SUMMARY: Looking for Ultra-10 impressions

From: Peter Polasek (
Date: Tue Mar 24 1998 - 18:01:55 CST

SUMMARY: Looking for Ultra-10 impressions

The consensus on the Ultra-10 is somewhat uniform. Most applaud the PCI
bus and are disappointed with the IDE disk. Overall, they offer a lot
of performance for the money. However, the U30 might be a better choice
for server applications. I find the non-SCSI disk a poor compromise and
would happily pay more for an internal SCSI option - unfortunately, there
apparently are no plans to make one available. We will be running some
benchmarks on our test U-10 and I will report the results.

Thanks to the following for responding:

David Thorburn-Gundlach <>
Stephen Lee <> (Russ Poffenberger) (Peter L. Wargo)
Mark Baldwin <> (Birger Wathne)
Brent Parish <>
Ian TCollins <>:

Original Posting:
> The Sun Ultra-10 product is quite possibly too new to get any reasonable
> feedback, but I'll pose the question anyway. I'm wondering if anyone has
> any 'in the trenches' experience with the new Ultra-10. We have a very
> mission critical application for which we normally use an Ultra-1 as the
> client terminals.
> The Ultra-10's 300Mhz processor, 512Kb cache, and lower price are
> attractive and it SEEMS to be a much better value than the 167Mhz/512Kb
> cache Ultra-1. However, after opening up an evaluation unit, I am less
> impressed. This machine is a PC chassis stuffed with an UltraSparc chip.
> Particularly disconcerting is the IDE, rather than SCSI, disks.
> My points of concern are reliability and disk performance. I think the
> Ultra-1 is a high quality product (except for the 'disposable' CPU fans
> on the early models). The lower quality level of the Ultra-10 is not too
> surprising given Sun's marketing aspirations for the machine to compete
> in the PC world. Given our mission critical environment and the fact
> that we will be adding a large number of machines in the near future, I
> don't to realize 6 months from now that the Ultra-10 is not robust enough
> for our needs. On the other hand, I feel foolish buying the Ultra-1
> when the U10 appears to be a much higher performance option.
> I welcome any feedback regarding the Ultra-10. I will summarize all
> responses.
> Thanks,
> Peter Polasek
> phone: (201)617-2626
> FAX: (201)330-9772
> e-mail:
> Automated Securities Clearance, Inc.
> 800 Harbor Boulevard
> Weehawken, NJ 07087

From: David Thorburn-Gundlach <>
Though we haven't had our loaner up and being slammed enough to gather
any real data, it generally runs well. You are correct to be
concerned about IDE, IMHO, because of the way requests are queued;
it'll be great on a single-threaded / single-task system, but if the
world starts hitting the disk, performance will drop much more quickly
than with a SCSI disk. [With SCSI drives as cheap as they are these
days, I don't see why they went with IDE anyway.]
Other than that, you should get dandy performance out of the machine;
PCI is actually a better bus than sbus, so it makes sense for Sun to
go to it. I think that our general recommendation will be to drop in
a PCI scsi card (and I think Sun now sells/supports one, though they
didn't officially do so when the machines first came out) and a SCSI
disk and leave the IDE disk behind (scratch space? temp storage?).

From: Stephen Lee <>
        You get what you pay for. I have one Ultra-10. One of the disk drives
arrived dead and the disk drive cable can apart on me. Sun is paying
Wang to support this system in my area. It took 8 days to get the system
back up and running, and I had to do it my self. The Wang guys knew
nothing about the system.
        I have not really tortured it yet so I can't comment on performance. My
employer is planning on buying 3 Ultra-5's this summer. They like the

From: (Russ Poffenberger)
We are going with the Ultra 5. I too was concerned with the EIDE disks (BTW,
all this information is available in the glossies and the various product
announcements, it isn't a surprise), but I have two inhouse, and they seem
to perform quite well.

