We’ve had the Sun Fire x4200 in the office for a few weeks now, and have been really coming to love it. So much so that we figured it was probably time to write a bit of a review about the box. The Sun box is around $10,000 CAD, and has
- 2 dual-core Opteron processors
- 8 GB of RAM
- 2 72GB SAS drives
- Sun’s glorious lights out system
I’m sure there’s other stuff in there but that’s kind of the key stuff.
So, we turned around and said, “What about Dell?” Sounds reasonable enough, Dell is known for making competitively priced server hardware. (We’re going to ignore for a moment, the countless suggestions we’ve been given that the Dell boxes are way less reliable than the Sun gear.)
For a comparably spec’d system (it’s a bit tricky when you’re looking at Opteron’s on one box, and Xeon’s on the other), it turns out that the dell box is perhaps a couple hundred bucks cheaper. ($200 or $300, I think). After having seen how well the Sun lights out manager works, my take is that the Sun box is worth the extra couple hundred bucks just for that. Add to that the stories we’ve heard time and again from other companies and their Dell hardware failure rate, and we’re pretty comfy with the notion that Sun’s no longer the expensive choice in the market.
One caveat: The x4200 does have a dead fan in it already… now it’s one of six fans, so it’s no big deal, but it’s still disappointing for a $10,000 machine.
Fedora Core. FC5 managed to install beautifully right out of the box. No wrestling with drivers, etc. to detect all the hardware (though in fairness, if you’re using an older Linux distro, Sun provides all sorts of documentation on what drivers, etc. you need to get to ensure it’ll install properly on the box). Even setting up Xen was just a few minutes of work, and all of a sudden we’ve got a quad-core box running a hypervisor for virtualization… and it’s been stable (no hiccups) since we powered it up.
What about performance?
Well we’ve been playing with it for a bit, and we’ve been pretty impressed there, as well. Unsurprisingly a quad-core Opteron box tends to be pretty fast. The only complaint we’ve had is that the Rails stuff we run doesn’t seem to work particularly quickly in 64-bit mode. I could be entirely wrong here, so any suggestions/advice on 64-bit Linux + Opteron + Rails, would be appreciated.
One thing that’s getting us especially interested, though, is Solaris 10. We quickly installed 64-bit Fedore Core on the box, since it’s been our production environment on all the other servers, but after having seen some of the network-stack performance numbers on Solaris, we’re thinking pretty seriously of running Nakama on Solaris 10 in the not-so-distant future.
So that’s it, there’s my review. It’s been a pretty great addition to the office, and we’re glad Sun’s Try and Buy program sent one our way. If you’re looking for a 64-bit, Opteron-based box to run either Solaris or Linux, we’d recommend it pretty highly.