Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Sun Microsystems

Want a Sparc Workstation for $995? 320

frankie writes "Several news agencies are reporting that Sun is breaking the $1000 mark with its Blade 100 workstation. It's got USB, FireWire, and PCI -- aimed at competing with the x86 desktop market. One thing it doesn't have, though, is any mention at all on Sun's own web site..."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Want a Sparc Workstation for $995?

Comments Filter:
  • Thats the _1000_, not the 100.

    Different machines. The 1000 has been out "forever". Seems _you_ needed to do some proofreading :)

  • If you go through the Sun Store and select the
    light model and then add 128M in the options
    section it only costs $225 more.

  • A train station is where activity related to using a train takes place.

    *NOBODY* expects the dumbass police.
  • Yes, it's got sound; if you look at the specs, it's got four audio ports, line in, line out, microphone in, and speaker out.

    Should work well, since the audio on the ultra 5 always did.
  • The Sun PCi card (not to be confused with PCI bus cards) is a hardware solution to run X86 oerating systems under Solaris. It's actually a Computer-on-a-PCI card. Hence the price and the choices for additional memory - you're buying two computers that live in one chassis.
  • Yeah, try $240 for a power supply for my SGI O2, $380 for a CD-ROM, and last time I bought RAM, damn near $2800 for 512 MB of RAM. And I was thinking at one time of adding a second hard drive, but for the cost of the hard drive I wanted and sled hardware alone, I got a couple of 72 GB drives for one of my Powermac 9600s which I simply networked and used for storage space.

    And as for "maintenance" contracts, for what they cost, I can simply go out and buy a new PC or Mac that will do everything that the SGI will, and faster. There is no point in maintaining this thing with the costs associated with it. Even the software for proprietary UNIX machines is hideously expensive. You can count on an application that is available on proprietary UNIX as well as Windows or MacOS costing two to four times as much on that proprietary UNIX.

    Unless SGI does something radical with their pricing structure, they will be out of the workstation business entirely as my O2 and Octane will eventually be relagated to servers or simply sit on a shelf without a replacement as my hopes are actually starting to go with OSX. It should be relatively simple to port lots of linux/Unix apps to, have enough of an installed base to make many of these specialized applications much cheaper than before, (not to mention cheaper hardware) its got (going to have) a consistent interface with a drop dead beautiful GUI. (the quartz engine with .pdf integration in astounding in its text handling and transparencies) and if Apple releases updates of the Nextstep development environment, there will not be another development package that can touch it in terms of speed and power of software development.
  • Our numerically intensive folks suggest third party memory, anyway. It's *still* outrageously expensive for the stuff theseuse--The best I can find is about $1000 for 512mb, and almost $500 for 256mb.

    And I need a whole gig: the memory will cost twice as much as the workstation . . .

    Then a huge monitor, a scsi controller, and a 15k drive,, and I only have a couple of hundred left for the tape drive :(

  • I wouldn't say this is an especially good deal. You can pick up much better x86 boxes for the same price. However, one thing that is missing from x86 boxes is 64-bit processors. These are fairly competitive with Alpha systems...
  • by Carmen Electron ( 309953 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:48AM (#398409)
    EEC ram is designed for the European Economic Commmunity. It complies with the stronger safety, quality, and legal requirements required in the new European Union. It will generally cost 3X as much as US ram, largely because of extra taxes.

    If it breaks down, however, the universal tech support available in most liberal European countries will repair it free of charge.
  • I looked at sun's release, and they brag about 3 pci slots--I assume that it would indicate if they were 64 bit slits.

    Still, this has potential: we have money allocated for an ultra 10 at the moment; presumably we can get more machine this way.

    Still need to find what IBM will do on an RS/6000, and assembling a dual athlon looks tempting, too . . .

    Now if only the price of 1G of memory would come down to a few hundred instead of 1k

    hawk, who remembers not knowing what he'd do with a whole 16k when he paid $40 for it . . .
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:51AM (#398416) Homepage Journal
    Hey, I know where you can get a Pyramid Mainframe for free. But you have to come and get it! Bring your semi....


  • Keep in mind that this puppy has a 64-bit RISC processor which was designed without the 20+ years of suffocating backward compatiblity the x86s drag around. Your AMD has a 32-bit CISC processor. The superior architecture should blow away the x86 machines in raw computational power, even if the clock speed is substantially lower. Of course, only way to find out would be to benchmark them.

    That said, if you're doing anything that isn't just compute-intensive, this baby looks a bit weak. 30 GB max of HD? 3 PCI slots? This is a work machine, period. You'd still want an x86 box to play MP3s (no mention of sound), play games with an AGP card, plug in all the devices this thing won't recognize, etc.
  • by Eoli ( 320216 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:01AM (#398421)
    What about this []? OK, it's the Sun store, but it's there.
  • up on Sun's site now. You can see it here -> cid=60357 []
  • try this link on sun's website [] they may not be trumpeting it's arrival, but they aren't hiding it.


  • Check it out here... []

    "t's computing without compromise. The new Sun Blade[tm] 100 workstation shatters the $1,000 entry price barrier for desktop workstations without sacrificing performance, versatility, or expandability."

  • You might have a point, though I'm always skeptical of benchmarks. Especially when the benchmarks are for servers, and we're talking about a workstation.


  • I ordered my Blade 100 this morning, before the Left Coast woke up (see, there *is* an advantage to living in Michigan!). Anyhow, they say it has four industry standard 168-pin DIMM slots, using PC133 ECC SDRAM memory... I assume unregistered memory? So I can remove the stock 128meg DIMM and drop in four of these things []?

