Getting Started with the Sun Fire T2000

SunFireT2000After receiving my try-and-buy Sun Fire T2000 over a week ago it’s finally up and running. While we have yet to hit it with much of a load, here are some thoughts on the out-of-box experience:

Before even powering up there are a couple interesting observations about the system. The first is the lack of power button, switch, or key. In fact there is only one button on the system and that is an indicator button which just flashes an LED on both the front and back of the system to make it easier to locate (a nice feature, by the way.) You’ll quickly find the hot-swappable dual power supply and fan compartment. The adventurous will find and the big button on top of the system which allows you to gain access to RAM and other non-hot-swappable components.

All of these compartments and components are accessible without the need for tools. The hard drives are on hot-swappable sleds which pop out the front of the box. The hard drives are small (2.5″ I believe) allowing room for 4 bays in the front and still affording enough space for ventilation. I was somewhat surprised to find laptop-style drives in a Sun server, but I guess I can’t come up with any reason not to.

After giving the hardware a good once-over it was time to get the T2000 up and running. I have to say Sun came up a little short on the out-of-box experience at this point. I’m comfortable with, even partial to the absence of on-board video on a server, and Sun has chosen to include serial via RJ-45 on the T2000. Sun was on the right track including two cables appropriately shielded for use with this port, but neglected to include an adapter to go to the 9 pin serial we all have on the back of our PCs.

After rummaging around for the proper adapter to hook the T2000 to an old laptop we plugged it in. The system is surprisingly (read obnoxiously) loud, but hey, it’s a server not a desktop. After a few minutes of the regular hardware diagnostics stuff the system came up to an sc> prompt.

This is where those who are not familiar with Sun’s newer hardware will come to a complete stop. The only documentation included with the system is the Sun Fire T2000 Server Getting Started Guide and that does little more than tell you what the different lights mean and where you can find more documentation online. If you get online and grab the Sun Fire T2000 Server Installation Guide this will walk you through dealing with the SC serial management port. In my opinion Sun should have included this one in hard copy with the system as well.

After a couple more steps things start to feel familiar and the rest of the setup is much like the Solaris 7, 8, and 9 installs I’m used to. With just a few extra steps here you can (and I’d recommend) configure the SC Network Management port which will allow you the same functionality as the SC Serial Management port without the need for the serial cable and adapter. You will need an extra network drop and IP address to use network management, but then you’ll be able to telnet to it for administrative functions. Of course in a production environment you’d want this behind a firewall or on a private subnet.

Other than that the system seems quick. Our next step is to get Oracle on the system and throw some queries at it. I’ll share more as soon as we get some results.

UPDATE: I have now had the chance to test drive some Oracle jobs on this system. Check out my findings here.

database, database administration, database administrator, dba, dbms, rdbms, solaris, sun, sunfire, sysadmin, system administration, systems administration, t2000, try and buy, unix, oracle

SunFire T2000 Try and Buy

SunFireT2000After being tipped of on the Sun try-and-buy program by Alan Baker, a coworker and cohort, I figured I’d throw my hat into the ring for a chance to test drive a SunFire T2000… and today it arrived.

Here’s what Sun has to say about their program:

Toss your toughest workloads at the multithreaded Sun Fire T2000 server with the Solaris 10 Operating System, and watch it crank up your database and Web application performance.

We’re so confident in the quality and performance of the world’s first eco-responsible server, we’re offering a free 60-day trial, risk-free. If you’re not totally impressed, just send it back at our expense and owe us nothing.

Chances are that you will be dazzled by your trial server and come back for more. The new Sun Fire T2000 server will likely become your multithreaded workload energy-saving powerhouse of choice.

When you apply for the Try and Buy program you get the choice of a four, six, or eight core 1GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor. I chose the eight, not just because bigger is better, but also because it is closest to our production Oracle servers in capacity and price.

So once we can find the time we’ll get 64-bit Oracle installed on there and run it through the paces. On deck are some join, function, lookup intensive datamart creation scripts which currently crush our production server every evening. This should be fun.

Also of interest is Sun’s claim of this server being “the world’s first eco-responsible server”. While I am unlikely to bring in a kilowatt meter to verify these claims, we are a very green university and hey, everyone wants to save a few bucks on electric.

