Part 2 - running Solaris on those new Intel Little Valley Motherboards

So Christmas was pretty cool. I ended up ordering myself a tonne of electronics gear on sale and it all arrived in the mail. But I've been spending most of my first few days running and testing the Intel Little Valley and Little Valley 2 systems and playing around with things like a 2GB CF Flash IDE drive and making a tiny server out of it and so on. I also answered a few questions posted by some readers.

Heat

Colleagues and some net folks found my email and asked if there was any concern with heat and using the various enclosures. My results can't be conclusive because this must be the darned coldest winter we've had in California in a while, so it isn't the middle of summer when it's supposed to be hot. Where's Global Warming when you need it?

My CPUs stay toasty at 45C on average for the D201GLY (vers 1) board and 47C on average for the D201GLY2. That's after prolonged running of some stress tests such as HCTS and the like and some of my own home grown ones. And I also have been running these systems for a week now and when I get back briefly during a reboot into BIOS, the health status reports consistent temps.

What might be worrisome is the temp of the Northbridge heat sink. That is a finger-burner (i.e. it's too hot to touch) and this appears to be true for both vers 1 and 2 of the boards, but I took a meat thermometer to the north bridge and it reached about 130F which is too hot to touch for most folks. But that's only about 54C, which is the surface. I figure the junction temp for the Northbridge is probably around 65 - 70C which is within operating limits of the system. And I haven't seen any instabilities in the systems after 3 days of stress and uptime for 14 days. The NB heatsink is -smaller- on the vers 1 board so the temp reported previously is the hottest I measured. I don't have long term failure data, but so far, it seems that with just one or two small case fans, there's enough movement of air to keep things cool, at least during winter.

Noise

Yes, I had questions about noise. The Casetronic Morex 2699R is louder because of the dual 40mm exhaust fans out the back. And for some reason, due to the bare metal shape of the Casetronic case, it acts somewhat as an echo chamber and amplifies the sound of the small 40mm fan on the vers 1 Little Valley board. Hence, for the price differential currently of the $66 retail boxed fanless Lil Valley 2 and the $60 retail boxed (w/ fan) Lil Valley 1, I'd go with the fanless vers 2 of the board.

As far as cases go, the iStar Storm S3 case is so quiet, I can barely hear it next to my head while lying down. The case fan control on the motherboard is quite effective and after running for many days, the none of the systems have thermal issues. Couple that with the fanless board and it may cost about $36 more for the system, but that's worth the quietness to me. Your mileage may vary. But my guess is that my fanless vers 2 plus iStar case comes in at idle at under 22 or 23 dB which is as quiet as the disk drive inside with a fluid dynamic bearing.

Power Usage

And here I though that the new Conroe-L core Celeron 220 on the Lil Valley 2 with reported 19 Watts TDP would really lower my power consumption. But Intel must be lying or it must be eaten up elsewhere in the chipset like for the two new SATA ports on the board that the first version didn't have. But in head to head tests, I was still using 28 - 37 Watts with a peak at startup and during some stress tests upto 45 Watts. Both systems were the same, and I swapped SATA for IDE and back. The IDE only saves like 1 Watt over SATA. In addition, I swapped out SATA for an IDE CF 2GB drive. It was the cheapest and slowest CF card I think Fry's had to offer ($14 no rebate - Adata 60x - at least reported as 60x). I maybe got 2 MB/sec out of that card on a large block read/1MB block write. But that A-Data card really bogged down on large numbers of small writes to the point where it took 1hr 50 minutes (most of Aliens vs. Predator movie on FX channel) to just load the first 106 limited boot services on my hacked-down 1GB opensolaris router flash archive image. That is -really- s-l-o-w.

Does the slot support 2GB DDR2 sticks?

Well, here's the prtconf output corroborated by the BIOS:

System Configuration:  Sun Microsystems  i86pc
Memory size: 2014 Megabytes
System Peripherals (Software Nodes):

i86pc
    scsi_vhci, instance #0
    ib, instance #0 (driver not attached)
    isa, instance #0
        i8042, instance #0
        ...

I also ran a number of apps and many apps going all at the same time. Well over 1 GB and it wasn't paging, so the SiS662 chipset must recognize the 2GB stick. And it was a cheap stick too. I bought it at eWiz.com for just $34 plus shipping and tax. They delivered it in just 1 day. Insane fulfillment. Don't these guys take a vacation? Not that I'm complaining. But you know how some folks swear by NewEgg? Well, once you eWiz... and BTW, they started carrying the Little Valley 2 retail box board too! And it's $1 cheaper than NewEgg! Anyway, memory link is here: http://www.ewiz.com/detail.php?name=T6UB2GC5 and the motherboard link is here: http://www.ewiz.com/detail.php?name=MB-201GLY2

Performance Benchmarks

I ran 3 types of typical CPU tests. Not graphics but just standard stuff I use my low power system. These were an MD5 checksum of a large file, LAME encoding of a bunch of WAV audio into MP3s, and using Java to auto-rescale a bunch of dig. pics I took in 7 mpixel for posting onto the web. I made sure I ran large enough problems to exceed 8MB of hard disk cache and used the same config where possible to replicate component I/O performance. I ran the Celeron 220 (vers 2) in 2 modes - 64-bit and 32-bit, the vers 1 board in just 32-bit (since that's all it's capable of, and then compared this to old Socket A generation of an AMD Geode NX1750 with DDR memory. Results are below.