    Also, can I use standard Adaptec PCI SCSI cards? Does anyone have a link to info on how to set those up? Or at the very least, can the Blades handle large (ie, 60gig) IDE drives? Tho I think putting 10K RPM Ultrastars in would be the most fun...

    Any way to dual boot Solaris and SPARC Linux?

    Are there any sites dedicated to upgrading Sun workstations?

  • just about any PCI 3D card is a bit of an over statement. As I think you hinted at, a video card would need to dump its legacy BIOS firmware, and pick up some Forth firmware (usually called open firmware, which is what sun and powermacs have in common these days).

    ATI makes a very few number of mac cards for PCI. 3Dfx voodoo 4 and 5 pci for mac are available at a deal of a price really, and voodoo3 cards (pci) can be flashed to OF with a tool you could download under experimental. The #9 Imagine 128 was supposed to be able to be flashed to OF, but even though I got the software and the card, the resulting firmware just didn't work, however it went back to BIOS firmware just fine, so no harm done. Formac makes some "pro" cards that sort of are based around some #9 tech. They're not in a normal price-range though.

    You probably don't want a 64 bit PCI card though.


  • it sometimes takes some time to get it working right.

    Which is also true for every flavor of Linux I've seen!

    The reason I prefer Linux to Solaris on a desktop machine is simple.
    apt-get update
    apt-get dist-upgrade

    Well, apt is already available under Solaris. Since Solaris itself is now open-source, there's nothing to stop anybody from providing apt packages for it, assuming that hasn't already been done.


  • Just noticed that the Blade only has 32-bit PCI slots and uses EIDE drives. It probably WOULD have a hard time keeping up with a faster Athlon or Pentium chip.
  • by jschrod ( 172610 ) <<jschrod> <at> <>> on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @08:40AM (#398440) Homepage

    Hardware prices are seldomly relevant, at least not in the range you're talking about. Peanuts, as they say here in Germany...

    Setup costs (person hours of consultants, and also of internal staff) makes up a much larger amount. As an example, the last Sun HA cluster I did set up costed roughly $750K. Implementation costs were above $1M. Implementation costs for a Linux cluster would have been even larger. (Just ignoring for the moment that Linux clusters are not yet ready for mission-critical systems.)

    Maintenance (better: support) contracts is always a sad topic. It severly depends on the vendor staff you work with. Actually, since this story is on Sun - I had very good experience with our Gold-Plus and Platin support contracts - but their price tag is a bit higher than the one quoted by you... :-)

    Sorry to say this, but you don't seem to have experience in financing system installations in an industrial setting.

  • Point taken: however the linked article seems to see the SunPCi card as a major selling point for this. Although PCI bus is also great, it is fairly common on PCs, and hence not really something to get excited about. My confusion stemmed from Slashdot getting excited over PCI (bus I assume), and the article's SunPCi -- which, with a built-in Athlon-based processor and all the amenities seems to be more exciting than simple PCI-bus.

  • We use a few Ultra5s here as servers. They suck. Nice UltraSparc II processor, but only running at 360mhz, these things are big and slow, and worst of all, really expensive! They get the job done, but there are other better and cheaper (and smaller) alternatives from companies like VA Linux.

    The U5 makes a nice workstation, but thats about it. Glad to see these things coming out, cheaply, and with UltraSparcIII processors!
  • >We had a single NIS+/NFS server with no redundancy

    At the prices of this extra support, plus the extra costs involved in buying the machine, couldn't you have, instead, paid for 4 redundant intel/linux systems + labour?

    Just wondering...

    With that much redundancy I'd say you'd have more than enough time to fix those problems.
  • What would be cool is if you could run linux on the SunPCi. A whole pile of cheap ($195) sandboxes.

  • Sure you can run Sparc Linux. But why? All the GNU software runs under Solaris. In fact, a lot of it comes with Solaris -- Sun subsidized a lot of Gnu projects, such as XEmacs, just so they could bundle them on their platform.

    So all you'd be doing is replacing the Solaris kernel with the Linux kernel. You're obviously not a kernel hacker or you'd know about Sparc Linux. So why do you need an open-source kernel? Religious considerations aside.


  • That's because Intel CPUs have fairly poor floating point performance. Alphas are some of the best. Floating point performance is not all that relevant for most people. For most applications, Intel hardware is much faster for the same money. It may be poor quality, and have a poor architecture, and all around just suck, but it is usually the best deal for your money.
  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @10:20AM (#398456) Homepage
    Sun is calling this the successor to the Ultra 5.

    While the U5 was more expensive, I had one and let me attest that it sucked. The base config comes with IDE everything, 4GB hard drive, a slow processor (can't remember the exact numbers) and 128MB of RAM. All this for only twice what you could get an equivalent PC for. The video was limited to 256 colors at any reasonable resolution, etc. My Linux box (a dell pII-300) blew it out of the water on every benchmark and was cheaper.

    Yeah, this thing is cheaper than the u5. But Sun workstations have not really been performance competitive with the PC world for five years now. Somehow, I suspect that this box isn't going to be any better.


  • They use IDE drives...a great way to kill performance is using an IDE drive on a SUN arch. machine. Since your hard drive is used so heavily on a Unix machine, an IDE bus, which the wire is only 16 bit, makes for a huge bottleneck. That is what made the Ultra Workstations suck. So the first thing to do is add a SCSI interface, and dump the IDE drive. Although the 7200 RPM drives (Barracuda? I don't seem them using IBMs!) will help, I am sure you will be able to notice the difference.

    Put it another old SPARCStation 10 with a pair of 50 MHz processors feels about the same, speed wise, as my Celeron 366 system. Both running Slackware, it is only when I do some math-intensive computing that I really notice the difference.

