The start of a crazy journey: the SunFire V245

The first step in my crazy experiment to see if you can turn a Sun SPARC server into a workstation has been completed. Thanks to an incredibly generous donation by Jon Rushton, a reader from the UK, I’m now in possession of a SunFire V245 server (I did pay for shipping, of course). The machine has some serious specifications:

  • Two UltraSPARC IIIi 1.5Ghz processors
  • 8 GB of DDR1 RAM
  • Two SAS hard drives (73GB and 140GB)
  • Sun Raptor GFX graphics card (to be replaced by a Sun Quadro FX 3450)

The machine has plenty of room for expansion, as well as the usual server features like dual power supplies, lots and lots of fans that no doubt will be incredibly loud, hot-swappable drive bays, remote management ports, and so on.

In Jon’s own words: “What to say about me? I’m now the managing director of a financial software/services firm, who’s been a computer nerd since childhood – I grew up with Atari 8-bit & Amigas, and they are still a passion – over the last few years, caught the retrocomputing bug but for ‘big iron’ systems I used to lust after in the late 90s or work on in my job early 2000s. I’ve got numerous Sun Ultra/Sparc systems and SGI, HP PA-RISC, IBM iSeries, S/390 bits – looking for a DEC Alpha system for many years to complete my RISC collection! My top tip for these systems is to look at IT Disposal companies on eBay etc, although machines are becoming harder to find there are still bargains to be had as companies decommission early 2010’s gear.”

Since I’m still waiting on a few more accessories I needed to purchase in order to setup and use the server – a USB serial console cable and the aforementioned more powerful GPU – I can’t turn it on and use it quite yet. While we wait on those accessories to be delivered, I figured I might as well post a story in the meantime with a bunch of photos of the server.

A slot-loading DVD drive, and four drive bays.
From a prestigious London university to a sleepy town in the Swedish arctic. What a journey.
There’s a ton of servicing instructions all over the place, as is common with this kind of hardware.
That’s a lot of airflow. Steve Burke would approve.
The dual power supplies. They slide out effortlessly.
More than enough room for expansion.
The chest of the device, if you will.
And finally, the beating hearts: two 1.5Ghz UltraSPARC IIIi processors.

I have a lot of learning to do here, since the server world is not a place I have ever really visited. I’m going to make stumbles along the way, but the end goal is for this server to be a usable workstation – most likely running either Linux or BSD.

I can’t wait to get started.


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