cobalts may get rid of that "cheap" reputation and therefore get wider acceptance but still, AMD already has broken into the server market.
  • Intel must be paying you good money. They should have to, to get you to spout bullshit like that...

    laggy API that only performs decently on $75,000 Sparc servers
    Umm, API's are only laggy if they're inherently badly designed (like X :) Otherwise, their speed depends only on implementation. So if you are remarking that Solaris's API is laggy, then you've just discounted every *NIX out there. On the other hand, if you are saying that Solaris itself is laggy, then remember that a lot of these servers will use Linux.

    92.815% x86 compatible CPU = disaster!!!
    Yes, the Athlon is totally x86 uncompatible. Absolute and utter bullshit. I have yet to hear of an incompatibility problem with the Athlon CPU. Aside from the lack os SSE, the Athlon is 100% compatible. Maybe you'd care to point at some stories that show otherwise? Even rare x86 instructions like sysenter/sysexit are supported in the same way as on a P6. What *are* you talking about?
  • That was also shit RDRAM. Not like i'm going to go scour pricewatch just to make a /. comment. :)

    if you'd like a better comparison, using figures taken from around 3/4 of the way up the list in pricewatch (ie the top 25% most expensive):

    1gig PC133 SDRAM: $800 (4x256M)
    1gig RDRAM: $3200 (4x256M)

    you pays your money, you makes your choice.

  • Secondly, assuming you have lots of servers in an enclosed area, heat is a big deal; you want good air condition system. A room full of Athlons is HOT. This further offset the "true" cost of using Athlon servers

    I wouldn't agree. The only signs I've seen of Athlons generating lots of heat is when they're overclocked. A friend of mine runs his Thunderbird 850 at 950Mhz at 20 celsius (about 50F), with a decent cooling system.

    Any company that is buying machines for use as servers is going to spend the extra $30 per machine to get a good cooling system, regardless of processor type. Those boxes come with 3 fan ports, a heat sink the size of a brick... usually a room with lots of servers in it is bloody cold because of all the airflow!

    Right, what you do to the *processor* does not matter 2 pinches of goat shit to the *server room*. In fact, it can theoretically make the situation worse ... bigger processor cooling system itself produces more heat for the real cooling system (the one that services the server room as a whole).

    As for the stupid comment about airflow, this is meaningless. What matters is the rate of heat exchange out of the server room. What the airflow is in the absence of an efficient heat exchanger is a matter that rapidly becomes moot.

  • Hmmm...Let's see. (20 celsius * 9/5) + 32 = 68 fahrenheit....

    or, the Back Of the Envelope calculation, 20*2 + 30 = 70. That's at least one you can do in your head....

    Sorry to quibble about this, but I hate it when people get simple conversions wrong.
  • What does it matter to you what hardware the server you connect to uses to send you files? Honestly and rationally? I could understand a backlash if say slashdot switched to these systems and all of a sudden they were inaccessible for weeks on end, but nothing like that has happened... Seems like you're judging a site by it's hardware configuration rather than it's content, which just seems incredibly backwards tom me. What next, will you refuse business to any company that has an MSCE anywhere on their payroll?
  • I don't believe i'm responding to a Beowulf posting, but here goes: So far as my understanding is, Beowolf is basically a set of API's that reside above the kernel to allow for programs to use resources on other machines. Correct so far? I"m just curious if there actually is a Beowolf capable/aware webserver available?
  • If the power plant that produced the 10W to half-light that lamp was burning coal, natural gas, or some other hydrocarbon then I would say, "yes, That definitely contributed to global warming."

    And why would you run a 20W lamp? Is that even enough to light a 3x3x8 closet?

  • Nah, solaris for athlon is the same as the x86 solaris for the 64 bit sledgehammer maybe?
  • 20 Celsius, or 70 F, is lower than or equal to ambient room temperature. Unless your friend is running an active cooling system, there is no way the processor can run at lower temp than the ambient, and even if it's active, I seriously doubt that this figure is correct...
  • Actually, the PC133 is even cheaper (direct from 256MB PC133 is 135USDx4=540USD/GB.

    Mark Duell
  • John Carmack's reference system is a PIII because either
    A) The PIII is faster at Quake than an Athlon
    B) The PIII is more common than an Athlon
    C) The PIII has better Visual C++ support
    D) The PIII has multiprocessor capability (Quake III is SMP)

    Take your pick. I have not heard a single comment from Carmack that he uses a PIII because of compatibility issues. And even if he does, it means jack-shit because he is probably just phobic from the whole K6 dabacle, (chips which actually *did* have compatibility problems!) If you are saying that programmers avoid AMD like the plague, I'd request that you get your head out of your ass and show me exactly where it says that!
  • please embed your self someplace far away. it seems like you have little to contribute to anything. however, it is just possible that you might win a darwin award someday.
  • considering she had you for a child, a very wise choice all in all.
  • Yes. I would also argue that I can build - and in fact, have built - a system equivilent to what Dell, Compaq, Penguin Computing, or VA Linux sells you for 1/2, or less, the cost. Cobalt machines are no different, although the markup is higher because they (potentially) offer more than a machine from one of these othercompanies.

    In fact, I recently helped a friend purchase a Cobalt Qube 3. He has no knowledge of, or really any interest in, Linux or any other kind of server operating system. But the Qube does what he wants out of the box. It's small, attractive, and has a wonderful web-based administration GUI. The fact that I could have built him the system for half the price is irrelevant - he would not have wanted that system, so it wasn't worth *any* amount of savings, because he wouldn't have used it.