  • On the spec page for the Blade 100, they make a big deal of the fact that unlike every other sun box out there, this one takes PC133 SDRAM DIMMs, not crazy Sun-Specific stuff. So in theory you could go with any vendor under the sun.

    Given the difficulties Sun has with providing working RAM, that's probably not such a bad idea. ;-)

  • The marketing pablum claims that the Blade 100 "shatters the $1000 barrier".

    Excuse me, please, but $995 isn't "shattering" the barrier. It's "slipping into the elevator before the doors close".

    Sun's network appliance "shatters" the $1000 barrier with a price of $500.

    Okay, I'm picking nits over what appears to me to be a pretty nice machine. The price is approachable to a student and to a startup programming shop. But, in reality, does anybody buy low-end Sun's for their famous ability to build desktop workstations? Sun's strength is in glass-room behemoths running 500 Gig Oracle installations. What, do they expect to suddenly overtake Microsoft/Intel in the home market?

    I chalk this up to "appease the hackers with a cheap Sun so they'll continue to write portable code".

    (But then, Sun's store is now Slashdotted -- I'm thus supremely uninterested in Sun hardware/software solutions, if even *they* can get brought to their knees by a bunch of nerds configuring Blade 100s. What, are they running the site on one of their new Netra's or something???)

  • by jovlinger ( 55075 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @10:26AM (#398473) Homepage
    I was under the impression that matrix multiplication paralleized fairly well, if the matrices were big enough. It's kinda Cilk's poster problem, isn't it?

    Mind you, if the matrices are small, then the ILP you get from a well unrolled inner loop will be hard to beat.

    And as already pointed out, the speed at which the individual FLOPs are done counts too -- tho I hadn't expected the PIII to be twice as slow, for equal Mhz.
  • Does anyone have perspective on trying to get Linux up and running on Blade workstation? I tried to use Debian's Potato on a duelie Ultra2 and still haven't gotten all of the services configured correctly(for instance XFree still doesn't work).

    Does anyone have any recommendations on which distro to be using for prospective buyers?
  • by southpolesammy ( 150094 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @08:09AM (#398483) Journal
    There's really no way that they can be making money on this project, marginal at best. Compared to other players in the low-end desktop arena, this is comparably priced, but its value comes in that you'll have a single source for support for everything -- hardware and software both.

    Assuming that it is loaded with Solaris 8 w/ Nutscrape and StarOffice for applications, they would be wise to get business people to try it out and if they buy it, hopefully get them to buy into Sun's Support services as well. That's where they stand to make some considerable cash for themselves.

    The next step they need to do however, is to mass market this to get it in people's minds. Just offering it on the website and getting geeks like us talking about it is not enough to make it a success.

  • Sure the hardware starts aT $995 and even looks like a nice bundle to someone like me who needs a SPARC for certain things, however the Forte C++ compiler starts at $1850 for an electronic download - thanks very much Sun! NOT!
  • by Rader ( 40041 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:03AM (#398492) Homepage
    I bought my Sun SparcStation 2 (with 20" monitor) a few months ago for only $20 at the university scrap auction. :)

    My girlfriend wouldn't let me buy the 1/2 ton VAX for $105 though :(


  • > Huh? USB? What's that? It's a Sun Ultra.

    Then go to their web site and check out the specs of the machine. They're specifically touting USB and 1394.
  • This isn't meant to be a troll, but I would like an honest answer as to why I'd want to buy this. I mean, Solaris is a more stable OS than linux, but what's it really got over it? I'd love to have this really bitchin' workstation that puts my PII 400 to shame, but would this be that much better than just a faster PC? Could someone who uses Solaris (I never have) let me know how it's better than Linux, and what the motivation really is for getting one of these? If you're successful, I may be looking at a new toy and a fat credit card bill :-)

    "I may not have morals, but I have standards."
  • Go here []

    A tremendous performance boost for demanding compute-intensive applications.

    Sun ushers in the next generation of exceptional tools for technical professionals with the Sun Blade[tm] 1000 workstation. The Sun Blade 1000 system accommodates up to two superscalar, 64-bit, high-performance UltraSPARC[tm]-III CPUs. It features a high-performance, crossbar-switch system interconnect that provides high bandwidth (up to 4 GB/sec.) for today's and tomorrow's ultra-high-speed processors and graphic subsystems. It also delivers plenty of internal disk and memory and a 64-bit PCI bus for incredibly fast I/O. The Sun Blade 1000 workstation provides both USB and IEEE1394 interfaces for connectivity to the leading edge in third-party peripherls. With state-of-the-art high-end graphics, dual monitor capabilities, and support for Sun's advanced storage systems, this workstation is truly a powerful, flexible next-generation desktop.

    Processor Powered by up to two 600-, 750-, or 900-MHz UltraSPARC-III CPUs. Memory Delivers up to 8 GB of main memory and up to 72 GB of 10,000-rpm FC/AL disk storage. Graphics Choice of Sun[tm] Creator3D, Sun[tm] Elite3D m6 and Sun Expert3D graphics technology for high-performance graphics functionality. I/O Interfaces IEEE 1394 ports for high-speed digital video transfers; USB ports for connecting USB devices such as Iomega Zip® or JAZ® drives. Peripheral Drives Three removable media slots for choice of DVD-ROM, 4-mm tape, or floppy; smart-card reader is standard. PCI Cards Four industry-standard PCI slots provide access to hundreds of expansion and high-performance networking options. Operating System Runs Solaris[tm] 8 Operating Environment; binary compatible with previous Solaris versions and entire workstation and server lines.

    This is all from there site.. who posted this?? What did they not use the little search box on the web site??

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • Because "the UK channel adds value to the sun product line".

