Tuesday Apr 07, 2009

Thank goodness for docs.sun.com

Where's my screwdriver? I got a bit close to the 'tin' today. I have been trying to boot a lab machine, an x4600, that clearly hasn't been used for a while.

Its previous user had kindly documented the tcp/ip addresses used, but we couldn't ping either of them, so http'ing onto the ILOM server was right out. We plugged in a console into the VGA port and tried to boot from an Open Solaris live CD, this failed with the error messages zooming of the top of the console. So we tried S10 and the same thing happened. This meant we had to actually read some documentation. This is at docs.sun.com, and has a bunch of docs on the x4600. Having equipped ourselves with some knowldege,

  1. We attatched a real serial terminal to the serial console port. This involved checking the serial comms port paramters. Its a very long time since I've had to do that. We then checked the tcp/ip settings, once we realised these were correctly set,
  2. We checked the ethernet cable to ensure it was correctly connected and seated.
  3. This enabled us to log into the ILOM using the browser interface. Everything seemed OK so
  4. We used ssh to login into the ILOM service and started the console
  5. We power cycled the machine using the browser

This allowed us to capture the errors as the Live CD image of S10 failed to boot.

The lessons of this story are

  1. sometimes one should read the documentation earlier rather than later
  2. check your cabling
  3. the docs.sun.com x4600 documentation is good
  4. sometimes systems do have hardware faults


Wednesday Mar 18, 2009


There is a conversation on google groups, cloud computing [XML] about CISCO's plans to enter the server market, kicked off by this article at Business Week.

The dimension, only just, missed in that conversation is the opportunity to get design synergies on the hardware between networking and systems. Why do large scale users have to buy switches and servers as seperate procurements? Perhaps the next stage is to migrate the network functionality to a software appliance, so one buys a box and then decides what to do with it. (I know that a switch needs a lot of ports where a non-switch system only needs two, but modern blade systems are modularising this design area as well.)

The interesting questions then left are whether the data centre, or network can consolidate to one cabling standard and perfromance. When will the need for seperate networking (or interconnect) technologies between CPUs and Systems decline? (If ever?)

I know some computer scientists thinking about tomorrow's problems are interested in this sort of thinking.


Tuesday Jan 31, 2006

From Qube to Cube

I can't be-eeeive it. I have my Qube running. It's hosting services and I now need to explore if "snipsnap" is what I want, but as I explore the next set of applications that might be useful I begin to see how behind the curve the old Cobalt O/S is. I spoke to Chris Gerhard who's thinking about upgrading his three Qubes, but using opensolaris, (see here... for his article, & here... for the opensolaris appliance group). I really like the form factor, and I'm quite impressed with the "headless" system. So I set to looking for replacement cases, in which I might build my own server. Yeah! Right.. Interestingly, CNET have also published an article detailing the growing differentiation between computer vendors around the case (or colour in this instance), but both ACER, with their Ferrari range, & Alienware (See here...) are offering very different laptops.

I came across a number of e-shops, including X-Case, Silver PCs & Directron (their Cube page), all of which do a number of parts including system cases. (This is the word you need if using Google! i.e. case.) I've found a couple of cases that look quite neat. Again no recommendations, I'm merely sharing research.

Firstly, the Lian Li PC 880, this looks very cute, has two internal disks and room for two 5.25 exchangable media devices. CD-ROM & ZIP? Is ZIP any good? Probably not, if we're using 120Gb (or maybe larger disks), then ZIP is shagged. Maybe we need to look at DVD/W. Can we do this with UNIX? The case supports an ATX card. Dimensions W443 x H205 x D503mm, a typical desktop pizza box and while very pretty, maybe a bit large. Its certainly the widest and deepest of those I've found.

lian li PC 880


They also do a more industrial looking system called the V880. You can check this out at their site here.... Its dimensions are 380x160x440 mm (W,H,D), so smaller than V880 but it's still only got two internal disks

What's this called? A company called Shuttle do this. It looks nice, comes with a CPU and hence a bit expensive. Dimensions 200 mm x 300 mm x 185 mm, which makes it the smallest of these cases. This looks like the case that Hitech Savvy use as Qube replacements, it supports SATA disk, but only two (?), and has one 5.25 and one 3.5 external slots so again CD-ROM/W and ZIP devices become available . This one's quite small, but I need to see if it comes without the motherboard as while this'll probably do me, I can that some of my potential collaborators may want something better. Dimensions: 300 x 200 x 185 mm. These people seem to be OEM only, I havn't found their home page.

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This is the Lian Li PC-402A. An aluminum Mini Case - taking a Mini Flex ATX card. Very Pretty. Again 2 internal disks, but three exchangable media slots, which is probably more than required. IAs said, it supports Mini flex ATX Motherboard. Dimensions 210 x 240 x 340mm (W x H x D). Small foot print if a bit high.

This is the Antec Aria, and the picture came from Xcase's site (here...). This one's got three drives, Accepts motherboards up to MicroATX (24,4 x 24,4 cm) and 4 full-height PCI expansion cards, only one external slot but 5.25 so a CD-ROM/W is a possibility, for emergency boot and backup. Dimensions 263 mm (W) x 210 mm (H) x 393 mm (D), so not as big as it looks.

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Note: The pictures in this article are hosted at their publisher's sites. The links are above. They presumably want to sell this stuff and may not be the most appropriate vendor for you (or me). My research isn't finished and I'm not necessarily recommending anything here, except that Cube cases look neat, but they're all much bigger than the Cobalt. Oh Dear

Note: Also I have broken one of my rules and used a table to format this article, maybe it would have been better to write seperate articles, but I didn't. I hope this looks OK in your browser.





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