    I will say that I wish the markup wasn't quite so extreme. I've long wanted to buy my workstations and servers from someplace like VA or Penguin Computing, but it's just not worth the price markup. (Plus they rarely offer the exact components I want, namely the latest AMD CPus.)
  • No offense, but while power considerations should definitely be entered into the server equation, they're far from the deciding factor. The fact that the Athlon provides superior performance for many tasks should also be entered into the equation.

    After all, what good is a server room filled with cool-running PII-350 mobile processors, when your application demands the performance of a 1GHz PIII, 850Mhz Athlon or 700Mhz Xeon?

    Maybe I'm wrong, but don't most people purchase servers by determining their application needs, then finding a hardware platform that provides those needs? At least in my experience, the hardware cost isn't even considered as a factor, as you either need something, or you don't.

    As for the MP support, Athlon hasn't released it yet, but the design kicks some Intel MP arse. Basically it uses Alpha-style 'only lock what each CPU needs locked' resource sharing instead of Intel-style 'lock fucking everything, we like contention' resource sharing.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my Intel box, but servers might not be the right application for *this* generation of Intel chips. The door swings both ways.

    "Don't trolls get tired?"
  • "And finally like the article said (you did read it right?), Ahtlon don't have multi-processors support yet so that is another strike..."

    I don't think Sun wants multiprocessor support for Cobalt. If you want MP go and buy SPARC for your server platform.

  • My post above shows my interest in Cobalt alternatives (mainly, web front-ends for clients to use), though I am also interested in finding a good source for used Cobalt Raqs. A quick search of eBay only found a few, and from varied sources. I'm able to find scads of used Sun and SGI dealers, I'm sure there's gotta be a few online websites/dealers that have a steady stock of used Raqs for sale.
  • However, some cheapskates bought the cheapest RAQs and Qubes and tried to run the world on 16Mb of RAM.

    When given enough RAM and having 32bit DMA turned on for the IDE disks, the Qube 2 (for instance) can easily saturate a 100baseT line. If anything, they could do with faster disk.

    They ran exactly as I would expect a 250MHz CPU on a PCI bus and IDE drive to run.

  • I thought SUN was based on "Stanfford University Network"?


  • And of course nobody ever checks "No Score +1 Bonus" in a really good posting because it results in more headroom for up-modding :)
  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @02:44AM (#508578) Homepage
    Cobalt servers are expensive crap. Before you mod this down as flamebait, think about the following:

    Say you've got $5000 to spend on a new server. You can get one of two 1U rackmounted servers:

    Option 1: 450Mhz processor, 512MB RAM, two 5400RPM 30GB mirrored (RAID-1) drives, lots of free software.

    Option 2: Two 1GHz processors, 1024MB RAM, two hot-swappable 10K RPM Ultra-160 SCSI 36GB mirrored (RAID-1) drives, and the identical free software.

    Option 1 is a cobalt Raq. Option 2 is a Supermicro 6010L with 1GHz Pentium III processors, Supermicro certified memory, and IBM drives.

    What it comes down to is that a $5000 Cobalt RaQ is a $1000 system with a $4000 name.

    I'd say to build your own boxes -- I can't imagine anyone here would have trouble working where things go -- but if you don't want to do that, get systems from VA Linux or BSDI; as for software, take a look at webmin, there are very few server applications which do not have webmin plugins, and with webmin you can give restricted access to people as you see fit.

    (OT: where did the bandwidth and server space come from, anyway?)
  • Very good points. Thanks for the info and help. Webmin has sure grown since the last time I looked at it (over a year ago), though it looks like there hasn't been much development in the past 3 months (already good enough?).

    As for the bandwidth, these days I do video work as a side job (editing, lining up talent for voiceovers, doing special effects, and even some 3D representations of complex events that were not originally videotaped... such as automobile crashes). Awhile back a client wanted to know if I could dump low-res previews of key scenes onto a website for review at any hour. Sounded like a good idea. My first attempt with ISDN was a horrible, slow failure. Moved to a DS1, and now have a DS3 & DS1. My ISP at the moment is a local Tier-2 provider, though it wouldn't cost much to change to a Tier-1. My bandwidth utilizaion is almost null most of the time, until a client (usually with a cable modem or some other high-speed connection) downloads a clip. Quite bursty, but I'm sure I could work something out.
  • They're enuchs boxen at that.
  • No reason it couldn't host CVS. It's just a Linux box.

    It's a fairly old version of Linux but then, if you wanted the latest kernel, fastest CPU, highest performance get in and hack it system then you don't want a Cobalt. They are designed to be easy for inexperienced people to configure and run.
  • Holy fucks, what's with people around here and Athlons? They're just CPUs, it's no big deal. Get a life.
  • I think this is a matter of the bios and chipset. For example: my k6-2 400 on a ASUS P5A shuts down at 65 C -- the board shuts down and the cpu is constantly sent the idle instruction (or powered down, I can't recall).
  • Aren't you going about things rather backwards? You want to send a small *average* data rate, but you want a high *peak* data rate. Those circumstances are exactly when you want to share a fat pipe with thousands of other systems in a colocation facility.

    Mean traffic scales linearly with the number of servers. Standard deviation scales with the square root of the number of servers. The greater sigma/mu is, the more important it is to share your pipe with other people.
  • Following your logic we can assume a x86 server will only serve x86 workstations, a Mac sever will only serve iMacs, a Sparc server will only serve Sparc workstations, etc.