    It's amazing how Sun have managed to pass off a $700 price hike onto people who don't control the price of the machines. (I'm refering to the UK Netra X1 [] which launched at 1200STG in the UK as opposed to $999 in the US.)

  • This is obviously an attempt at a Linux killer. The UNIX workstation market is getting creamed by linux on PC hardware, so they're lowering the inflation rate on their own hardware in an effort to bring people back to solaris from Linux.

    IMHO, too little, too late.


  • No, when the 4500 is officially junk, you want a rack, and to fill the rack with 4500s. Right now, a rack full of 4500s is the most CPU power per square foot that you can get as far as I know. (It beats the E10K!)
  • by Zeke42 ( 106405 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:06AM (#398511)
    Anyone else find it odd that it costs about $500 to add 128M of RAM? At least that was the only difference I could see between the small and medium configs.
  • >Does anyone have any experience with Sun monitors, and if so, can they share any reason why you'd pay the outrageous $370 that they're asking for a 17" monitor??

    Go to your local surplus store and get a Sony GDM20D11. It'll be a Sun-branded 21" monitor or an SGI-branded 21" monitor.

    Anyone grok Ultra 5 RAM? I'd love to throw another 128M into this box, but I'm damned if I'm gonna pay "certified Sun" prices for my desktop. Is it really just PC100 with a brand name? If it's Sun, it works with Sun gear. If it's SGI, it needs a hack [] to accept separate sync.

    Pinouts may vary depending on your cable. And you may have to use some "m64config" commands in your init scripts and X start up scripts to brute-force the card, but it's doable.

  • Solaris vs.OS X? Now there's a blood bath waiting to happen. Lets hope it doesn't.

    Or maybe they are actually planning on collaborating with a competitor and joining forces so the content-servers and the content-creators can meet on M$'s desktop turf and drop da bomb.
  • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:07AM (#398531)
    You must not have looked too hard: []

  • The SunPCi card uses a 600Mhz Celeron for the processor. Details at []

  • Specs and other marketing blurb are available on SUN's website []. --Ives
  • And I quote from the FAQ at []

    2. Is this memory proprietary?
    No. The memory used in the Sun Blade 100 is industry standard.

    3. Why buy Sun memory?
    This family of memory products are priced competitively and are tested, approved and qualified by Sun.

    Still, I want one...
  • Actually, I believe UltraLinux has shown to be faster on Sparcs, at least for the single processor case. One of the reasons is that the Linux system call is much lighter weight, because traditional UNIX uses the stack to pass system call parameters, while Linux just puts them in registers. Now, there are several things Linux can't do, like utilize special sun firmware for kernel/hardware debugging. However, for most servers, Linux is faster for single processor machines.
  • While benchmarks aren't perfect, the SPEC results [] at least give a rough indication of how fast these things might be. Unfortunately, I can't find any information on the Sun Blade 100. Has anybody seen SPECmarks on these things?

    The SunBlade 1000 (an UltraSPARC III running at 500MHz) seems in the same ballpark as a high-end Intel or AMD processor, so I wouldn't get my hopes up too high for the SunBlade 100 (an UltraSPARC IIe running at 500MHz); it's probably a reasonable deal compared to PCs, but not great.

    The really interesting thing is that that the SunBlade 100 is a 64bit machine for less than $1000.

  • Which Symbios SCSI card? These are different than the PC ones? Where's a good place to get one? Do any of them support Ultra160 drives?

    Yeah, running SPARC Linux is a low priority for me, especially since my Athlon probably whomps the Blade 100 :-). I'll probably skip it.

    I'll check out, thanks!
  • by OmegaDan ( 101255 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:08AM (#398545) Homepage
    Ahhh grasshopper say, many things not about making money. Many things about market penetration.

    I work at an EDU, and sun routinely gives me 20 - 60% discounts depending on the product. They're probably trying to capture market share, and put a dent in linux which has sun scared right now (I deal with sun on almost a daily basis... my sun rep said "we can't compete with linux")... the Blade system is a replacement for the Ultra 5 which cost as little as 1200$ with a edu discount (any student id gets you the discount).

  • Actually the biggest difference between the IIe or IIi procs and the standard II proc is that all multiprocessing capability is removed from the proc. Since it only comes on systems without the capability of adding a second proc, it really isn't a loss at all.

    The IIi and IIe are meant as embedded processors and/or lower-cost alternatives to the full-bore II. As such, their caches are smaller and they use electronics for lower-cost solutions such as RAM type. This affects their interaction with external devices, I/O and graphics. There's also no UPA bus in the IIi/IIe systems.

    I wouldn't expect a IIe or IIi to be any slower than a standard II, assuming the cache is the same size (which it often isn't).

    It all depends on what you're using the CPU/box for. As a workstation, the IIi and IIe aren't bad at all, but as a server, they'd be lacking. You're talking about a 256/512K cache as compared to 2, 4 and even 8MB. They also suffer worse floating point power:

    • 440MHz UltraSPARC IIi delivers SPECint95 of 18.7 and SPECfp95 of 21.1
    • 450MHz UltraSPARC II delivers SPECint95 of 17.4 and SPECfp95 of 25.7
    • 500MHz UltraSPARC IIe delivers SPECint95 of 20.0 and SPECfp95 of 21.0

    Of course, there's also the debatability of investing in a UltraSPARC II derived system, when the UltraSPARC III is out, and it's not backward compatible. Then again, on a workstation like these you probably won't upgrade the CPU as readily as you might in a server - but that's one of the nice things about Sun hardware...

  • by hawk ( 1151 )
    I just looked for pc133 on pricewatch. It looks like for any name brand memory, you're well past $350, and to $440 by the time you're to Kingston (the ones that make the sparc-type memory) [make that $440 once you add ecc].

