Sun Microsystems' Fire V40z

Sun Microsystems' Sun Fire V40Z x86 3U server offers 32- and 64-bit OSs using AMD processors to provide true four-way power.

September 24, 2004

4 Min Read
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The V40z I tested at our Syracuse University Real-World Labs® was a four-way server with Opteron 848 2.2-GHz processors. It had 16 GB of RAM with two 73-GB UltraSCSI, 320-MBps disk drives-- one loaded with 32-bit Solaris 9 x86, the other with SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) 8 for AMD 64-bit processors.

Only standby power was required to boot up the onboard management software and set the server's 14 hot-swappable (and noisy!) fans in motion. Although 14 fans seem like a lot, the server draws only 10 amps of power, making rack-to-rack replacements a viable option.

Sun Fire V40zInterface

Manage From Anywhere

The management software, LOM (Lights Out Management), is executed using a separate processor and memory space. From an embedded Linux OS, LOM runs on top of a Motorola processor, allowing in-band and out-of-band server management, independent of the real CPUs and memory.Also called the service processor, LOM lets you control virtually all system operations, including remote power on/off and BIOS configuration. It monitors fan speeds, CPU temperatures and the like.

After initializing, LOM was assigned a DHCP address to let me remotely manage the machine. Although DHCP is enabled by default, users can configure the service processor with a static IP, netmask and gateway using the LCD panel on the front of the V40z. Configuration of LOM was simple using SSH; I could create users, look at component statuses and control the BIOS. SNMP and IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) 1.5 were available, though I didn't test them.

A two-port switch lets you link the LOM interfaces of multiple machines. Because the machines are connected to the switch at both ends of the cascaded setup, the loss of a single unit won't impact access to the others in the group.

32- or 64-Bit? You Choose

Sun supports most of the 32- and 64-bit operating systems the V40z can run, including Solaris 9 x86, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 for AMD, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and SuSE Linux 9 Professional. However, the vendor doesn't support Microsoft Windows 2000 and 2003, though the WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs)-certified hardware can run those operating systems.



Sun Fire V40z, $21,495 as tested; two-way priced at $8,495. Sun Microsystems, (800) 555-9SUN.

Under test, the V40z did a good job of running both Solaris x86 and SLES 8. On each OS, I compiled custom code without a hitch. I also had no trouble shutting down the OSs from the LOM interface.In addition to compiling custom code, I tested the two onboard Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet adapters. Upon connecting the V40z to gigabit-capable switches, I was able to transfer data to other test systems quickly, as was the case when I moved data from the SLES 64-bit operating system to another 32-bit machine.

I loaded Sun's Java Enterprise System Directory Server 5.2 on the Solaris x86 disk, testing commercial software installations. Loading some large ldif files into the software was fast, on a par with previous tests. I loaded Oracle's 9i database on the SLES drive and created some simple databases. Queries were responsive.

Real Processing Power

Thanks largely to HyperTransport technology, the V40z delivered blazing performance. In most cases, having four processors won't make a machine four times faster, given bus limitations and other circumstances. With the machine's HyperTransport, however, performance nearly quadrupled. (For more on Sun's HyperTransport, see "SMP Refresher".)

The AMD Opteron processors' onboard memory controllers reduced latency and pooled resources for all processors into a single memory space. Using the three 6.4-GBps HyperTransport links, Sun ensures that the V40z's memory and processing power are available whenever you need them. Make no mistake--this machine is fast.Sun not only supports the hardware, but also will answer your questions regarding the OS. The V40z comes with a three-year warranty.

Christopher T. Beers is a Unix Systems Engineer at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].

Symmetric multiprocessing, or SMP, is a computer architecture that gives multiple CPUs access the same pool of RAM. The most common multiple-processor computer architecture that exists today, SMP doesn't scale well above eight processors or so. The problem lies in creating hardware that can give each processor more or less equal access to pooled memory without causing bottlenecks. Because of such bottlenecks, each processor you add provides no more than 85 percent of the previous processor's power.

The approach most SMP bus architectures take is to route all memory through a single channel. Unfortunately, this degrades performance. To avoid the problem, Sun Microsystems uses the HyperTransport architecture, which lets additional processors access the memory a lot more efficiently. The result is a near-linear boost in performance with each new processor.

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