Thursday, September 28, 2006

Adventures on eBay

I'm finally creating a Sparc based lab outside my place of employment. I want to make sure I can work on projects without any hint of conflict of interest of proprietary intellectual capital nonsense. My work is for hire from 8-5, but my ideas remain my own, and I want to be able to implement them outside of work with freedom.

I've been using an old AMD based system with Solaris x86 for a while now, but since my real interest is in Enterprise Engineering I really wanted to have some Sparc based equipment and at least one disk array. This will open the doors to many projects that would only be feasible on expensive modern x86 hardware. Funny how those same features have been on Sparc hardware since the early days...

For budget reasons I've gone with a v240 as my workhorse server. It doesn't have the sweet LOM that many Sparc system enjoy, but it does have four CPUs and four GB RAM. That will give me plenty of horsepower to run a few Oracle databases and work on some Zone projects. A v440 would have been ideal for my goals, but the price point on those systems is WAY too high for the investment returns I'll be looking at in the short-term.

I have the v240 server in my office right now, and have been playing with it a bit before it goes to the basement rack. After attaching a console cable and booting I was met with a hostname from the domain. I was a bit surprised to find that AOL doesn't wipe their disks before sending servers to auction, but after a quick look around I discovered that there isn't really anything on the disks anyway; just a Solaris 8 OS image. I almost skipped checking it out... I have zero interest in cracking, least of all a Solaris 8 image. I did have a small interest in their best practices, but I'm far more interested in my own projects, so the box will be getting a fresh load of Solaris 10 (6/06) this weekend.

My storage array of choice is the D1000. I'm not going to do much that requires massive expansion or throughput. I just need a bunch of disks I can put into ZFS, share for a cluster, and run databases on. The D1000 has a 12 disk Ultra-SCSI backplane that provides plenty of throughput for my needs. And hey, there's not much worry about driver obsolescence. It's such a simple device that it's just going to work as long as Solaris continues to support SCSI. The D200 is very cool, but I just couldn't find a value-add for my project list, so I went with budget. I won the bid for this unit this morning, so I'll have it in a week or so. Then I need to fill it with disks.

I upgraded my measly 16 port 10mb SuperStack II hub to a 24 port Superstack II Switch. This will ensure the servers have plenty of bandwidth to talk amongst themselves. I'm particulary proud of this purchase - only $1 plu s shipping. Works for me.

A few white papers from now I'm planning to add a second v240 for work on SunCluster and alternative clustering solutions. I'll also be adding a pair of Netra T1 AC200 servers for a directory services project.

And that should just about round out the new data center. I'm amazed at how much capability old servers have. CPU technology has progressed so much faster than the remaining system bottlenecks that many of today's systems simply will never show significant CPU utilization. For me, this means that if I'm willing to run servers at a level that makes them sweat, I can accomplish the same work for a fraction of the cost. This is the premise for a white paper I'll be working on that explores the use of old enterprise class hardware in not-for profit or small business shops. Stay tuned!

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