If you want SCSI disk expansion, consider adding X1032A SunSwift
PCI SCSI/fast ethernet expansion. I have this also on my two units, and
it works quite well. You can even boot a CDROM off it. Although reliability
wise, there shouldn't be any difference between EIDE and SCSI disks from
the same manufacturer.

As to the slots, Sun is going to PCI for all their products. I think this is
a good move. 33Mhz PCI performs on par with SBUS, and the new 66Mhz PCI will
blow away SBUS, not to mention it is more of an industry standard.

I have looked inside my U-5, and yes, the layout is more like a PC, why not?
Compared to most PC cases and layouts, the U-5 is top notch.

Obviously long term reliability is an unknown factor, but my first impressions
are quite good.

If you want something more modern (U-1's are going to be end of life soon),
and faster than the U-1, but still uses SCSI, consider the Ultra 30.

From: (Peter L. Wargo)
We have a pair, and so far I'm satisfied with them. I do miss the SCSI, but
I am targeting them at a different user base. (Developers, Systems folks, and
web ppl. are getting UE 170E's, some of our other users who need less
flexibility but also want to run Softwindows will get the 10's.
(Those of us with 170E's have access to a 10-cpu 5000 as well...)

I know that a certain national lab about an hour away is rumored to be
chucking out old suns and a bunch of SGI's in favor of about 300 10's.
In a benchmark, the 10's whacked SGI octanes by about 2x, while being about 1/4
the price.

-Peter L. Wargo | | +1 505 995 4476
 Senior Systems Administrator
 The National Center for Genome Resources
 Santa Fe, NM 87505 (USA) |

From: Mark Baldwin <>
We do not have any of these boxes in house (yet). However, my opinions
would be the following.

1. Like you I don't care for the EIDE drives. However, these are desktop
machines. Is disk performance going to be that big of an issue? If so, you
can buy to the Ultra 60 which does support SCSI disks.
2. The Ultra 1 and Ultra 2 platforms are on the way out. If you buy them,
you are buying technology that will not be in production for much longer.
You probably do not want to be buying outdated technology.
3. As you noted, the Ultra 10 is a much faster machine than the Ultra 1 and
it costs less. That should please management.

I doubt most of your customers will notice the slower disks. In fact, they
will probably be pleased with the overall system performance. Add to that
the fact that Sun isn't giving you many other options, you may as well go
ahead and buy the Ultra 10s.

Of course, this is just my 2 cents worth.

From: (Birger Wathne)
The Ultra 5 and 10 use the new Ultra processor with on-board memory
controller supporting EDO ram and on-board PCI controller.
These machines use IDE disks! If you want to reinstall the OS,
you will have to:
- buy it with internal CD-ROM
- use JumpStart over the network
- buy a SCSI card so you can use external SCSI devices.

The 5 and 10 are workstation models. They are built as mass deployment
appliances. I would recommend that they be set up as AutoClient systems,
swapping and caching the operating system on local disk, but with no local
file systems. If one goes down you just replace it, and swap the mac address
in the server's config. No data to restore. Try that with NT desktops....

For server work, I would look at the Ultra 30 or 60. Or even the 450,
since it is built as a server (but also available as a workstation).

From: Brent Parish <>
We are running four new Ultra 10's, but have not had the time to really =
rate performance. One thing I should mention, is that adding a second =
internal drive is not as straight forward as SCSI. One drive would not =
recognize at all. When we switched to another manu/model, it worked. =
You also need to set jumpers on the boot disk and on the "slave" disk. =
>From what I hear, the Ultra 30 is more of a direct replacement for the =
Ultra 1's. Will be glad to add as we learn, if you so desire, but it =
may be some time before we have some good stats/experience to share. =20

From: Ian TCollins <>:
It may also be worth looking at the Fusion range from EIS
( These appear to be ~same spec (but with UW SCSI)
with a Sun motherboard and start at $5K for a 300MHz machine.

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