Linux vs. Solaris on Sun Opteron hardware

Discussion in 'General Server' started by mek42, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. mek42

    mek42 Member

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    The short story is I'm looking into getting a used Sunfire v40z to use mostly as a large memory workstation. Is there any advantage in running Solaris on it, or is Linux just as valid a choice?

    Would both OS be able to equally access the on-board systems monitor PPC?

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  2. DevynCJohnson

    DevynCJohnson Well-Known Member Staff Member Staff Writer

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    Even though I am a big fan of Linux, I cannot deny that Solaris would be the best choice as far as hardware compatibility and performance. If you had other concerns, then maybe my answer would change. Generally, if the hardware was made by Sun-Microsystems/Oracle, then Solaris would be the best choice.

    Linux would work well, but the BEST system would be Solaris. You can still use either one and get excellent performance. Overall, I think your personal taste for the one you like best would be your greatest answer.

    What are you planning to do with the computer - gaming, graphics design, web-browsing, writing, etc.?
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  3. mek42

    mek42 Member

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    A medium length answer to: Why?

    I have a bunch (for a private individual - I'm pretty sure I could break 24 Gb with enough DIMMs, not sure if I have enough for the full 32 Gb that the v40z supports) of 2 Gb ECC Reg DDR (1) sticks from when I ran a personal (small (tiny)) Beowulf when I was a grad student. I want to put those all in one workstation to have a bunch of RAM. Two of my Beowulf nodes use 4 matched speed single core Opteron 8xx CPUs, so I started looking for quad socket 940 main boards that I could stuff in a full tower.

    Searching the used market yielded some v40z systems not too dear (though anything needs to wait until we sell our old house, so I should probably start by moving as much RAM as I can to one of the node machines and get started with that).

    What I plan to do with the thing (other than supporting my local utility)

    The driving force that is getting me closer to having an active Linux box rather than wistfully thinking that Linux is nice is that a) my daughter is now 2 years old; b) we want to homeschool her; and c) I want to pass on a basis of problem solving skills to her (see aside, below), which I believe to be related to programming ability.

    So I'll want to do some programming again to get my skills up again. I also want to learn at least the rudiments of parallel programming, as it seems we have reached the limit of serial performance, though I'm content at this point to limit myself to one box parallelization - getting MPI to work was tedious when I setup my Beowulf.. My academic background is C and C++ and I taught myself enough Fortran to make a trivial contribution to a computational chemistry project, but right now I'm trying to learn a bit of python, though I'm not yet at a point to know whether python is thread aware.

    Lastly, I applied a utility that allows my Windows Dwarf Fortress executable to use more than 2 Gb of RAM and then saw my system performance plummet - having more than 20 Gb of RAM available to a single process (via Opteron memory sharing) would mean I could run a much larger fort while using my windows machine to read the DF wiki while playing.

    Aside: Why I think problem solving ~ programming skill

    Until about three years ago I was a chemist. Then I adjuncted at the local community college for a couple years and now I'm starting a new career as an industrial hygienist. While teaching, my biggest challenge was how to teach general problem solving skills to my students who for the most part were pre-nursing or other health technician. I was under no illusion that my students would be using most of the chemistry we covered on a day to day basis , but I did want them to walk away with some sort of system that could be generally applied to solve problems they might encounter, as it seemed that general problem solving was a universally low priority during the precollegiate preparation my students had, recent high school grad and nontrad alike.

    In the middle of my teaching career, my wife became pregnant. Homeschooling had been an interest for some time, now the concept became real, as it were, and one of the things I began to contemplate was how I obtained my own problem solving skills. Upon reflection, I decided that a possible major differentiation between myself and many of my peers is that I was but a class or two shy of an academic minor in CS. So, I figured that learning to program probably assisted in the development of problem solving skills.

    So, in hopes that programming will positively influence problem solving skills, I want my daughter to learn to program. We plan to homeschool, I will be coving the STEM side of the plan, so I need to hone apply the angle grinder to my own programming skills so I will be able to cogently pass them on in a few years.
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  4. DevynCJohnson

    DevynCJohnson Well-Known Member Staff Member Staff Writer

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    Okay, then I think Solaris would suit your needs better, unless you prefer Linux better.
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  5. ryanvade

    ryanvade Administrator Staff Member Staff Writer

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  6. ryanvade

    ryanvade Administrator Staff Member Staff Writer

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  7. Unix Guy

    Unix Guy New Member

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    Solaris is a poor choice for anyone starting off these days. It's a dying OS and support costs money. Therefore your used equipment will not get updates unless you pay Oracle.

    Additionally, the Solaris Desktop is terrible. For an individual user, Linux offers so much more and accelerated productivity. You wont waste hours to find out how to do every simple step.

    Centos or Ubuntu will serve you much better than Solaris.

    Best Wishes
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  8. DevynCJohnson

    DevynCJohnson Well-Known Member Staff Member Staff Writer

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    Even though I like Solaris (and its derivatives), I cannot disagree with you on any point.
  9. MikeyD

    MikeyD Active Member

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    While I, and many, would most likely prefer Linux (hell this is a Linux forum o_O) I think the biggest issue will be hardware compatibility. I know a lot of distros will "phase out" support older hardware that is not used as much any more, and the free Linux distros may not include support for enterprise-level hardware like this.

    Just from the Wiki:
    Unfortunately getting updates from "supported" Linux distros will also cost money. I'd agree your best bet is most likely CentOS since it should maintain the same hardware compatibility of RHEL 6.
    I'd be very surprised if you didn't hit more issues trying to run a Debian-based distro though. Might just be my opinion, but Debian distros seem more geared for personal use and home PC hardware whereas Fedora-based distros are more compatible with enterprise systems.
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  10. bragr

    bragr New Member

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    I would not recommend using Solaris. I had to learn Solaris about 18 months ago to manage a couple of NFS boxes, after working with Linux for years. I thought it would very straightforward what with my Linux experience, as well as having used a few other *nix over the years, but this was not the case.

    First of all there is not a good source of documentation. There are a bunch of detailed Oracle docs, but those tend to extensively document arguments and things like that, rather than show how it all fits together. They have also removed a lot of the Solaris 10 docs in favor of Solaris 11, and a lot of documentation and forum posts were lost when the Sun sites were taken down. There is also a lot of old documentation that is outdated floating around, but you won't realize it until you are halfway through setting something up and a system command isn't found. The openSolaris distros are also starting to fragment somewhat, so documentation for one, won't necessarily work for another, and all of them are based on 10, so and 11 docs are hit and miss.

    Secondly, you will probably run into all sorts of small frustrating compatibility problems. Sure it supports all common things like Python, until you want to use a fairly common module like psutils, which isn't supported. You will almost certainly find bugs in 3rd party software as well, because the platform is not well tested owing to the relatively low install base. I found myself spending most of my time working around small, but time consuming, issues like this. There are also some other small annoyances like the 'watch' command not existing.

    In short: don't use Solaris unless you have another reason to learn it. I doubt you will run into major compatibility problems with Linux, but I don't have that hardware so YMMV.
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