    But it's still half as much. And

    So just how much difference would the slower memory make? memory bandwidth is my bottleneck, with near-random accesses accross a 1G array . . .

    Oh, and talking to our tech folks, Sun memory probably won't be considered.

  • The superior architecture should blow away the x86 machines in raw computational power, even if the clock speed is substantially lower.

    Sadly, that's not the case here. While it's true that Sparc processors have traditionally blown away x86 processors at equivalent clock speeds, that's mostly been due to cache. With the Ultra 5 and now the Blade 100, they've completely crippled the CPU by only giving it 256K cache (compare that with the 2-8MB cache that Sun's "real" machines come with). That makes performance suck, and you're far better off getting a PC. Still, I guess it's the only way they could bring it in at the desired price point. I, for one, would be prepared to pay a bit more to get a Sparc workstation with a decent amount of cache.

  • Quite true. I don't know what the graphics capabilities are of this machine, but I am certain that Solaris can take better advantage of them than Linux.
  • by mclearn ( 86140 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:13AM (#398580) Homepage

    ...the Slashdot article should read SunPCi . This is a card witha chip on it that allows the user to run existing x86 applications under the Solaris OS. The article confused me with the line:

    "With a PCi card for an extra $195, the Sun Blade 100 machine would be able to run applications on both Microsoft's Windows and Sun's Solaris operating system."

    Until I looked it up on Sun's site at: tf.html []

  • Well, ultralights are freely available for commuting. Since commuting is open to all kinds of transportation, there is nothing to stop anybody from building one from parts, assuming you don't pay someone else to make you one or find a free one just laying about.

    That's actually a pretty good argument. But I find it weird that you're using it to argue for Linux over Solaris! It's Linux that's usually considered the do-it-yourselfer's OS.

    But since you're only interested in using apt, you just have to wait for somebody to port it and the packages you need to Solaris for you. As I said before, you probably won't have to wait long.

    Get back under your fucking bridge!

    I shouldn't gloat, but I can't help but point out that I'm not the one throwing little random tantrums. At least not in the conversation.


  • Out of curiosity, why?

    I'm running NetBSD and FreeBSD on various x86 machines, and yeah--it's low overhead.

    But having designed hardware with an architecture-specific OS tends to make for a nice system.

  • If it's an x86 box, then - by definition - it can't be "much better".

    -Mars, RISC chauvinist
  • I ran OpenBSD 2.7 on a Sparc 20 with IPv6 and multicasting and a mostly standard GENERIC kernel with options MROUTING (multicast routing) turned on and every time I ran GNU configure on the mrouted package, it would cause a kernel panic. This happened repeatedly.

    Using the stock mrouted that shipped with OpenBSD 2.7 would render multicast transit useless. I screwed with it for like 3 weeks running tcpdump, etc, trying to figure out if my routes were screwed, whatever. Then I look on their web site and they listed "to do: fix multicast bugs"

    And on another project I had 26 IPv6 tunnels setup using a Sparc20 running OpenBSD 2.7 as a tunnel broker router and after compiling GNU/Zebra the damn thing would randomly crash after probing the routing tables before starting a BGP session. I CVS'd 4 different patch builds too and they all did the same thing.

    Now seeing as Solaris 8 has Mobile IP for cross network roaming using a single IP address, native IPv6 (a commercial stack) and DVMRP multicast routing built in - I'd sure as hell pick Solaris 8 over a free OS for my next research project. You can even configure IPv6 network interfaces during the Solaris install. And you can get a free license for up to 8 processors from - and thats for both Intel and Sparc platforms. The media kit for like 4 CDs is only $80 or you can download the ISOs off their web site.

    For me there is no question on what OS to run on a Sparc for doing real work, you don't buy a Ferrari, soup it up and put a one-eyed midget in it that can't see over the steering wheel.


  • One of Sun's headlines is "SUN SHATTERS INDUSTRY PRICE BARRIER WITH FIRST 64-BIT WORKSTATION AT $995". You'll note they are touting the "64-bit" buzzword as much as possible before the new Intel and AMD designs comes out.

    But even discounting the new designs from the x86 houses, haven't there been inexpensive Alpha platforms? I know the Multia was supposed to fill a similar role. They are quite dated now, but I expect at the time of their sale, their price tags were around $1K. Alpha's are definitely 64-bit.

    Can't you just smell the fear Sun coming off of Sun. Free Unices on commodity hardware is making their offerings look worse and worse. This new product line strikes me as a last-ditch attempt to lay ownership to the low-end workstation market before Linux does...and before commodity processors can claim "64 bit" as well. Many would say it is already too late. Linux has built up prestige now, it just needs a company with a solid rep (say...IBM) selling support to fully displace the older Unices. BSD could pull the same stunt.

    If Sun wasn't so protective of Solaris and the high margins that proprietary systems allow, they might see Linux as an opportunity. By embracing Linux now while they still have a good name, they could become *the* Linux company in the coming years. If they stick to their current model, and don't pick up Linux (or do it too late), I can't see them remaining relevant. The Unix landscape has just changed too much.

    Interesting times.
  • The hardware sounds like a great deal. But if all it runs well is Solaris, I'm not interested.

    We may be discussing the relative merits of Debian vs. RedHat at length, but in my opinion both are stellar compared to Sun's inconvenient administrative and packaging tools. Even if Sun were completely up to speed in those areas, there is still the issue that Solaris puts many files in different places from Linux (and BSD and SunOS, for that matter) and that getting and installing the latest GNU software on Solaris is still a lot more work than on Linux in my experience.

