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Readers comment on the Ultra Enterprise servers

SunWorld Online respondents seem warm to Sun's new big iron

By Mark Cappel

June  1996
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We gave SunWorld Online readers the chance to comment in essay form on their thoughts on Sun's Ultra Enterprise servers, and many seized that opportunity.

The comments are reproduced as received; only some minor spelling and punctuation errors have been corrected. -- Editors

Topic: Tell us what you think about the Ultra Enterprise servers.

Date: Wed May 1 16:35:15 PDT 1996
The ability to easily ensure that a backup system can replace a down server with minimal downtime. The ability to use faster newer servers to offload computational workloads off of slower workstation clients is also important. I think that the ultra servers serve many needs. I like processors in power of 2 ( 1,2,4,8,16,32 ) configurations; is there any reason that the numbers are power of 2 - 2 ( 2,6,14,30 ) past 1 processor ? Thanks, Robert

Date: Thu May 2 03:24:18 PDT 1996
Since we are using more and more intranet/internet solutions (web, java, javascript, perl) applications, the server must be responde very quickly and with great reliablity to the clients. I'm preatty impressed about the reviews and papers about Utra Technology and I'm really looking forward to have one of such beasts pretty soon at our service.

Date: Thu May 2 06:29:44 PDT 1996
Sun clearly has put together a high performance box. The real question for Sun is whether it can leverage that box into new areas. The requirements for those areas, including service, uptime, ease of integration with mainframes, including systems management are significantly different from the workstation server market.

Date: Thu May 2 07:49:33 PDT 1996
the primary server issue is how much can i do in one box? we can no longer just purchase a file/print server. it also has to do internet web, intranet web, IMAP, database, and a whole host of other tasks, or we simply can't justify it. the Web will not unify anything in particular on the back-end (administration and development) but it will provide a much more flexible front-end for users and eliminate large parts of the client- side hassle of coding for different versions of different operating systems. haven't had a lot of experience with the ultra enterprise servers. if they're anything like the ultra workstations, though, i'd buy 'em and never blink an eye or waste one erg of energy worrying about "did i make the right decision"

Date: Thu May 2 09:03:40 PDT 1996
Cost is by far the most important issue, and I mean absolute cost, not price/performance which is relative cost. I find that organizations never budget for server purchases and thus a server is usually either a converted desktop system or at least purchased with the same funds that would have gone toward a desktop system. Web technologies are making organizations more cognizant of the need for true servers, probably due to the terminology in use. One uses a web browser to view pages from a web server... "I guess I need a server machine to be the web server" Java is just a huge security headache. It adds a huge burden to either properly control its access into client systems or opens the door to attack from applets. Finally, Ultra Enterprise servers... nice, but who has the money to puchase them?

Date: Thu May 2 19:25:17 PDT 1996
Don't know. Unless it is easy to use/administer and the servers also have cheap thin clients that shift the economics toward server centric computing - they might as well be Alpha boxes. Your closer to DEC Alpha than you think.

Date: Thu May 2 21:11:41 PDT 1996
Price/Performance seems to be the most important thing. Fast NFS (high bandwidth buses) are also important. The OS must have the appropiate applications base also. Solaris suites our needs with regard to the OS, although we are eagerly awaiting the release of Solaris MC. The ultrasparcs have finally given SUN some performance. However, I would like to see the prices stay reasonable too.

Date: Fri May 3 10:17:46 PDT 1996
I am very disappointed in the compute performance. We tested a 170 MHz UltraSparc and it ran several of our CPU intensive jobs 20-40% slower than a 2 year old DEC Alpha workstation. And this is the same CPU that is going into Sun's new high-end servers! DEC is still way ahead in terms of CPU capability. We will need to get an UltraServer locally to test I/O performance. I like Sun and Solaris and was hoping the new servers would allow our organization to come closer to supporting one operating system - - but Sun still can't compete in CPU performance.

Date: Fri May 3 21:42:13 PDT 1996
security, availability, administration, and capacity are the main issues that we see with servers. Never enough disk space, memory, or through put. We upgraded the amount of disk space by adding 6 more gigs. It was all gone within about 3 days. The users just brought out all the projects that were waiting for disk space. Sunsheld helps keep the bad boys at bay on the internet, but our main problem is with internal security. The bigger and faster servers get, the easer it seems for people to get into trouble.

