Sun Ultra 20

I still have a Ultra 20 workstation from Sun Microsystems. I have got it in 2005 (shortly after its introduction) and I used it for some computations. Then it was used by my wife and but it was replaced by her X60 laptop (the laptop is much more quiet and consumes less energy). There also were some hardware issues – I had to replace the graphics board twice. I also didn’t used this computer because I like my O2 much more. It’s comparably noisy and much slower but it has lower power consumption and runs IRIX (among other cool features). Thus the poor Ultra 20 wasn’t actually used for about half of its life.

Sun Ultra 20 Workstation (2005)

Technically, the coolest part of the Ultra 20 is the big “Sun Microsystems” logo on the case and the BIOS welcome screen. The rest is less or more ordinary PC. It is an extremelly well designed and build but still it is a PC with a server mainboard (the Tyan Tiger one) and with AMD Opteron processor.

But before some time I was stuck with problem which is too big to be solved on my other machines (2.5 GB of RAM and a decent processor is required). The O2 has too small memory for that (not speaking about its 250 MHz CPU). A decent dual-processor SGI like Octane or small Origin 200/300 might be a possible solution but I still don’t have working one. My Lenovo laptop has also too litle memory and also a low-power (read: slow) CPU. I also thought about use my G5 iMac for this task. But its upgrade (there is only 768 MB of RAM at the moment) looked to be too expensive. So it preservedit’s role of the only allowed computer in our living room where it serves as a DVD/media player…

Thus I returned to the good old Ultra 20. I had to replace the GFX board (there was a pasivelly cooled Quadro 290, now there is something similar but with active cooler) and a CMOS battery. Then I added some memory (there was 512 MB from the factory, I later added a 2 GB and now I replaced everything with 4x1GB modules). So now I have a box with 4 GB of RAM and with a dual-core 2.2 GHz Opteron (it was upgraded from single-core 1.8 GHz a few years after I got the system). The price of the upgrade was very low (the GFX board was taken from an non-working machine and the memory cost noly a few bucks).

FEM results in Paraview

So I have returned my Ultra 20 to life. It’s only for a specific task and probably for a short period of time. It’s not as cool as Logout’s PowerPC/POWER desktops but it helped me a lot. For those who are curious about the operating system: it’s Ubuntu 12.04 with MATE desktop. It was installed because of my wife (the first Ubuntu here was Hardy Heron, I think) and I’m too lazy to replace it with something different. At the moment I don’t see a reason to replace it because it work for me. It’s a workstation not a playstation. πŸ˜‰

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Sun Ultra 20

5 thoughts on “Sun Ultra 20

  1. logout says:

    I have motherboard from Tyan with two dual-core Opterons 270 (That’s 4x 2.0GHz) and 12GB of RAM (At the moment, I bought 16GB over eBay, but two sticks were broken and it was cheaper to throw them away than to send them back to the USA. In fact – because the RAM has ECC, even broken stick is no problem, it works but Linux kernel still prints message “Memory error corrected” to the console, pretty annoying.)

    Sadly it’s impossible to find a cheap case for this beast as it requires either rack case or big-tower as it’s full-ATX (12×12″ or so) and therefore it sits in closet for more than two years, which is a shame. On the other hand – someone is selling similar (a bit older, not too much) boards with CPUs for 150CZK on Aukro right now and nobody is buying – probably even this space-technology is too obsolete for people of today πŸ™‚

  2. Your motherboard is even slightly better than our server that we use for structural computations (it’s only 2.4 GHz, the rest is the same, including 12 GB of RAM). Probably it has too little cores (just 4) for most people… πŸ˜‰

      1. logout says:

        I see you bought couple of them. When they arrive, let me know how they work /maybe with post here on blog? :-)/. I’m still hesitating to buy another, when I already have one without proper use, but it’s simply too cheap to let it go…

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