    I believe the Debian UltraSPARC port is coming along but not quite complete yet. Anybody have more information? Can you get a basic Linux system with accelerated XFree86, GNU C/C++, Perl, and Python up on these things? What about Sun Java for Linux/SPARC? If the Linux kernel isn't up to speed for UltraSPARC, what about a RedHat Debian distribution built around the Solaris kernel?

  • Who said anything about mission critical?

    The unix vendors are overpriced even for fairly mundane uses such as for engineering workstations, which happens to be what ours was for. They're absolutely thieves when it comes to "mission critical" stuff. Granted, the hardware usually does it's job and the support is great but considering what they charge, it damn well better be great.

    Sometimes you just pay the money and it's worth it, but there is no way I could justify the markup for anything less than a mission critical system and even then, there has to be no alternatives. I can't see how anyone could cost justify something like an SGI Octane today except for rare cases where vendor lock in comes into play. (And in case you were wondering, I am typing this on an Octane. Love it but I couldn't justify getting a new one.)

    Oh and BTW you don't know a damn thing about my experience and I mentioned hardly anything about them. One simple example and people think they know all your life experiences. Sheesh...

  • by hawk ( 1151 )
    Yes, but Kingston 133 and kingston sparc memory is more of an apples/apples match than kingston sparc and ibm 133 . . .
  • Readily available commodity memory instead of some weird ass thing that costs as much as the system itself - reliable commodity memory I might add...

    If it's so reliable why am I seeing about 5 times the failure rate for Sun's new-style peecee memory than I used to see with their 200-pin (published standard) not-quite-but-almost-commodity memory?

    PCI is the standard, it's here to stay.

    Pestilence, warfare, and strife are the standard, they're here to stay. Just because something is widespread doesn't mean it's desirable or that you can't do anything about it.

    It's cheaper than some oddball propietary solution.

    Let's see...SBUS is an IEEE standard. Your definition of oddball might differ from mine, but since anyone can go buy the standard for 40 bucks or whatever and make as many compliant SBUS devices as they like royalty-free, I'd hardly say it's proprietary. What you really mean is that it doesn't have the Microsoft Good-For-Every-Home Seal of Approval on it. Because that's really the only non-technical difference.

    ...Sun's reputation for high-quality hardware...

    Has in my and many of my colleagues' views been sliding badly ever since the introduction of the Ultra 5 and the corresponding shift in Sun's philosophy away from quality and toward price.

    I bet you don't like it because the "unwashed masses" can afford one so having it on your desk won't make you feel "special" anymore. Boohoo. Stop slamming Sun just because their new product doesn't make you feel "31337" enough and keep on smoking whatever it is you're high on.

    Be realistic. I don't care what other people have, I care what I have; if you want to pay the cooling bills you can all have a damn e10k in your living room for all I care. But the time is passing when decent workstations are available at all. It's not a bad thing that you can buy a Sun Peecee for 1000 bucks. If you don't want to spend more or don't need anything better than a peecee, it's actually good. But it is a bad thing that you can't buy a decent workstation at any price - because they are no longer being made. It's about choice, and Sun's (and SGI's, and others') fanatical low-cost-workstation philosophy is taking away choice. Sun's Blade 1000, the top-of-the-line system, contains commodity parts and is surprisingly poorly made. In 1990 a similarly manufactured system with the same relative power would have been considered a midrange workstation at best. But now, even if you are willing to spend twice that much, you find that you can't buy a better system, because nobody is making them anymore. The simple fact is that the product lines of most major vendors are heavily stacked toward the low end, and true high-end workstations are essentially unavailable.

    If I just wanted a high-end workstation to feel "31337" then my ranting would be silly. But I consider the design and manufacture of a true high-end custom workstation something of a work of art. The entire process - from the silicon to the buses to the boards to the overall architecture to the design of the cases, slots, and other physical aspects - is - or was - a labor of love, an expression of the engineers' fantasies. They could put all the bells and whistles in, use new standards instead of everyone else's, and take a lot of risks because they were designing something that was supposed to be fundamentally new and different, and better than anyone else's. The design criteria were performance, elegance, and innovation. Cost was never a factor because there will always be people who need so much computing power that they will pay almost any price to get the best available.

    Now tell, how many machines are designed that way today? When you think about it, doesn't it seem at least a little sad that building a high-end workstation is becoming a lost art?

  • I'm amazed how hard Sun is pushing into the low-midrange workstation market.

    Lets face it, youre always going to be able to get a cheaper machine from an x86 clone vendor, but these new machines from Sun (Netra X1/ Sun Blade 100) would give me a truly high quality and professional UNIX workshop that i could just about afford in my own home.

    While i am a big fan of cheap x86 machines - i love putting my own systems together and being able to mix and match parts, I also appreciate the benefits of a complete, high-quality computing package.

    The Expert 3DLite accelerator appararently uses a 3DLabs Wildcat 2 GPU, which should provide performance competitive with the GeForce 2 in most benchmarks, as well as whupping its ass in geometry-intensive applications.

    The ability to put 2 of these cards in an entry level box is unprecedented. You can't do this with any x86 motherboard i have yet seen - its possible to have multiple AGP slots on the same motherboard, but is obviously too expensive for most mobo vendors to do.

    I'd be interested to see what kind of difference the 64 bit PCI bus makes for 3D apps too.

    I doubt it will beat the GeForce 3 in Quake3, but hardcore gamers will not even consider these systems.

    With Solaris soon-to-be running GNOME, and MacOS X coming soon, i'm really looking forward to seeing some serious UNIX power applied to give Windows some stiff competition in the professional computing market, while bringing many benefits to the free software/open source community.