    An internet appliance server DOES NOT mean it will serve content for home use internet apps.

    Internet appliance server are very simplified servers with a CPU, memory, a NIC, a SCSI contoler and an (optional) internal hard disk. Everything else is external to the unit, attached to it via SCSI bus. They are relativelly cheap (for a server) and if it fails you just have to change the CPU box, attach the external storage units to the new box and you're back online in no time. No need to remove a dozen of internal disks from the dead server to put in the new one. Other advantage of internet appliance servers is the low power comsumption and small heat production, thanks to the reduced number of internal components.

  • Yep, a Cobalt RaQ costs more than a "regular" server with the same hardware specs running a vanilla Linux distro. But then you have to pick and apply the appropriate security patches.

    Then you write a bunch of scripts to automate setting up virtual servers for e-mail, web, FTP, file services, disk quotas, databases and shell accounts.

    Next, recompile Apache to support the usual hosting stuff like PHP, database access, IMAP, FrontPage extensions, ChiliASP, etc. And install and configure some webmail software and modify it to support the virtual hosting.

    Okay, now that you've done all that, install and configure a remote management system that will let you administer the machines and accounts in bulk, and write or cobble together easy web interfaces to let customers manage mail accounts, permissions, access contro, etc.

    Ready? Now get a tech writer to put together user documentation for your customers. And keep someone on staff to watch security lists and figure out how to deploy security patches and software upgrades safely without breaking any of your customers' sites.

    Point is, if you want to use a Cobalt as a "regular" Linux box, it's overpriced and awkward, and not particularly cutting-edge. But if you're looking to provide web hosting for small-business and personal customers, it's mighty cheap and easy, since it's preconfigured for hosting, supported for hosting, comes with end-user documentation, and can be thrown into a rack and added to your hosting farm in a few minutes out of the box.
  • From this post of yours, one would conclude that you are a flaming idiot. However, a quick look at this newer post [] suggests rather that you are paid by Intel. Do you work in marketing?

  • What falls in the middle there, I think, are some of their high-end MP workstations, such as the Ultra 60 (up to 2 procs) and 80 (up to 4). They're SCSI/SCA on the disk end, so they'd make great small servers. Yank the framebuffer, run it through a serial port, slap in some PCI QFE cards (maybe just one), and you'd be good to go. And if you want an old-style indestructable MP Sun box, find an Ultra 2 or a UE2. They support up to 2 400's, and rackmount easier.

    There are machines in the middle, they just aren't marketed as such. :)

    --Ben (who spends waaay too much time at Sun)
  • True, our AMD office machines aren't that stable
    either. I mean they work and stuff, but when it
    comes down to placing a large load, then they
    collapse, but randomly.
    Intel machines though slower at some places, have
    smoother ride. Like when you run programs,
    after large loads, AMD CPU is sort of confused and
    runs real slow, and then 5 sec later it all gets
    into chunky pipe line.
    Most code out there is designed for x86 by people
    who have celerons of PIIIs Athlons are only recent
    addition to x86 familiy. We had servers do kernel
    oops on Athlon machines every 2 months or so.
    And that is production quality kernel!

    I'd say to AMD better to get your act together
    or you will not see the high end market at all.
    Problems like that are random... weird.
    All hardware is respectable:
    GeForce or TNT2 Ultra
    A7V + AMD
    IBM 75GXP type HDs
    D-Link cards - very nice tulip like interfaces.
    Go figure.
  • by 1nt3lx ( 124618 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @09:14AM (#508590) Homepage Journal
    I think that posting another Intel vs. AMD article disguised as a Sun/Cobalt/Linux-rules arguement is pretty boring.

    We already know that Slashdot's readers overwhelmingly support AMD to holy-war proportions.

    We should be able to moderate the stories actually post on the main page. The editors should be subject to karma. If you put up something stupid you get smacked.

    Of course, as a result of editor karma-whoring every other story would show Linux pit against any other operating system or AMD pit against Intel.

    There were probably more than one submission about this news but Cliff chose the one that showed significant bias.

    I don't even really understand why there is such a hype about the Athlon chips. They are less expensive and may be technically superior. But that arguement doesn't cleanly follow the patterns slashdot readers follow. Take Linux for example, it is surely less expensive than other operating systems, but it is not even close to being technically better than all others. FreeBSD, technically better, lacks bleeding edge drivers, same cost as Linux, yet with almost 1/5 the user base.

    Who the hell cares if they can get 150fps in quake or 147, I sure as hell don't. There are better things to argue about. We're about to innagurate a president who will only account for his actions in the past 20 years.

    And on top of it all, my favorite lighter is almost empty.
  • Well, Pentium 4s require RDRAM, but no one in their right mind would use a P4 in a server. P3s on the other hand, use PC133 SDRAM, same as Athlons.

    Also, I notice you didn't respond at all to the point that Althons need more power (about twice as much as an equivalent pentuim, I think). That in itself is a reason not to use them, especially if your server farm is in california

  • Then you add HDDs (even a low-end server will have it's 7200RPM UDMA/66 HDD), the power supply (which dissipates heat) and its fans, and the RAMs (which also dissipate quite a lot of heat) and you'll see that the processor doesn't "weight" as much. A single server will use 150W, won't it?

    I don't consider half a 20W lamp to be much responsible for global warming. Do you?
  • Aside from the remarks made about your math, i will state that on a performance per watt basis, the amd chips are a much better bet. The equivalent performance chip by intel has to run at a faster clock. faster clock translates to more watts. Please remember that power is dissapated in a chip by the chip doing something (switching gates). An equivalent clock Amd chip simply does more than an Intel chip.