AMD = 32-bit Solaris on 32-bit AMD Geode NX 1750 1.4GHz
C220 = 64-bit Solaris on 64-bit Celeron 220 1.2GHz
C215 = 32-bit Solaris on 32-bit Celeron 215 1.3GHz
C220-32 = 32-bit Solaris on 64-bit Celeron 220 1.2GHz

md5sum of 352MB file
--------------------
timex md5sum s10_u1_x86_cd1.iso
09791c116eb2189a708f9a698e5e413d  s10_u1_x86_cd1.iso

run1    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    6.56    5.40    4.96    4.95
user    2.01    2.12    2.00    2.10
sys     2.01    0.88    1.49    1.04

run2    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    6.45    5.47    4.51    4.96
user    2.01    2.12    2.00    2.10
sys     2.00    0.89    1.34    1.04

run2    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    6.44    5.47    4.65    4.93
user    2.01    2.12    2.00    2.10
sys     2.00    0.89    1.35    1.04


lame -h encoding to MP3 of 59MB WAV file
----------------------------------------
timex lame -h test.wav test.mp3

run1    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    34.23   30.79   29.90   30.78
user    30.93   29.79   29.14   29.85
sys      0.75    0.33    0.51    0.52

run2    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    34.60   30.45   29.91   30.59
user    30.86   29.77   29.16   29.85
sys      0.72    0.33    0.51    0.51

run3    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    33.61   30.67   29.94   30.58
user    30.77   29.79   29.19   29.84
sys      0.72    0.33    0.52    0.52


Rescaling 15 5.1MPixel Images to 1024x768
-----------------------------------------
timex java ScaleImages test 1024 IMG_00\*.JPG

run1    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    17.47   10.51   10.66   11.21
user    14.62    9.47    9.76    9.33
sys     1.07     0.53    0.59    0.66

run2    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    17.80   10.38   10.62   10.35
user    14.54    9.47    9.73    9.46
sys      1.02    0.53    0.58    0.62

run3    AMD     C220    C215    C220-32
----------------------------------------
real    17.90   10.31   10.59   10.32
user    14.59    9.47    9.74    9.45
sys      1.02    0.52    0.59    0.62

==========================================================================

The interesting thing is that in most cases, the total wall clock time seems dominated by I/O which seems worse on the Lil Valley 2 with SATA ports. But the new Celeron 220 w/Conroe-L core on the vers 2 board has much lower system time and comparable user time with the Celeron 215. The 64-bit mode, while I would expect a slight degradation in performance due to pushing more memory I/O, actually does okay and holds it's own against the 32-bit results and actually has lower system time where the Solaris kernel routines are involved. These results clearly show that the new Celeron 220 is a pretty kicking core, but how that impacts the disk I/O to slow down overall wall clock time (since I wasn't running anything else) is baffling. It's the same chipset isn't it? But the old AMD Geode NX1750 that had comparable power characteristics just can't keep up and gets left in the dust.

Other Thoughts

Funny thing about running in 64-bit was that the SiS Xorg graphics driver is extra sharp! Yes, no need to run Vesa module in Xorg like on the old vers 1. of the board.

And as for booting and running off CF flash memory, tried all sorts of settings on UFS - noatime, nologging, etc. It was slow. Boot time was well over 2 minutes reading from the A-Data "Speedy" CF from Fry's. I even turned off swap. For large files like a 5MB mp3, it could fly and write at a good 1 MB/sec. But writing lots of little files and updating SMF xml files by the hundreds took literally all night. Unless other CF cards have 1000X faster performance, I'll stick with a disk drive. I know there are some new Solid State Disks (SSDs) out there now. These have better durability against writes, but $3K for 64 - 128GB is a bit excessive. When they bundle 32GB of SSD with a Happy Meal at the drive thru, maybe I'll buy some. I also know there are folks like the Indiana Project at OpenSolaris.ORG that have bootable ROM images that run out of RAM. That might be something to look into for flash only boot, but I was hoping to able to at least cache my files locally without needing to run NFS all the time and just get old ATA/UDMA-33 performance.

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