    Linux and FreeBSD will continue to take market share from MS in the server room as the push to take the desktop continues, and as Linux's multimedia and games capability grows, M$ is going to be wondering where to turn next..

    I wonder what IBM has up it's sleeve?

  • Same here. Mine was an ELC (33mhz?) in a SLC case, with a dead IDPROM battery. But I was able to install Solaris 7 on it! Okay, so Solaris 7 ran real slow, and the lowest load average I saw was about 0.5, and that was just typing on the console in text mode with a freshly cleared screen, but it ran.
  • See here []. It is $495 though.

    By the way, it does have a normal PCI slot, and you could put the SunPCI-II card in it, but also some other PCI card (provided there is a Solaris 8 driver for it).

  • The closest thing to this processor is a 480 MHz UltraSparc II (the one in this machine is 500 MHz). We'll look at that.

    1.5 GHz Pentium 4 - 524
    833 MHz Alpha 21264 - 518
    1.2 GHz Athlon - 443
    1 GHz Pentium III - 438
    480 MHz UltraSparc II - 225

    833 MHz Alpha 21264 - 590
    1.5 GHz Pentium 4 - 549
    1.2 GHz Athlon - 359
    1 GHz Pentium III - 327
    480 MHz UltraSparc II - 274

  • you are obviously over estimating the the appeal of linux.. at the moment nothing is getting creamed by linux..
  • Well yes, if the OS didn't suck.

    The mac hardware platform has kicked Intel around the room for years. Apple just wasn't capable of evolving their OS over time. Sun doesn't have that problem with Solaris.

  • M$ has never been able to port NT off of the x86.

    If Sun can get 64 bits onto the desk top (they have the StarOffice suite for free,) the connectivity and reliability of Solaris and the horsepower of 64 bits at the low end will make M$ drop trou . It's all about TCO.

    This is good news. Sun is positionning themselves to be the favored delivery platform for the next killer apps: Voice recognition and image interpretation. (the ears and eyes of the machine.) No more friggin' passwords. The machine will see that its you!

    The Mac content-creators who have stayed loyal all these years aren't about to defect.

    This is an end-run against M$ Maginot line.
  • the last time I ran one one of the BSDs (netbsd 1.5) I nuked the TCP stack by doing massive amounts of NFS transfers over 10/100. That kind of stuff would never happen under Solaris.

    BTW, that massive NFS transfer only took around 4 minutes before the stack died a terrible death, to the point where the netbsd box couldn't ping out due to some kind of buffer error. Oh well.
  • USB is used for the keyboard/mouse interface for all new Sun machines since the SunRay - So far, that's the sunrays and the sunblades. I believe logitech makes the actual keyboards.

    Solaris 8 also supports various other USB devices, which would presumably be listed in the HCL [].

    The upside to this, of course, is if you work on a Sun layout keyboard, you can hang a USB sun keyboard off your linux or windows desktop and not have to mentally switch to that annoying PC layout all the time. Plus, the mouse has 3 buttons :) The keyboard is P/N 320-1273 (US Unix) and the mouse is P/N 370-3632.

  • M$ has never been able to port NT off of the x86.
    At one point NT ran on MIPS, Alpha, PPC, and x86. As time progressed NT got worse and now only runs on x86.

    If Sun can get 64 bits onto the desk top (they have the StarOffice suite for free,) the connectivity and reliability of Solaris and the horsepower of 64 bits at the low end will make
    M$ drop trou . It's all about TCO.
    And the TCO on a SPARC is higher.

    This is good news. Sun is positionning themselves to be the favored delivery platform for the next killer apps: Voice recognition and image interpretation. (the ears and eyes of the machine.) No more friggin' passwords. The machine will see that its you!
    Umm, a 1.2 GHz Athlon does Voice recognition fine, and image interpretation isn't very usefull outside of passwords. Not to mention the fact commodity x86 hardware is faster and cheaper than whatever Sun is pushing off. 64 bits has no real meaning on the desktop, not yet. Modern CPUs already have 64bit data busses and SSE2 already crunches FP data in 128bit chunks. RISC is nice, but remember, a 1.2 GHz Athlon will very likely outperform whatever Sun can get out at a comparable price point. It will also be better equiped (more memory, fast 3D cards, better sound) and more compatible. While having SPARC on the desktop might seem cool at first, until they can get dual USIII 900MHz's on the desktop at the same price as a dual 1.2 GHz Athlon system, there's no real point in buying one. Methinks this will be much more useful in the server arena for those who want Sun-quality hardware without selling a child.
  • Current incarnations use a Celeron-600.
  • That's true for any system. All you have to do is hang any multisync monitor off of the SB100 and you're up and running. All the new stuff from sun uses a DB15HD connector that's identical to PCs.
  • Sure, Silicon Graphics is most likely not going to build a $995 IRIX/MIPS worktation with those specs (PC133 RAM, EIDE drives, ghetto 3D), but a $2000 - $3000 O2, $8000 Octane, or better yet, a line of 1U - 4U IRIX/MIPS rackmount servers would sure be nice. SGI has the world going for them, their customers would like to buy more of their systems, but pricing and exact models offered have been a pretty serious turn-off in recent months.

    Not to mention that ghastly new "sgi" logo. Guess it fits their IA-32 and IA-64 systems, though.
  • 30GB maximum, I expect, is not a function of the hardware, but rather of the OS - Solaris still doesn't support >32GB IDE drives, that I know of.
  • While I expect sun will make some money on this, it isn't about money. Sun's bread nd butter is big machines. People have to program those big machines. They can now sell this to programers and contractors for home use. They at least gain expirence on the platform which is good for sun. Once you know the sun (solaris) platform going from this cheap box to a full E10k is easier. (Not easy because the E10k has lots of CPUs for your program to use)

    Remember they might not be making money on this, but I doupt they are losing money either. This isn't about regaining ground. Sun isn't stupid enough to expect to be a blip on the low end computer sales charts. They don't need to be though. They need a machine for people to play with to convince themselves they know Sun.