    In any case, if we have the 10 watts times 112 servers, then = $2,700/year, the difference in price between an amd 1.2 ghz t-bird and an p3 xeon w/ 256k cache 1ghz clock this morning is roughly $600-$280 = $320. 112 times $320 = $30,000+. Deperciated over the 2 years of expected lifetime of such a server this is $15,00 per year. The xeon farm you suggest (even for single processor configurations) is thus over $12,00 per year more expensive. Add in the fact that the 1.2 Ghz t-bird runs rings around the xeon and the p4 with today's code and the price/performance issue is still solidly in AMD's court. However, your point is well taken that one has to consider the entire cost of ownership for a given level of performance. Anyway, the power dissapation issues may be a thing of the past once AMD proceeds with SI-28 technology. They have produced 1.5 paliminos that are passively cooled. Kinda will throw the power argument on its ear after isonics irons out the problems with eagle-pritcher this quarter.

    Intel may close the gap again and pull ahead at some point, but for a while AMD has the advantage. As it currently stands, Intel produces a distinctly second place product since Andy Groves retired.

  • The "10 watt difference" suddenly is 537.6kwh/day, or 193536kwh/year.

    Off by a factor of 10, which makes the annual cost $2,700, not $27,000.
  • my, my they let the script kiddie out again. o well. btw, its jab not jap.
  • Okay, so your athlon overheats and melts because you were able to get 56 seconds more uptime.
  • has what, 2TB of RAM? :)
  • Dude, do you think cooling systems magically make heat disappear? They move the heat somewhere else. If your buddy had 20 of his machines running in on room, with the proc @ 20c, how warm do you think his room would get?
  • now please be a good little microserf and stick some part of your anatomy in a baseboard socket. i refuse to get into a pissing contest with a eunuch.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You're wrong in every way possible and don't seem like a person that is worth arguing with, so I will simply ask you how many chromosomes you are missing?

    Are you slashdot-terminal's cousin or something?

  • Somewhat of a side question or solution; are your needs simple enough for the much-less-expensive Cobalt Qube?

    I'm considering getting a Qube, as it would help me deal with all the www/ftp/smb stuff I use for my work-at-home days.

    If anyone has a Qube, lemme know if it supports hosting CVS? How about setting up ipsec tunneling? (I have a second box doing vpn/nat already.)

  • And why would you run a 20W lamp? Is that even enough to light a 3x3x8 closet?

    Yes. Use more effecient bulbs (flourescent or LED) instead of extremely inneffecient incandescent.

  • According to AMD(i forget the link, its in their 760 FAQ), the 760 Chipset will only support DDR ram. Since thats their latest, and fastest chipset I'm pretty sure thats what sun would be using. Besides that it gives them an easier upgrade path to the 760-MP (same memory, etc.). DDR isn't much more expensive than normal SDRAM at all, and its been shown to give a 10-15% performance boost just by puting it in a system.

    Now weather those benchmarks play true to the server market, i dunno. But increased memory bandwidth would have to be a good thing.

    Besides that, another thing the AMD has going for it is the 266Mhz (on >850mhz chips) FSB(ok, 133 DDR). This again gives it just a little more speed.

  • Why? Because many of the people who buy Cobalt RAQ's want linux installed. And, yes, putting a UltraSPARC IIi would add a lot to the cost. SPARC's are aimed more towards the higher end server market, and Cobalt's line is not exactly highend. They did not aquire Cobalt to make smaller Sun servers, they could have done themselves...
  • And it's almost certainly a Xeon Pentium III with the extra cache. Does AMD make anything at all equivalent??

  • by Codeala ( 235477 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @01:35AM (#508606)

    First, lets get this get of the way: I use an Athlon at home and a Pentium at work.

    Many people (including myself) like Anthon because it is cheap and fast, more bangs for your bucks and all that; this is ideal for home user. However I see two things against using Athlon as a server: it uses more power and generates more heat.

    Now in a serious server environment, it seems to me that money is probably not as big an issue, so this kind of negated one of Anthlon's main advantage over a Intel chip right off.

    Secondly, assuming you have lots of servers in an enclosed area, heat is a big deal; you want good air condition system. A room full of Athlons is HOT. This further offset the "true" cost of using Athlon servers

    Also since Athlons use more energy, it stands to reason that your UPS system will not last as long as a similar number of Pentiums if there is a problem. Now for servers, up time is very important (unless you run WinXX ;-), so this seems another strike against Athlon.

    And finally like the article said (you did read it right?), Ahtlon don't have multi-processors support yet so that is another strike...

    Don't get me wrong, I love my Athlon. But server may not be the right application for *this* generation of AMD chips. But AMD did promise support for multi-processors, low-energy chips soon, so there is still hope.


  • Shut up... Some of us can't even afford boxen yet. We're still stuck with Vaxen.
  • It would have to be reliable.

    In Taiwan good QA people are fired for insubordination if they raise a peep about quality issues.

