The thing is, I like computers. My first job out of university was for a computer company, and I feel at home now in another. And as of today, I have a couple of V20z’s (wicked-fast) running Solaris 10 in a rack in a lab in Menlo Park. Officially, they’re for performance testing on my Zeppelin skunkworks. But there’s another story starting too, maybe a little risky. (Illustrated).

Two Sun v20z servers

Kind of industrial-looking, but mine.

Slow Zeppelin · The thing is, Zeppelin wants to run across a bunch of different computers, shooting messages back and forth furiously, trying to keep each one real busy. The evidence so far is that it might work. But testing the whole setup with five Java instances on my laptop was, well, not pretty; it’s hard to make OS X thrash, but then it thrashes hard.

Since Java runs everywhere, out of pure perversity I cobbled together a test setup with the Mac, a mouldy old P300 Debian box, and an Athlon meat-grinder running XP, and it all worked, but was hardly suited for an engineering testbed, and anyhow those computers were supposed to be doing useful work, which they’re not while Zeppelin’s running.

So I chatted up John Fowler, who is Executive Vice President of something but is generally known as The Guy Running the Opteron Shop, and said “How about giving me a couple of your servers for Zeppelin and I’ll blog about it” and now here they are.

Vee Twenty Zed · For some reason the Yanks find it amusing when I say that. Each zed-box has two Opteron 248s, and damn, they’re fast. Now, while this product line has been well-reviewed, it’s been a while since I’ve had my hands on beefy modern server iron, so I’m probably pretty easy to impress. Here’s the informal benchmark I’ve been using to get a feel for Unix boxes for, oh gosh, about twenty years (no lie):

cd /usr/man
for i in man1/*
  echo $i
  nroff -man $i > /dev/null

Then you watch the scrolling speed. Try it on a few boxes near you and see what you think.

Solaris · The labs guys will install any OS you want, and I asked for Solaris 10. I haven’t used a Sun operating system for a decade, having gone along with the cheap-&-cheerful GNU/Linux ethos. But Sun’s trying to convince people like me to use Solaris, so I’m going to run this as an experiment in public: can a seasoned Linux hack be happy in Solaris-land?

You see, the Zeppelin dev environment requires Java, NetBeans, Emacs, Apache, Tomcat, Jython, and a whole bunch of other things I’ve probably forgotten I’m using that are either Just There On Linux or, if not, within reach of a quick apt-get. So I expect to experience some pain along the way.

Obviously, I’m biased, but I promise to tell the story straight here, and who knows, some of the progress reports might be useful to other people giving Solaris a whirl.

Episode one: The ten minutes I managed to squeeze between meetings today revealed that S10 comes with sshd and the default shell is bash, so that’s a good start.

Oh, and by the way, they claim that S10 is good at threads, and that’s what Zeppelin is all about.

Two Sun v20z servers in a rick, with Jeff Hunter

Jeff Hunter in the MDE Lab with almost-empty rack.

Jeff and Alex · My zed-boxes are sitting in space on an anonymous Menlo Park back street owned by a Sun organization called MDE that has a great big honking lab. I’d originally thought about shipping them to my office in Vancouver, then an insider told me “They’re nice computers but you do not wanna be in the room with ’em” and indeed, silence was evidently not a design goal.

When they were about to ship, I was told to contact Jeff Hunter at the lab, and I asked him when I should drop by and what steps were involved, and he wrote back saying, in the politest possible way, that if I’d just keep my clumsy software mitts out of their way they’d unpack it and rack it and wire it and load it and boot it. Which sounded pretty good. It turns out that Alex Campos actually did the work, but Jeff gave me the tour so he gets his picture on the Net.

My servers are in the two slots at the bottom by Jeff’s right ankle, so the mighty Zeppelin has lots of room for growth.

author · Dad
colophon · rights

February 26, 2005
· Technology (90 fragments)
· · Solaris (27 more)
· · Zeppelin

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