  • How does the PCi card work? Do you "dual boot" into Windows or Solaris, or is it more like VMware where both run at the same time? Can you run Windows over X, or do you need to be at the console?
  • I can see the status appeal of having a Sun box, but as a primary machine to me it seems like it would suck. What kind of driver support does Solaris have for the kinds of devices you want to hook up to your main machine? Like USB Zip drives (which they mention), digital camcorders, PCL printers, (USB?) modems, (USB and SCSI) scanners, sound cards, video cards, joysticks, and all the other good stuff.
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:28AM (#398676)
    It is very common for the big unix vendors to have obscene markup on anything related to their proprietary systems. Sun, SGI, IBM, HP,... they all do it. If you want official hardware supported by them you're going to pay at least 2-3 times the going rate for the same commodity hardware. CDROM's will cost $500 or more instead of the usual $150 or so we expect. RAM prices from the vendor are out of this world usually.

    And if you sign up for "maintenance" (read tech support that is even vaguely useful) you're going to drop a lot of money each year for that too. In some cases, more than you'll end up paying more than the cost of the machine. Until we got rid of it recently, at work we were paying $18,000 a year in maintenance for an Onyx/2 that was 3 years old. For reference, you can buy a $4000 PC now that is faster than the machine we had. Granted it was a great machine but we certainly were not getting our money's worth.

    And people wonder why linux is gaining such a following...

  • They're scared because a 1000$ pc rocks the socks off a 1000$ sun. If linux is a viable unix, (which I argue it is), then they can't beat the price/performance ratio.

    A dual 450mhz machine (ultra60) costs about 12,000$ ... go build yourself a dual 1ghz machine with pc parts, probably cost around 2 grand.

    So its not really about linux, but the cheap hardware linux runs on -- and that my friend -- is what keeps them up at night.

  • I have 3 SparcStations (two 1s and a 2). Very bumed that they dropped support in the latest version, but not too surprised.
  • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:40AM (#398691)
    Hate to reply to my own post, but I saw the answer on another thread. Info at Sun's Site [].
  • This is described at having a 500MHz CPU. I can go to ASL, a Linux workstation vendor, and buy an 750MHz AMD machine for $997. Sun doesn't have some pixie dust that makes their machines magically faster at the low end. The 1998 Ultra 10 I used for a year or two was about as fast as the comparable Linux workstations at the time -- but the Sun box was about twice as expensive. Unless you're in the world of 64-processor servers, or you need to run some bizarre application that's only available for Solaris, there is no reason to buy a Sun workstation; an x86 running Linux or *BSD is much more cost effective and more pleasant for desktop use.
  • does anyone think they will make any money with this? They can't be making much... and why are they trying to regain ground in a market they have never been in before and with many competitors?

    I think Sun, like any other company will create a "loss leader" to help gain market share and customers. Most grocery stores sell some items at a loss, and jack up the cost of others to make up for the loss. Besides some people might have bought sparcs if they were cheaper, but instead got a PC running Linux/BSD/Solaris X86 instead. Personally I'd rather have a sparc on my desk than some PC. At least I'd have a 64-bit machine built to run UNIX, and not having to deal with IRQ conflicts and the like.

    This also can look good for Sun in the market if they can sell a ton of these and make a small dent in the PC world. And the more volume they move, they may make their loss back. It's all in the suppy-demand theory from economics. If nothing else Wall Street will look at this and boost Sun's stock.

  • by frankie ( 91710 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2001 @07:42AM (#398698) Journal

    Guess they were just being coy. 3 hours ago when I submitted the article, there were no links on the front page or in products, it wasn't available in the store, and it wasn't indexed in the site's search engine.

  • You can't put *any* video card in a mac costing less than US$1000.

    Youre saying that a 64 bit bus makes no difference to the previous 32 bit/Sun proprietary bus? This is a big improvement over previous Sun offerings.

    The point is not that your super-l33t P4-1.7GHz with it's Geforce2UltraMegaloMaxi 1000 running WinME gets a better framerate than a Sun Blade 100 in Quake, the point is that this machine will be attractive to people who don't want a little PC to impress their friends with, but actually want to get real work done on a UNIX platform that has extremely wide adoption within the mid-to-high end server and scientific computing markets.

  • I feel like I might be feeding a troll here ...
  • And while dollar costs around 6 fims (it used to be 4 fims few years ago), big trend for enduser prices to have 0 at the end of the price compared to us retail prices.

    And if i want to buy one of these beasts outside of finland, customs will tax me to death, allthou i dont really consider buying one.

  • That's the really big news here. The thing that has always kept me from buying a SPARC before is that event though the teaser price was low enough, you could easily add 50% once you bought a useful amount of memory.Now you can just trot down to your local Mom and Pop computer store. Of course, the only real reason to run SPARC/Solaris is to run the Sun Workshop Memory debugger and Performance Analyzer tools, and they are still rediculously overpriced. Maybe Sun will eventually figure out there is a market for this if the price is right. But I doubt it.
  • The Sunblade 1000 is a III. This 100 is a IIe
  • My girlfriend wouldn't let me buy the 1/2 ton VAX for $105 though :(

    You let your girlfriend tell you what to do?

    It was a choice, either her or the VAX, and that was just based on space considerations.

    Although I think the upkeep on the VAX would prob'ly cost less in the long run.


Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.