    'Nuff said.
  • I don't know why some people feel the need to spell Sun in all capitals as "SUN." It is not an acronym such as SGI. This really irks me to no end... Anyway, does anyone know why Cobalt would sell one of their machines with only 16mb of RAM? I was on their website today, and I saw that one model only came with 16mb of RAM. If this is an attempt to cut prices, isn't it a bit drastic? What can you even do with a server that comes with such a little bit of ram? This may be a bit offtopic, but does anyone know approximately how much RAM Sun's upcoming Starcat server will hold? Just wondering.
  • by Cmdr. Marille ( 189584 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @01:40AM (#508610)
    from the article:
    low-end Internet-appliance server
    I gues that's not exactly the Server market AMD wants too get their fingers in. It may be a lucrative but that's not ther server market Intel dominates. I guess there are already a lot of homegrown AMD based "Servers" in a lot of offices
    Besides that it's not even a new customer for AMD. As the article states:
    already supplies the K6-II processor for Cobalt's current one-rack Internet server

    Must be a very big server if it takes a whole rack(Just kidding, I know it's one U)
  • It's in their best interests to steer people to UE boxes if they need 'real' power.
  • Athlon doesn't have a dual-processor configuration currently. That doesn't mean that they never will. Also: I would guess that they gave SUN a good bit more information about the probable timeline of a chipset availability than most of the public would get.

    It's even possible that SUN intends to help them put one together (It's not like Sun's never done board/chipset design). I can see that as being a mutually beneficial transfer of technology

  • Linux? *BSD? Solaris x86?

    Seeing how current Cobalts run Linux and Sun's more recently slightly GNU/Linux "friendly" stance, I would imagine they would stick with Linux... but anything can happen. Linux seems to be doing the job well, but I would almost like to see them try something with *BSD, just to see how well it works. Trying other things is a *good* thing.
  • Your observation that the Athlons use, on average, more power and radiate more heat than the comparable Intel processor is, from what data I've seen, absolutely correct. However, I don't think that they use more power or generate more heat than an Alpha processor (some of those guys get hot, as anyone who's ever not quite given an Alpha-attached heatsink enough time to cool down has discovered ;-) ). Alphas are fairly common in the server (and rackmount server) market. True, you probably wouldn't want to stick one in a 1U, but still... (I don't have any hard numbers, but I imagine that the Duron line is probably well suited to a 1U in terms of die size, power use, and heat profile, given a well-designed case at least.)

    If there is anything that will hold the Duron/Athlon/Thunderbird line back from server-market acceptance (technical reason, not Intel-ism in IT depts.), it would be the comparatively small cache sizes. I.e. you'll probably want to use an UltraSparc-based solution with (2-8) megs of cache per chip (or some other "big cache" arch like Alpha) for the DB server[1], but everything else (www, mail, etc) is just fine with the "small" x86 machines, a domain in which ceteris parabis Athlon would win over Pentium by virtue of decreased cost for similar of greater functionality.

    [1] of course there are many other factors that go into making a mid-to-high-end DB server, but I/O and backplane bandwidth do play an important role; having large chip caches and >32bit architectures helps this quite a bit (the other main area is of course disk, but that's outside the topic at the moment)

    Fuck Censorship.
  • Know what would be nice? Let's start with being able to host more than 28 virtual sites on one box before the admin account is unable to upload to new sites? Maybe Sun could fund development of ACL's for Linux, maybe give a good kick in the ass for finishing what's already been developed, because the group-based perms completely fall apart after 28 sites, because Linux doesn't allow for membership in more than 32 groups (admin belongs to 4 groups for system purposes). BSD's even worse, only 16 there. The point being, groups were never meant to be used that way. It's really a pain in the ass to be adding admin2, admin3, admin4 users and manually editing passwd to add them in for every new site, then telling developers which user they have to use per site to upload content (and I'd much rather they used user accounts, but you can't add new admins either)

    Making the admin interface somewhat less than DEATHLY slow would also be a big help. I can whip out three zones in webmin before I can pull up a zone in cobalt admin.

    How about not using a drop-down box for selecting which zone to edit in the DNS configuration? Netscape on Unix -- you know, that OS that Cobalts use, and I hear Sun develops -- doesn't exactly deal gracefully with that.

    Sorting domains in the virtual site list by TLD first was perhaps the most precise and logical thing, since you want to keep subdomains together ... but probably not what *anybody* really wanted. I would rather see right before, thanks, not waaaaay after all the .com domains.

    It would be great if the interface weren't so slow.

    Speaking of webmin, I can middle-click on anything in the interface and get a popup. Cobalt's excessive use of frames and javascript make that quite impossible, screw you very much.

    Did I mention the interface is slow?

  • You could try the cobalt users mailing list (it's somewhere on - be warned, there's an *awful* lot of crap that gets posted there, so sign up for the digest ;)

    Another consideration if you're planning on the used RaQ route is that cobalt charge for their OS restore CD (installed via NFS IIRC), and it is the only way to do a proper restore - the RaQ's have no bios, so you have no way of getting any alternative to work. TBH, you would be better looking some of the alternatives - it'll work out cheaper, and with better hardware in the long run...
  • I've already decided that I'm upgrading shortly before my return to school next fall.
    If I have the coin to get a dual system of any x86 chip, I will. If I don't, I'm getting a Thunderbird. The DDR ram will give me some nice throughput (hmm, server potential there?) and the integer performance? I can definately be happy with that...
    Here's the point: Why pay more for a SMP box if you don't need it? uses a single P3 for all the users it serves!
    The Athlon will provide an excellent server for many.
  • Also if you mod something up as "underrated" then it appears with no comment (or retains the previous comment).
  • if admins cared about power usage and heat dissipation, powerpc processors would rule

    they dont

    no one cares
  • The MIPS processors have no L2 cache, so performance definitely suffered as a result. That, and lack of 3rd party application compatibility are the main reasons Cobalt dropped the MIPS CPU for the AMD K6.

