Friday, September 29, 2006

Me versus the M2

I'm getting a very negative feeling about the SP on the X2100 M2 I'm trying to set up. This thing is just plain awful.

Yes, it's got some very fancy features. Basic functionality like being easily able to access the system console, and being able to operate for more than a few minutes without goofing up, or having documentation that is understandable, seem to be missing at this point.

The basic problem is that I can't get anything sensible out of the serial console. I can tip to the SP, and that works fine. But I just get junk output (if at all) on the console.

The KVM applet gadget is very nifty. And I can see output (once I've redirected to ttyb, anyway), but nothing I can do can persuade Solaris to accept keyboard input. It's just Solaris, as I can type into the GRUB screen OK. But if the install goes interactive I'm stuffed.

Anyway, I've got it installed by persuading it to jumpstart completely hands off. It insisted on asking for terminal type and locale before, although I'm not sure why. (Well, not completely - it complained about not being able to set the boot device and didn't reboot when it had finished installation, but that's OK, I can remote power-cycle it [and I've used that piece of functionality a few times today!].)

So my attempts here were to add:

-b console=ttyb

to the add_install_client invocation, and make sure that terminal and locale were defined in the sysidcfg file, and then edit the menu.lst file to add install as a argument - after:


I added

-v -m verbose install

Of course, I'm now stuck a little further on - looking at the kdmconfig screen where it's asking me to select an X server. Must find my notes about how to disable that prompt.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On to the X2100 M2

I've just been trying to set up one of the new X2100 M2s. I did a plain X2100 a while ago, and that was pretty simple - all I had to find out was the appropriate ctrl-alt-meta-shift-escape-thingy to replace F12 for the initial netboot while on the serial port. (Which I've forgotten, so if anyone could enlighten me - thanks!)

The new M2 is a different beast. The first problem was getting to the serial port. I've got my loan T2000 in the rack next to it, so I thought I would simply establish a tip session from that. However, it appears that the normal 'tip hardwire' trick doesn't work with the T2000 - there is no serial port B at all.

So I tried a different machine. And our console server. And about a dozen different cables. No joy. Eventually I did find a cable that worked, but I wasted far too long. (Don't get me started on serial cables. Every time I use them I feel this inner urge to go and throttle somebody.)

So I got an SP prompt. And this thing was - ahem - strange. After 5 minutes or so of being unable to get anything sensible out of it I punted and set the IP address manually, hooked the net management port into the network, and pointed my browser at it.

(I was somewhat dismayed to find that Sun's instructions told me to open up Internet Explorer. Oh how low have we fallen...)

So I point firefox at the LOM address and - wonder of wonders - it worked!

(There was the bit about the certificate expiring in 1979, and the mismatch between the IP address and the name on the certificate, but nothing serious.)

And you get what is actually quite a neat interface at this point. I started up the remote console, and nothing happened. Bother, edit pop-up preferences and try again. And I have the remote console.

This is all actually rather clever. It certainly looks good, and actually works pretty well too.

The next battle is to install the machine. At the moment when it tries to net boot one of our Windows Domain controllers jumps in and answers the DHCP request so my install server doesn't get a look in.

T2000 - initial performance

OK, so I've got the machine running so I thought I would try some simple performance tests.

I know that these aren't going to show the T2000 in a good light. These are simple CPU intensive single-threaded apps. (If you can call them applications.) The aim was to get a feel for just how well the machine would do.

So I have a twin 360MHz Ultra 60, a twin 1.5GHz V240, a quad 1.28GHz V440, an 8x1.0GHz T200, and a 500MHz SunBlade 100 and - for fun - a cheap X2100 with a 2.2GHz Opteron 148.

I copies the /var/sadm/install/contents file from my desktop into /tmp on each machine, and timed grep, wc, gzip, gunzip, bzip2, bunzip2 on the file (it's about 12 Meg). The times, in seconds, are:

grep 0.540
wc 0.615
gzip 3.055
gunzip 0.619
bzip2 25.589
bunzip2 4.187

grep 0.416
wc 0.517
gzip 2.408
gunzip 0.492
bzip2 29.303
bunzip2 4.314

grep 0.136
wc 0.210
gzip 0.776
gunzip 0.152
bzip2 8.028
bunzip2 1.054

grep 0.159
wc 0.247
gzip 0.911
gunzip 0.180
bzip2 9.034
bunzip2 1.241

grep 0.402
wc 0.656
gzip 2.772
gunzip 0.495
bzip2 17.695
bunzip2 2.285

grep 0.079
wc 0.077
gzip 0.445
gunzip 0.092
bzip2 4.053
bunzip2 0.555

What's clear from this is the the Opteron (not entirely unexpectedly) wins by a distance. And the T2000 is handily outpaced by the V240 and V440 - even accounting for clock speed. In fact, the T2000 seems to be - for the completely unfair single tasking case - more comparable to the USIIe/USIIi in something like a V100 or Netra X1.

Of course, once you take into account the parallelism available, the T2000 might be comparable to a whole rack of the old 1U netra systems.

Now to see if some of our applications can be started up on this machine, and if we can test some applications that would suit the T2000 better.

T2000 - install performance

The first thing I did with my loan T2000 was to install Solaris on it. My first impression was that it seemed to be going fairly slowly, which was confirmed by some actual timing numbers.

I can time two parts of the install. The first is the actual Solaris installation, from the begin script to the finish script. This is only a part of the installation process, but is easy to measure. The second is my local installation, which takes place on the next boot, and installs some extra packages, runs some cleanup scripts, untars the whole of /opt/sfw, and applies current patches, and includes the reboot time. I've done 4 different systems this week, and the times (in minutes) are shown below:

Typecpu speedinstalllocalinstall
Ultra 602x360MHz4573

OK, so the install time isn't necessarily a good metric, but it's probably a fair indication of how long it's going to take to do general system administration on such a system. It's also essentially serial, which isn't good for the T1 chip. Even so, the numbers here are slightly disappointing - it's doing slightly worse for it's clock speed compared to the other sparc systems I've got available to play with today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

T2000 - past the first roadblock

Just got past the first roadblock with my loan T2000.

Plugged it in, powered it on, and got no network connectivity.

That's odd. All the lights look fine on both the T2000 and the switch. But I can't get the link to come up properly. I get

Timed out waiting for Autonegotation to complete
Check cable and try again
Link Down

So I pull it out of the foundry switch and into a cisco. And then I get

100 Mbps full duplex Link up

OK, it's a shame that I can't get it working at gigabit but at least I can jumpstart it now, and I'll worry about getting it running at full speed later.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Toys

I've been racking some new kit today. A couple of simple boxes for mail relays (and spam filters), and a backup server.

We've gone for the new Sun X2100 M2 for the mail systems. Something lightweight, but fast to handle the load. And very affordable at that.

We got an X2100 a while back, and it's been a huge success. We run our trouble ticket system on it, and it's not just faster - it's revolutionized the way we work. Before, doing anything with the trouble ticket system was so painful that it discouraged anyone from logging or handling tickets. Now, it just flies. We're hoping for the same from the mail system, which (and I guess everyone is getting the same experience) is getting swamped by the spam deluge.

The backup system is nothing special, I've put in a V240 with a C4 library. The only thing to say about this is that the C4 library is a deep beast - it barely fits into the Sun 900 rack and that's without being cabled up yet!

And I was just sitting down after that when a try-and-buy T2000 showed up. That's in the rack too, and it all looks very impressive.

We're interested to see how well the coolthreads system works. In general, I see increasing use of opteron systems, but we still have a number of sparc based applications that we're going to have to run. It stands a good chance - apache, tomcat, with a database or proprietary search engine at the back - so we're optimistic it'll be a success.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Solview Updated

I've updated my solview utility to version 0.3.

What is solview, I hear you ask? It's a little java gui to show useful information about a Solaris system. It shows installed software packages (and installation software clusters); services and their status; and the output from various informational commands.

This new version enhances the package and cluster information. It's split up into several tabbed panels, and now shows cluster membership, the installed status of clusters, and can calculate full dependencies.

What happened to version 0.2? Well, that version included a rather spectacular failure to enhance the software display by parsing the contents file. I expect it is possible to get java to extract useful information from this file without running out of memory, but I didn't succeed in doing so. So that attempt got scrapped and I moved on to version 0.3.