Sun, a good value?! - Jay Maynard

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Wednesday, 29 June 2005


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1922 - Sun, a good value?!

Sun has announced its Ultra 20 workstation, with a 1.8 GHz Opteron (model 144, whatever that means), 512 MB of RAM (which they'll double through July 8), an 80 GB SATA disk drive, ATI Rage XL graphics, and a DVD-ROM drive - for $895. It comes with Solaris 10 preinstalled, but also supports Linux and Windows XP, both regular and x64 editions. Dunno if that's a smoking deal, but it's not bad, not bad at all. They'll let you use it for 90 days at no obligation, too, or get it by joining the developer program and paying $30 a month for 3 years.

I'm considering it, as a Hercules engine...since the past few days have shown that a 1 GHz Pentium III isn't going to cut it with recent OSes.

current mood: [mood icon] surprised
current music: David Bowie - Space Oddity

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[User Picture]
From:marys_second
Date: - 0000
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Noticed your post while perusing the friendsfriends page.

It's a decent deal, but not great. You could probably match or beat it from other vendors based on parts. It's worth the money if you just want the sexiness of a Sun logo at home. If you want to run Solaris, though, the slight bump in price is worth knowing all the parts are compatible.

Just my $.02
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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I've got an Ultra 5 that is all of the Sun logo sexiness I need. (And it doesn't get used much.) The first thing I'd do with the box is scrub Solaris off and install Linux, though if I had a bigger HD, I might install Solaris beside it.

Hm. A bit of digging on Pricewatch has the major parts coming in at about $650, with an Asus MB and an Opteron 144 processor. I need to look and see what the 3 digit Opteron model numbers mean. Might be worth pursuing, if I understood the jungle of model numbers (Athlon 64/Athlon 64 FX/Athlon 64 X2/Opteron xxx)...
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Athlon 64: The basic consumer-level AMD 64-bit processor, at a variety of clock speeds and offering 512K or 1MB of cache. All the other models referenced are versions of this (the "K8" core design), but the basics are that this is a single-core CPU, available in Socket 754 or Socket 939. The socket differences involve the integrated memory controller, which allow the K8 core to connect directly to the system RAM; the S754 variant is single-channel and the S939 variant is dual-channel. That means that the S939 variant has faster memory access, and S754 is a dead end anyway as they're not making any new S754 Athlon 64 CPUs, instead relegating it to the "budget" Sempron line in the future.

The S754-based ones, you can install just one DIMM at a time, but any S939-based one, you have to buy the RAM in matched pairs because of the dual-channel memory controller.

Sempron: A Socket 754 variant of the K8 core that's stripped down to make it cheaper so it can compete with Intel's Celeron. Only 128k of cache, the 64-bit part is disabled. Avoid this; better to get a full A64, and buying a modern Socket 939 board allows you to upgrade to the X2.

Athlon 64 X2: A dual-core version of the Athlon 64. Basically includes two identical cores, each having their own 512k or 1MB of cache. These cores aren't each as fast as the fastest single-core (fastest X2 runs at 2.4GHz; fastest single-core is 2.8GHz) but you get two cores in one package. It's real SMP in a chip. These only come in Socket 939, so get S939 if you want to upgrade later to dual-core.

Opteron: The "workstation" class K8 core. The consumer Athlon 64 variants have SMP disabled (at least externally, as in, you can't put two physical chips in two separate sockets on a board, even though you can have one X2 chip with two cores) and Opteron uses its own socket, Socket 940. This is supposedly because the Opteron only works with registered DIMMs (again, onboard memory controller, and this one's dual-channel also, but tweaked to accept registered DIMMs only).

As for Opteron numbers: The first number indicates the scalability, as in, an Opteron 1xx can only be used in a single-socket setup (for motherboards with a single Socket 940); an Opteron 2xx can be used in up to a dual-socket setup (for motherboards with dual Socket 940 sockets) and Opteron 8xx can be used in up to an 8-way setup (for motherboards with 8 Socket 940 sockets).

The latter two numbers for the Opteron indicate speed grade. There's no real logic to them other than that a higher digit is better than a lower digit. On the lower-level Opterons, such as the x40, x42, and x44, those are the order by speed grade, with an increase in 200Mhz for each (I believe those are each 1.6, 1.8, and 2GHz), single-core CPUs. So a 140 is a 1.6GHz Opteron which can only be used alone; a 240 is a 1.6GHz Opteron that can be used with a second 1.6GHz Opteron on a dual-socket motherboard.

The higher numbers (x70, x75) refer to the dual-core Opterons, which are workstation-class versions of the X2. These have dual cores operating at something like 2GHz and 2.2GHz respectively; a 170 would be a dual-core 2GHz Opteron that could only be used alone (on a single Socket 940 board, though you'd have SMP because of the dual cores in the single chip) whereas the 270 is a dual-core 2GHz chip where you could put two physical 270 chips in each of two sockets on a dual-socket motherboard and end up with a four-CPU system. And putting eight 870s together gives you 16 2Ghz cores in one system.

For what you're looking at, the Opteron 144... since it's single-socket only, the only thing it offers over the regular Athlon 64 is the registered DIMM capability and the warranty. Oh, and the higher price. For your money you could get a regular old Athlon 64 (which is the same chip inside) and a pair of unregistered DIMMs and afford something with better actual performance.

And if you do get a consumer Athlon 64 motherboard, make sure it's Socket 939 (and your processor matches), and that the board you're buying is X2 compatible. Since you know that even if you get one now, you'll want one later.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Oh, and as for the "FX" line, that's just their flagship processor, as in the fastest Athlon 64 they sell, with a new name. The FX-57, the newest, is their 2.8GHz model with 1MB cache. Basically they slap the FX tag on it and sell it at an insane price premium. It's nothing more than their fastest chip.

The previous model, the FX-55, was a 2.6GHz model with 1MB cache. And the FX-53 was a 2.4GHz model with 1MB cache. You get the idea. It's just another name for their flagship processor, and once it's not their fastest anymore, it just gets sold under the 'normal' Athlon 64 name. (For instance, you can't get an FX-53 anymore, but there is a 2.4GHz Athlon 64 sold as, like, the 3800+ or something.)
[User Picture]
From:chipuni
Date: - 0000
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I'm tempted, if only so that I can learn to sysadmin a Solaris box, too.

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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There's a lot to be said for that. A lot of employers are still running Solaris, and learning the differences between it and Linux (or another Unix-style OS) will show you what is likely to be different with any other new Unix system you run across, and give you the tools to adapt.

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