    MIPS interfaces were slow too because they were all static HTML files which had to be regenerated by CGIs everytime you changed some information. x86 boxes use PostgreSQL to maintain/mirror a lot of config info to speed dynamic page generation.

    The new Sausalito [] API (available on Qube3, and all future RaQ/Qube products) is another huge step forward. Persistent connections, etc, make the average time for a new screen to appear in the 1-second-or-less range. Not to mention the API can be hooked into from PHP, Perl, or C++ for end-user customization possibilities...

  • This helps prevent you loosing karma from people modding down things that should have been at +1 to begin with

    Well I'd use that box myself if all of my contents weren't so damn insightful and deserving of positive moderation...
  • Cobalts are much smaller then option 2. They have roughly 1/3rd the depth. Means that you can put them in BOTH SIDES of the rack! That's important when you're leasing colo space.
  • I'm not entirely positive if you can get many yet. They're a fairly new product; I'd be concerned if there was such a quick turn-around time. It's sorta like trying to buy a used car when the model line has just come out -- it can be done, but it requires quite a bit of looking.
  • The other advantage of an IA is that they are very easy to administer via the net lots of pretty boxes. This means that people who would not normally use a linux/unix for fear of ease of use but like the reliability/uptimes can use them without having to worry about the command line etc.. This is a good way to bring unix into a windows only enviroment and show the power that these systems have
  • by HiyaPower ( 131263 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @04:31AM (#508625)
    Cobalt has used AMD processors in its server line previously, so this is not the sort of "win" that Dell bringing out a AMD server would represent. The shootout was between the Xeon P3 and the T-bird, so with the fact that there is no love lost between Intel and Sun, not surprising that AMD was chosen. What will be very interesting is what will happen when the 761 chipset comes commercial at the end of Q1. At that point some more serious servers will come into being. While not an 8-way, a 2-way t-bird will do some very serious commercial serving. In addition, the data transfer between the two processors is roughly twice as fast as the Intel chipsets which will allow AMD to further bury Intel in equivalent processor count.

    I will be extermely glad when AMD enters this market in a serious way. There has been a less than virtuous circle occuring with Dell/Intel commercial products. Since the company buys Intel servers, it buys Intel desktops (after all, we can only find the talent with the mind of a slime mold to maintain them you know and these people can only maintain one kind of one thing...). Both the desktops and the servers are horridly underpowered and overpriced. Further, while Dell machines are made to be assembled easily, upgrades are an oxymoron. It will be nice when the corporate market understands that it has a real choice.
    I own and reccomend AMD stock

  • Yes, T-birds use a few watts more power than a P3 on an equivalently clocked chip. However, please don't tell me that 10 watts will make or break your UPS or your air conditioner. Somehow, I have a feeling that that excuse was sold by an Intel salesman. If things were that critical, you would be paying up for flat panel displays in your server room and having fewer lights overhead.
  • Remember when Intel was talking trash about Sun. I bet they wish they could take atleast some of it back. With the increase in popularity of Network Appliances (especially Cobalt), Intel just lost a wonderful outlet for their processors. I see Solaris for Athlon coming in the near future. If Intel doesn't want to play ball, AMD will.... I see AMD slowly destroying Intel's market share in servers, because of Intel's relationship with Microsoft. If I was AMD, I would get in good with SUN, IBM, and all Linux dists. Hopefully *NIX will reign supreme.

  • Well, Pentium 4s require RDRAM, but no one in their right mind would use a P4 in a server. P3s on the other hand, use PC133 SDRAM, same as Athlons.

    IIRC, it's Intel i840 chipsets that need RDRAM, and that's a Coppermine chipset, has been since sometime in 99. Yes there are SDRAM chipsets for the PIII too, but a server would use the highest-end it could go, supposedly. I can't recall what the P4 chipset is, but yes that uses RDRAM too.

    Also, I notice you didn't respond at all to the point that Althons need more power (about twice as much as an equivalent pentuim, I think). That in itself is a reason not to use them, especially if your server farm is in california

    Anyone who houses a server farm in california, between the power shortages/brownouts and the ridiculous Silicon Valley rates, is not playing with a full deck, to put it mildly. I don't think the 10W extra consumption of the Athlons is anything to break thew bank though ;)

  • This product, and Sun's whole acqusition of Cobalt is their attempt to capture the bottom-end server market. It represents their effort to compete with VA Linux and Penguin Computing.

    They won't run Linux on the boxes; they'll adapt Solarix x86 (fine-tuned so that it runs flawlessly, Solaris x86 in general suffers from being a product from a company that codes to their own hardware adapted to run on generic hardware). By doing so they will be able to market seamless Solaris solutions from top to bottom-end.

    It doesn't bode well for Linux in the enterprise at all that Sun is doing this. In particular the 'Enhanced Screwdriver Shops' like VA are gonna be hurt.

  • AMD's primary concern is propping up their stock price, which like Intel's has been hammered. I don't think AMD is particularly concerned about the purpose to which their processors are put, and in any case you haven't made any useful argument why the rackmount market is not tangible, viable, and/or poised for growth (hint - its all of the above).
  • I agree with those disadvantages, but I see them more as a strike against Athlon in workstations, and having negligable effect on servers.

    Workstations outnumber servers by dozens (perhaps hundreds) to one, so the real place where you want to conserve power is in the 100 computers spread all over the building, not the two boxes in the server room.

