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Just acquired a Sun Ultra 10 workstation

807557 Member Posts: 35,835

I have just inherited - marked for disposal - a Sun Ultra 10 workstation. I have always wanted to experiment with building my own desktop and wondered if anyone had any thoughts as to which hardware I would need to buy in order to bring it up to scratch - if that is possible.

Many thanks.



  • 799949
    799949 Member Posts: 348
    It died in 1999...
    is the link you need to look at...

    You can only put Sun internals (other than cd/dvd, hard drive ide). only a gig of ram, only 440mhz processor... 127 gig ide
    hard drives...

    it is dog slow compared with any recent peecee... it won't be a gamer peecee..

    since it was free, you are not out anything... what do you want to do with it?

  • 807557
    807557 Member Posts: 35,835
    edited Jul 4, 2009 9:12PM
    I've had U5 and U10 for quite sometime. For a while there, they were collecting dust and I've recently been trying to revive them. They are decent machines and here are few things you can do to make them better:

    1. Upgrade the CPU to the UltraSPARC-IIi 440Mhz w/ 2MB cache. I've found these on ebay for under $20 shipped before.

    2. Overclock that 440Mhz sucker to 480Mhz. The CPU module has a clock multiplier of 4x on the UPA 110Mhz bus. When you overclock it, it goes to 120Mhz x 4 = 480Mhz. I've also added a 80mm fan on top of the CPU heatsink to keep it cool, but it might not be necessary.

    3. You can upgrade to a max of 1GB RAM. These machines use a somewhat rare EDO with ECC + buffered DIMMs. You'll have to find them on ebay.

    4. Get a SCSI controller and 10K RPM SCSI disk for the system. The IDE disk sub-system is probably the weakest part of these machines. I've been using Symbios based SE-UltraWide SCSI PCI cards in these machines with 10K RPM Seagate Cheetah drives. Works great and the U10 can potentially fit two drives for you to mirror them.

    5. I don't know what type of graphics card your U10 has, but the highest performing option was the Elite3D-M6 card. However, I think in Solaris 10, the driver for the Elite3D are completely broken and makes it slow as hell. Maybe be better off with just a Creator3D which can do 1600x1200 res. Honestly, as far as graphics go, these machines are really worthless (even when they were relatively new)... you can just stick to the PGX24 onboard.

    6. I've been hunting for a modern PSU as these machines take standard ATX v1.3 PSUs. As long as the PSU you use has a 20pin ATX main power line and the usual 4-pin molex power connectors, it should work. The only issue, which I'm trying to figure out is the 6-pin AUX line.. I'm not sure that it is the same as usual PC hardware because the wire colors aren't the same. If you're not using the UPA graphics slot, i have confirmed that the machine will boot without the 6-pin AUX. I believe the 6pin AUX is really only to power the UPA graphics options.

    7. The onboard NIC is a standard 100Mb 'hme' based NIC. If you want gigabit, you can get a NetGear GA311 PCI gigabit card and use the 'rge' driver. Keep in mind, you can't boot off the network using the GA311, but you can use it for normal IP networking once the Solaris is booted. I know for sure Solaris 10/SPARC has the rge driver that works with the GA311 (i've confirmed this first-hand), but I don't know about older Solaris releases.

    Edited by: SUN2EOL on Jul 5, 2009 1:12 AM
  • 807557
    807557 Member Posts: 35,835
    Very many thanks to you both for your reply - I didn't realise I needed a special monitor!

    Sorry I didn't see your replies earlier - I thought I had saved my original message only as a draft.

    Thanks again - lots of food for thought!

  • 807557
    807557 Member Posts: 35,835
    one more thing i should add. there is a Sun PCI card that provides USB and firewire ports. This makes the Ultra10 a bit more useful as you can attach USB/Firewire storage devices and other things. The Sun part number is 375-3140. You can find it on ebay for a few bucks.
  • 807557
    807557 Member Posts: 35,835
    Have you tried using an SSD in Ultra 10? I'm considering this -- wonder if anyone has had success...
  • rdhales wrote:Have you tried using an SSD in Ultra 10? I'm considering this -- wonder if anyone has had success...
    ... and how do you propose to connect such a device to the Ultra-10?
    Why would you spend that much money on such a small lump of storage media when you can get refurbished conventional drives for virtually no cost?

    The Ultra-10 is a 1997 design that was first shipped in 1998 and discontinued in 2002. You do realize that the onboard disk controller is only capable of a maximum 33Mbps? You do realize virtually no add-on IDE cards would be recognized by OBP and therefore would be ignored by the system? Would you make such an effort on a 300MHz Pentium-1 PeeCee from that same 1997 era?

    Do us all a favor and hold your forum posts until there's something of value.
  • 807557
    807557 Member Posts: 35,835
    Well, you do raise a few interesting questions:

    1) No, I would not consider upgrading a pentium-based system for any reason; why would I? I have Penryn!
    2) Yes, I am well-aware of EIDE data transfer rates -- although latency is a bigger concern to me.
    3) Not sure about connecting drive to Ultra 10 -- maybe the internal EIDE, or possibly SCSI Ultra Wide; need to investigate -- curious as to the best approach...

    4) Why would I invest so much money? ...

    The box is hooked to a very expensive tool (~1M$). The embedded application runs on Ultra 10 / SPARC platform, and the Ultra 10 contains a proprietary card (+ driver) that is byte-order sensitive and cannot be easily ported from SPARC to IA. Unfortunately, because of the age of the application, the original developers have found greener pastures; I (probably) couln't hire them even if I wanted.

    Since I have multiple boxes (> 100), every percent of performance is worth on the order of a $1M. That's why I'm interested in whether I can goose a little more performance out of the (incredibly slow) disk subsystem. While I may not settle on a SSD solution, certainly knowing the subsystem latency impact would be helpful in my analysis; prototyping SSD would be a valuable experiment.

    CPU is already 440Mhz, and memory is 1GB. I cannot risk overclocking for this particular application.

    While this post may be uninteresting to you, the subject is enormously valuable to me and my company -- i'm curios to know what others have done in terms of faster disk subsystems for Ultra 10, especially SSD...

    Kind regards...
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