Date: Mon May 6 10:23:39 PDT 1996
I would like to see a 2-4 cpu system that is under $45k.

Date: Mon May 6 10:59:42 PDT 1996
Expandability and common parts are a big plus for Ultra Enterprise servers.

Date: Mon May 6 15:36:12 PDT 1996
Sun needs 200Mhz Ultra Servers at a lower price point, and they need them now. Sun is too complacent - many I talk to are considering Pentium Pro machines running Solaris x86 or Windows NT. We need higher performance at lower prices to remain loyal to Sun.

Date: Tue May 7 11:40:28 PDT 1996
WE just purchased 2 Ultra server 3000's for running an Oracle database. As long as SUN continues to improve price/performance, we will continue to purchase SUN's

Date: Wed May 8 07:18:16 PDT 1996
Current server configurations are *slow* !!! I think we are approaching the limit on 10 Mbps ethernet and would like to see a standardized high speed of 100 Mbps on any network. I have worked on Ultra's and I think that they are extremely good to work with, fast network speeds, F/W SCSI etc etc. I think the Ultra architecture will stay for some time to come and will provide for a seamless solution for Web and Java integration.

Date: Mon May 13 10:51:23 PDT 1996
The Ultra servers are good, but the DEC Alpha servers are faster. If the Ultra's don't catch up many of our customers will start migrating their Oracle DB's to Alpha's

Date: Mon May 13 13:17:52 PDT 1996
The projects I currently work on would benefit from greater hardware and software support for redundant configurations, including better recovery from peripheral failure (disk/net) and better access to OS/hardware states.

Date: Tue May 14 09:30:10 PDT 1996
We will soon be deploying a global client-server network of SPARCstations. The Ultra Enterprise server will be a key component for our main central server, as it has many fault-tolerant features (previously we had planned to buy two SPARC 20's and write custom code to switchover if one failed) which should lead to improved customer confidence in our network. We'll probably use the Ultra Enterprise 3000 because it has all the features of the larger systems with the smallest outward dimensions and cost, while still providing ample expansion room (6 CPU's, lots of RAM and 10 disks). We may use Java for some components (user interface in particular) of our custom software, but I plan to suggest CORBA (e.g. Sun's NEO) and C++ for the major components (which, thanks to Sun's Joe, interoperates well with Java over the network).

Date: Mon May 20 01:06:49 PDT 1996
Key issue is sufficient throughput to enable Java stuff to work well. Also depends on network capabilities.

Date: Mon May 20 10:06:18 PDT 1996
Don't over emphasize Java. MEET TODAY's NEEDS FIRST! Good Servers

Date: Wed May 22 10:48:04 PDT 1996
As we use both OLTP and DSS on the same server in the same time frames, it is critical that we employ a server with enough CPU and i/o power to handle these tasks. It is also important that we have scalability for future expansion (mainframe to client-server). The new Sun Ultra servers seem to offer those attributes at a price/performance that leaves current HP and Dec offerings to shame (although the new HP servers may be good, they're not here yet). RS6000 is hardly worth mentioning. We see Web technologies expanding into areas previously held by Powerbuilder etal. Deployment of intranet software is going to be a lot easier to manage than distributing applications over multiple Novell file servers. It will probably lead to bigger but fewer servers; with TCP/IP becoming preeminent as a transport protocol and corporate bandwidth increasing, Web servers will access databases over the wide-area network. We don't see NT or Novell as serious players in that configuration; the performance or support infrastructure just isn't there yet.

Date: Wed May 29 12:35:53 PDT 1996
They are a great family of servers. Because of the computing power they provide, I'm able to really simplify the engineering of our product so that I can install every piece of software on the same box. Entreprise 3000 has only one disk controller so there is the possibility for an i/o bottleneck there. Also if you want to do disk mirroring, this only controller becomes a single point of failure. E3000 should have two internal controllers each talking to 5 disks.

Security: SANS '96 conference report

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SysAdmin: advanced automounter secrets

Client/server: Informix Universal Server

SunWorld Online is published by Web Publishing Inc., an IDG Communications company, independently of Sun Microsystems Inc., which is not responsible for its contents. The opinions expressed in SunWorld Online are those of the authors or the publisher, WPI/IDG, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its advertisers, or of Sun Microsystems, Inc. or its affiliates.

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