    And (I guess this depends on what you're serving) in my experience, servers are generally I/O bound, so lack of SMP isn't a biggie. OTOH, at the desks, is where people want major CPU power for a faster frame rate, compiles, raytraces, etc. (Or if they're running Windows, faster rebooting and paperclip animation. ;-)

    So Athlon sounds pretty good for servers, to me. It's the high-end workstations and hacking machines and gaming machines where it fails.


  • Looking at their datasheets, it doesn't make sense to put an athlon in a sever box when a p3 would use such less power and so much more reliable.

    Athlon (1.2) P3 (1.0)
    Pmx 66 26 W
    Ta 42 45 C
    Tj 95 70 C
    Vcc 1.75 1.7 V
    c/s no-dp yet i840

    First, 66 vs 26 Watts is a big difference, especially given city power grid issues on the west coast.

    Second, Ta is the temperature the OEM must keep at 3mm above the die. 42 is _very_ hard to keep for a 66 W part and requires a real sol'n. Most sol'ns I've seen from OEMs are less then adequate, but they don't have to be too fancy because typical desktop PCs can be a low cost sol'n. A server part would need to spend way more $$$ for an AMD part than Intel.

    3rd & 4th. Tj is the max temp the die can run at at that frequency. This number is usually increase to hit higher frequency targets. As Tj increase, electromigration becomes a huge issue. EMigration is the deteriation of the metal contacts on the die, which directly translates into MTBF. If intel can run 1GHz at a whopping 25C LESS than AMD, that says something about intel's reliability and reduced cost to cool.

    (Side note: compare these temp/pwr numbers then compare the cooling sol'n seen in OEM boxes: they're usually the same for AMD/intel. Now ask yourself is Intel overconservative, or is AMD hoping their boxes last long enough for the next upgrade cycle?)

    SO why did Sun go with Athlon? Don't know. Must be a political move to piss off Intel, esp. considering they plan to support IA64. Also odd b/c historically, Sun has always used Sparc processors and eschewed x86. Why the sudden change of heart? We'll see what kind of volume they do on this box. It may be just political move.

  • The only news is that Sun has been threatening to move the RAQ's to the SPARC processor. Now they announce a new AMD RAQ.

    The migration still may happen. The new RAQ most probably was already designed and was in pre-production prior to Sun buying Cobalt.


  • What bothers me in all these discussions is the lack of load balancing talk. I work in a data center for a Verio large Internet hosting company. We use Intel and Sun based servers, with a couple rows of Cobalt MIPS bases systems as well. I've been a server SA for the goverment and large commercial companies. I hate to say it, but SMP is only really needed, least for Internet servers, on DB servers and huge mail servers (millions of messages an hour). Otherwise, for serving up webpages, ftp servers, or doing DNS, a single processor system will work fine. What I've seen needed more in serving webpages and doing FTP is good load balancing. I think AMD should be looking at this market with eyes wide open. Software and hardware based load balancing on cheapish servers right off the bat makes more sense then trying to shoe horn it onto servers that can barely keep up with the flow.

    Just one nuts thoughts...
  • Well, there is a large market segment (ah, help, I'm thinking like a marketing major! :-) ) in terms of performance demand between one x86 processor and a high-end Ultra Enterprose machine (rackmount uniprocessor server = ~$3000, maxed-out E10K = ~$2,000,000 (of course you do get an awesome amount of performance with the later, heh)). In other words, if a customer comes to you and says: "Well, I need something more beefy than your $$$ uniprocessor machine, but not as beefy as your $$$$$$ U.E. line..." you want to be able to sell to than need.

    This price/performance continuum is the same thing you see done in many markets (e.g. Celeron/Px(x={2/!!!}/Xeon by Intel). It just makes good business sense.

    Fuck Censorship.
  • You betcha. Running a rather quick port of Linux to very low end MIPS processor is not a Good Thing. I always wondered why they didn't just use a K6 to start with. The price to performance seems to be ok to me, they have to cover some development and support costs. Just look at the prices of those "network attached storage" hard drive and a NIC gizmos. You pay for the convienience.
  • If I had to put on a pointy-haired-boss mask and think like a Sun manager in charge of this, I'd speculate that the machines will come standard with a choice between a Linux (most likely RH or Debian; to look at other companies doing similar things like SGI) and Solaris x86. Unless I'm missing something these are pretty standard x86 machines, so other OS's would be easy to install (*BSD, NT4/Win2k (ugh)).

    But who knows? Maybe they'll decide to throw us all a curveball and stick something like Darwin or QNX on there by default. :-)

    Fuck Censorship.
  • Because I have the bandwidth and a server room already, I have tossed around the idea of doing some web hosting and colocating for the folks in my area. I've certainly noticed how hot the Cobalt products are... especially for folks that want Web/email/etc hosting on a fast connection, but want more control then what's available from most mega hosting providers... so for them, leasing a RaQ at a colo facility makes sense. But....the cost of a RaQ is a bit steep..........

    Are there any great alternatives to the Cobalt line? Perhaps another similar piece of all-in-one hardware. Maybe one that is even better? Sure, setting up a Linux or BSD box could work, but there would be a steep learning curve for someone that wants a Cobalt. Maybe there's a Cobalt-like GPL (or even commercial) package for Linux? Any suggestions?
  • Cost is definitely a factor for Cobalt servers. These things sell for $1000-$4000. A hundred dollars (or even $50) difference for a processor is a big deal.

    SMP is less of an issue because I don't think Cobalt offers a multi-processor configuration. If you're buying a multi-processour machine, you're less likely to want to use Cobalt's software, and Sun probably wants you to buy a Solaris server anyway.