UPDATE: I have now had the chance to test drive some Oracle jobs on this system. Check out my findings here.

oracle, database, database administration, database administrator, dba, dbms, rdbms, sun, solaris, systems administration, system administration, sysadmin, unix, t2000, try and buy, sunfire

UNIX Load Averages Explained

If you’ve spent much time working in a UNIX environment you’ve probably seen the load averages more than a few times.

load averages: 2.43, 2.96, 3.41

I have to admit that even in my sysadmin days I didn’t fully understand what these numbers were, but Zach did some digging a while ago to try to understand where these numbers are comming from.

In his blog entry from late last year, Zach sums it up quite nicely:

In short it is the average sum of the number of processes waiting in the run-queue plus the number currently executing over 1, 5, and 15 minute time periods.

The formula is a bit more complicated than that, but this serves well as a functional definition. Zach provides a bit more detail in his article and also points out Dr. Neil Gunther’s article on the topic which has as much depth on the topic as anyone could ever ask.

So what does this mean about your system?

Well, for a quick example let’s consider the output below. The load average of a system can typically be found by running top or uptime and users typically don’t need any special privileges for these commands.

load averages: 2.43, 2.96, 3.41

Here we see the one minute load average is 2.43, five minute is 2.96, and fifteen minute load average is 3.41.

Here are some conclusions we can draw from this.

  • On average, over the past one minute there have been 2.43 processes running or waiting for a resource
  • Overall the load is on a down-trend since the average number of processes running or waiting in the past minute (2.43) is lower than the average running or waiting over the past 5 minutes (2.96) and 15 minutes (3.41)
  • This system is busy, but we cannot conclude how busy solely from load averages.

It is important here to mention that the load average does not take into account the number of processes. Another critical detail is that processes could be waiting for any number of things including CPU, disk, or network.

So what we do know is that a system that has a load average significantly higher than the number of CPUs is probably pretty busy, or bogged down by some bottleneck. Conversely a system which has a load average significantly lower than the number of CPUs is probably doing just fine.

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UNIX, systems administration, sysadmin, solaris, linux, load averages, system monitoring, sun, mac, osx

Unpublished Source Code

Recently while stumbling my way through Solaris I came across a command I’m not familiar with. /usr/bin/true is a shell script which when run will return true (execute successfully.)

Now, this code clearly goes back a bit into UNIX history and I was amused to see exactly how the developers coded it. With that in mind, and against all copyrights and rights reservations I now present the complete and unabridged code for /usr/bin/true:

bash-2.03$ more /usr/bin/true
# Copyright (c) 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 AT&T
# All Rights Reserved

# The copyright notice above does not evidence any
# actual or intended publication of such source code.

#ident "@(#) 1.6 93/01/11 SMI" /* SVr4.0 1.4 */

Why on earth would you copyright this? Perhaps even more impressive is the point that this is version 1.6! What did previous versions of this look like? And why such a big deal about this being unpublished source code? Hell, it’s not even source code, let alone published.

Well, if you’re curious, this script is all comments, therefore when it is run it does nothing… Of course it does nothing quite successfully, therefore returning ‘true’ for the purposes of evaluating conditions.

I do have to give the developers of this credit for simplicity. I’m sure if it weren’t for the lawyers this could have been a one line file.

unix, solaris, source code, programming, development, opensource

Changing Video Settings on SunBlade 100

To change the display resolution or refresh rate on a SunBlade 100 or similar Sun hardware isn’t as easy as it sounds. Or at least it’s not obvious. These directions are for an M64 type graphics accelerator. The steps are similar for other Sun graphics accelerators, but the command will be different (maybe ffbconfig). Check your hardware documentation for details.

These coommands should be run as root. I recommend running these commands via ssh from another system. If you accidentally change the resolution to something that is not supported you won’t be able to see so well to change it back.

To change video settings you’ll first want to find out what the card and display are capable of.

m64config -res ?

This will print the resolution and refresh rate options you have. Where three numbers are listed this represents the horizontal and vertical resolution and refresh rate respectively.

The current configuration will be shown with a [3] next to it. Write down the current resolution and refresh rate. There are a lot to choose from and you’ll want to know you can get back to one that works.

Configurations marked with a [2] are not supported by the video card and will probably not work.

To change the settings run this command with the desired resolution/refresh rate. The now forces the system to change these settings immediately rather than at next refresh.

m64config -res 1024x768x75 now

Your monitor should click and flicker and with luck will then come back at the new resolution. If it doesn’t you can change it back to the old settings by running the m64config command with the orignal settings. You did write the old setting down like I told you to right?

solaris, sun, unix, system administration, sysadmin