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Re: looking for a server

On 6-Apr-08, at 2:43 PM, Miles Nordin wrote:
"gw" == Greg A Woods; Planix, Inc <woods%planix.ca@localhost> writes:

   gw> I will further concur that in general an AlphaServer is still
   gw> a very decent platform for NetBSD,

fine, but in addition to the known problems with IDE on some models
please also remember that threaded programs do not work.

Proof please. Threaded programs work just fine for me, albiet I've yet to upgrade any of my Alpha systems beyond the netbsd-1-6 branch.

Also, the last straw for me was that ddb and gdb do not work reliably
any more, to do simple things like backtraces on kernel core dumps, so
when your kernel does panic, it's much more difficult for what
interested NetBSD developers there are to help you with the problem
than it would be on a different platform.

Again, on netbsd-1-6, and with gdb6 from pkgsrc, I've had relatively few problems. There were some major deficiencies with gdb on Alpha, but gdb6 improved things quite a bit.

The problem was never really isolated, but people stopped complaining
about it:


It sounds like a pretty obvious problem, so i think people would
complain about it if it were still around.  OTOH it was amazing how
few people complained about it back when it existed---for a problem
that stuck around for >1.5 years, no one complained loud enough to
stop this poor guy from sinking >$30k into the platform, and then
running it, with known severe problems, at 10Mbit/s.  That's, um,
_bad_.  I don't have the problem, but that could be because I don't
use IDE any more, or because the few devices I do use (tlp, QLogic
ISP) are fixed but in general the original problem is not fixed.

If you pay attention to the details you'll often find that the unfixed devices _CANNOT_ be fixed. Many are broken by their very design. Too bad, so sad. Use what works.

I can "ping -f" over 6500pps through to my little old PC264DP using tlp(4) with a DECchip 21140 pass 1.2. That seems pretty decent to me. Alphas don't seem to handle interrupts so well, and/or kernel/ userland transitions seem to be fairly expensive too, and so trying to run a busy DNS cache on an Alpha doesn't work so well.

If you expect generic PC crap to work in an Alpha, particularly in an AlphaServer, the you've got another thing coming.

Crap hardware designed for crappy PC systems break engineering standards left, right, and centre all the time. No surprise there really.

Just because Alpha systems might not stoop so low as to implement the many workarounds and compromises often necessary to host many third- party hardware devices doesn't mean there's something wrong with them.

The same goes for Sun servers too, BTW. There's a reason why people pay a premium for Sun-branded and Sun-approved add-on hardware. It has been vetted by their engineers to work properly on their systems.

These days I'd probably choose amd64-based systems if I need 64-bit support, but that's only really because the price/performance ratios for even new amd64's is far better than any used deal for Alpha systems. Midrange, used, AlphaServer gear seems to be getting more expensive at the moment, not cheaper, and anything mid-ranged to high- end of that era is very expensive to operate in terms of power and cooling requirements. If a user can find a good used AlphaServer in the size range they need, and for a decent price, and they're comfortable with the way one must service and support a discontinued system, then it's still a good choice.

The future of RISC-style 64-bit probably lies in POWER and PowerPC, as well as UltraSPARC, but NetBSD support is still very lacking on most of the current platforms offering any of these processors. Sometimes that's due to the manufacturer being stingy with documentation, sometimes it's due to their being careful about how older used machines are re-sold, and of course there are many other factors as well. With full SMP support on more modern Sun servers finally making its way into NetBSD, at least one more 64-bit platform with a hopeful future is looking promising.

                                        Greg A. Woods; Planix, Inc.

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