  • by HiyaPower ( 131263 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @04:43AM (#508656)
    Read about it here [] Ahead of schedule is not exactly true, but its coming soon.
  • When compairing Athlon to Pentium, 10 watts doesn't mean anything at all... but I got to thinking, heck, 10 watts is more than enough to power the new PowerPC 7410 "enhanced G4" (but not quite enough for the new 7415 "V'Gr" "G4+", at 733 MHz it takes 14 - 18 watts. (A whole hellofa lot for a PowerPC... and that's just for the chip and it's on-die L2 cache, not including the external L3 cache).

    10 watts is also way more than enough for embedded MIPS/ARM/Transmeta CPUs, too. Food for thought.
  • Alphas are fairly common in the server (and rackmount server) market. True, you probably wouldn't want to stick one in a 1U, but still...

    Um, I hope you didn't mean "you wouldn't want to put an alpha in a 1U," because its already been done:

    AlphaServer DS10L []

  • Yes there are SDRAM chipsets for the PIII too, but a server would use the highest-end it could go, supposedly.

    Exactly right. The highest-end PIII chipset is the ServerWorks ServerSet III, which uses SDRAM.

    I imagine that in the future there will be a version that supports the P4 bus and DDR SDRAM.
  • pardon, but your mother wants you to log off aol so someone else can use the modem.
  • Basically, if you have more than one thing as the main application, you are going to see nice benefits from a multi-proc system. For example, if your box just runs ftp and that's about all it does, it should be fine. Granted many of other processes and threads are running about, but there is one main program that is THE important program on the system. Now what if you take a box that is running ftp, mail, http (static+cgi), and a database. Now that extra proc makes a big difference. There is an argument over which is more cost effective, a super box for everything or many little boxes, one for each task.
    It really depends on your application of choice. Some applications are I/O bound. Here another proc wouldn't help. But many applications are processor bound, especially at certain points. When your I/O is really fast, you start to really see the importance of MP. For example, there is a very big difference between your best SP I/O speed vs. your best MP I/O speed when you are using a RAID array with lots of cache connected through a 64-bit 66 Mhz PCI FibreChannel controller. If AMD wants to win the big server environments where the profit margins are higher, they need to support at least dual processor systems. Heck, Unisys has a 32x Intel box that they have licensed to Dell, Compaq, and HP.
  • Currently, Cobalt boxes run a customized Red Hat kernel. This article [] mentioned that SUN was thinking about switching Cobalt to SUN OS, because they could not support two OS's. Though many people seemed to flame them saying that most computer distributors, such as: Compaq, HP, IBM, DELL, etc; use two or more OS's.

    you are not what you own
  • by oozer ( 132881 ) on Sunday January 14, 2001 @02:29AM (#508672)
    OK, this might be news because of the selection of Athlon itself, but Cobalt have been using AMD devices in their RaQ range for years now. In fact all but the first itteration (which were MIPS based) have run on K6 CPUs. There are hundreds of thousands of web sites happily running on AMD at this very moment! :)
  • Two things are very amusing to me in articles like this, the first is that people equate resale price with wholesale price for some reason (tip: buying in bulk reduces unit cost and buying strait from the manufacturer rather than a wholeseller reduces the price even more) and use places like Pricewatch to figure out chip prices. OEMs spend alot less on hardware than us prols do (yet their margins remain slim due to the fact they have to pay people to assemble their boxes whereas we often do it for ourselves for free). The other amusing aspect of these articles is coming to the assumption that when a new technology is released it instantly appears in all current piece of hardware already produced. If AMD doesn't have a fast 64-bit I/O right now that X company can use right now, they will not get the contract that requires a fast 64-bit I/O (mentioned in the article). Saying Sun used AMD chips they would have to wait for the next generation of boxes to put in any new features. This is bad for them because people wanting those features won't buy the box without the features in question. Anyways, whatever Sun decides on I hope they will use the Cobalt aquisition to the advantage of some of their current products. I think foremost might be a software migration of the Cobalts boxes. They could (maybe even ought to) stick a Lite version of Solaris 8 on these with iPlanet as a webserver and PC Netlink in place of Samba ect.. Netlink is an often overlooked Solaris app that will run NT directory, file and print, and authentication services. Using iPlanet gives them a pretty good leverage with JSP and Servlets. As for hardware these are good products to show off their Crypto Accelerator add-in cards. Having hardware assisted encryption would go a really long way towards getting the most umph out of server appliances.
  • Are there any great alternatives to the Cobalt line? Perhaps another similar piece of all-in-one hardware. Maybe one that is even better? Sure, setting up a Linux or BSD box could work, but there would be a steep learning curve for someone that wants a Cobalt. Maybe there's a Cobalt-like GPL (or even commercial) package for Linux? Any suggestions?

    It depends what you're after - I've been adminning RaQ's for a while, simply because they're been available from hosting providers at relatively good prices. For what they're meant to do, they're great machines - powerful enough, dead simple for even a fairly clueless user, but reasonably flexible so as not to hold back the clued too much. On the other hand, there becomes a point that the RaQs are too frustrating, and you feel the need to move on. I'm currently setting up a cluster of Intel ISP1100 servers - PIII 800, 1GB ram, 2x36GB hdd, all in 1U of rackspace. They're extremely fast, and you can stick pretty much any OS you like on there. Along with something like webmin, or an inhouse frontend, they'd make a pretty good solution. They're also not that expensive for what they are...

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault