Sun has long had a reputation of being more expensive than Intel-based servers, but that reputation includes the understanding that you receive the extra stability and power of the 64-bit SPARC processor and the Solaris operating system in return for the extra expense.
If that's your perception, it may need some fine-tuning with the release of the Sun Fire V210. With a starting price less than $3,000, the V210 is a SPARC/Solaris server that is competitive in both price and performance with Intel-based servers. For this review, we tested a $5,000 system that includes dual UltraSPARC IIIi 1 GHz processors, 4 GB RAM, two 10k RPM 36 GB SCSI drives, four 10/100/100 Ethernet ports, and hardware SSL acceleration. The price is equal to or less than an equivalent Xeon-based system.
We tested the system using WebLoad 6 to generate a load against Sun's Web server and performance was impressive, rivaling a dual-processor Xeon 2.8 GHz system running SuSE Linux and the Apache Web server, even without the Sun's SSL accelerator. With SSL acceleration enabled through the Sun Crypto Accelerator 500 (SCA-500) board, the system was able to hit 800 SSL transactions per second, the maximum my test equipment would generate. The board supports RSA, DSA and DES with the Sun ONE Web server and RSA, DSA, Diffie-Hellman, DES, and 3DES with the Apache Web server. Adding similar SSL acceleration capability to an Intel system would cost $600 to $1,500.
The system includes eight DIMM slots, for a maximum of 4 GB RAM per processor. There are two hot-swappable Ultra 160 SCSI drives bays, although the standard ordering process allows only for ordering 36 GB drives. There is also a low-profile DVD-ROM under the spring-loaded front cover. In the rear, there are two serial ports, one general purpose and one for server management, a 10BaseT Ethernet server management port, two USB 1.1 ports, and an Ultra 160 connector. The SCA-500 is a daughterboard and doesn't use up the 64-bit 33/66 MHz, full-length PCI slot.
Solaris 8 is pre-installed, as is a wide variety of Sun ONE software, including the following: the Sun ONE Web Server 6.0 (60-day try and buy), Sun ONE Application Server 7, Platform Edition (free) and Standard Edition (60-day try and buy), Sun ONE Mail Server 5.2 (free for the first 200 mailboxes), Sun ONE Calendar Server 5.1.1, Sun ONE Instant Collaboration Pack 3.0.1 (free for the first 200 mailboxes), Sun ONE Directory Server 5.1 (free license for 200K entries), Sun ONE Active Server Pages V3.6.2, Sun ONE Studio 4, Update 1 (free), Sun ONE Application Components Server (Platform Edition), Sun ONE Messaging Server, and the Sun ONE Portal Server.
All this software combines to provide all the resources necessary to run a fairly large organization (up to 200 users) including e-mail, calendar server, directory services, Web portal and software development environment all on the stable and secure Solaris platform.
Solaris also offers a number of pieces of software that administrators will welcome, especially in a Web hosting or clustered environment. Solaris JumpStart can automatically install Solaris locally or remotely via custom profiles and scripts. Solaris Flash allows an admin to capture an image of the server, including all OS and settings for backup or replication to multiple systems. Solaris Live Upgrade allows an upgrade to system or application software without taking the server off-line, so that only a single reboot at the end is required.
The Advanced Lights-Out-Manager (ALOM) provides out-of-band control of the server through either a serial port or 10BaseT telnet session. The ALOM can monitor hardware status, perform hardware resets, power on and off, and can send e-mail if alarms are triggered.
Initial configuration of the server is performed through the ALOM, via a serial terminal. Once the IP configuration is done, the ALOM and the system can be accessed via serial terminal or telnet via the Ethernet management port.
One oddity of the V210 default configuration is that there is no video card installed. While many admins experienced with Solaris will have no problem using a telnet session for administration, this may not be the case for admins with many different kinds of systems to maintain. It is possible do run a remote X-windows session on the V210 from another system, and then to use any GUI software desired.
Also, admins can run the excellent Sun Management Center (MC) on a system that does have a graphics card and administer the V210 remotely that way. The MC provides a centralized GUI for almost all administrative functions through a Web interface, and can even integrate with the ALOM for hardware control when the proper agents are installed.
In all, the V210 provides an inexpensive and capable Solaris platform in a small and lightweight 1u box. Its lack of a video card will probably not prove to be a liability for most users, and in clustered Web environments, the maximum of 72 GB of hard drive capacity will probably not be an issue either.
Vendor Home Page: Sun Microsystems Ratings: (out of 5)
Product Home Page: Sun Fire V210
Operating System: Solaris
Pricing: $2,995 with 1 CPU, 512 MB RAM, one 36 GB drive, ALOM card and software, Solaris 8 pre-installed.
$5,000 with two CPUs, 4 GB RAM, two 36 GB drives, ALOM card and software, Sun Crypto Accelerator 500 (SCA-500), Solaris 8 pre-installed.
Ease of use: 4
Tech support: 5
Ratings: (out of 5)