• Please review our updated Terms and Rules here
  • Exhibitor application for VCF West 2022 is now open! If you are interested in exhibiting, please fill out the form here.
  • Here are the results of the VCF East 2022 Post Event Survey: Survey Results

Opinions on Sun workstations and HP 9000 series.

Opinions on Sun workstations and HP 9000 series.

  • Sun workstation

    Votes: 12 70.6%
  • Hp 9000 series.

    Votes: 5 29.4%

  • Total voters
    17

Mario9501

New Member
Joined
Mar 23, 2017
Messages
9
Location
Utah US
Hello everyone I am trying to decide if I want to get a sun workstation or a HP 9000 series workstation computer and I wonder what others opinions are on them.

-Mario
 

tipc

Banned
Joined
Jan 16, 2005
Messages
2,760
Location
Principality of Xeon W-2140B the Great State of Ce
I just acquired a headless 9836u, and have some familiarity having used them 10,000 years ago in a techy job. I've wanted one for a long while, got this one for peanuts. The lack of a monitor isn't a big deal, but the lacking functionality makes it hard to speak well of it. I'll fix it eventually. Maybe you're thinking of other models though.

Suns, the ones you're likely to run into, are a much later product. You could cut your teeth on unix being they run a variant called Solaris. I had an ultra 5 years ago. Kind of get a hankering for an ultra 10 or 60 tower now and again.
 

commodorejohn

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2010
Messages
3,133
Location
California, USA
Both are old computers, both are neat. The early (68k, pre-RISC) 9000s were positioned as general-purpose "scientific computing" type workstations and have a variety of operating environments available; Suns AFAIK were *nix from the get-go. The big problem with most early 9000s is their use of HP-IB for connecting mass-storage peripherals; if you don't get one old enough to have an integrated floppy drive or new enough to have a built-in SCSI controller, you're gonna need to source some kind of HP-IB storage device to go with it.
 

g4ugm

Veteran Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2011
Messages
2,719
Location
NorthWest England (East Pondia)
Which is better depends. There used to be lots of free stuff for SUN but last time I looked lots had gone behind paywalls. I think SUN has better community support...
 

whartung

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2020
Messages
553
I guess it depends on what you're trying for.

HP were pretty "all HP all the time". Later Suns migrated to more mainstream, common components (for example the Sun Ultra used IDE drives, and would work with a standard VGA monitor).

For example, the Sun Blade 100 was pretty much a "PC with a SPARC CPU". Pretty much everything else was commodity.

The farther back you go, naturally, the more proprietary, more "industrial" it gets in terms of peripherals and parts.

So, it depends on your goals.
 

Eudimorphodon

Veteran Member
Joined
May 9, 2011
Messages
4,403
Location
Upper Triassic
Older Sun machines like the 32 bit Sparcstations and early Ultras are, or at least used to be, good machines for running NetBSD on; whether that would be of any interest to the OP is an open question.

Frankly I can't recommend any low-end Sun machine for running Solaris; the OS is painfully slow on any single-CPU machine. And this isn't just a comment about how they feel today, the low-end Ultras like the Ultra 5 (which is otherwise an interesting machine for collectors because it accepts IDE hard drives and VGA monitors without adapters) were dogs when they were brand new; I had a job for a while that included pulling them out of the box and dropping them on desks. Running an alternate OS like NetBSD or Linux they're "fine", maybe a little faster than a contemporary Intel CPU at a similar clock.

And, yeah, the other thing that kind of sucks about Solaris is because Oracle technically still cares about it and revoked Sun's attempt at open-sourcing it when they bought their carcass it's kind of a hassle to lay hands on it (and get updates for it) legally, if you buy a Sun that's actually new enough for that to be an issue.
 

Chuckster_in_Jax

Veteran Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2006
Messages
1,348
Location
Jacksonville, Florida
The big problem with most early 9000s is their use of HP-IB for connecting mass-storage peripherals; if you don't get one old enough to have an integrated floppy drive or new enough to have a built-in SCSI controller, you're gonna need to source some kind of HP-IB storage device to go with it.

You can use a PC compatible computer and hard drive in place of an HP-IB drive.

https://www.hp9845.net/9845/projects/hpdrive/

Install a national Instruments HP-IB interface card (not too hard to find) into the pc, attach an HP--IB cable between the two and you have a reliable hard drive for the HP system.
 
Last edited:

Chuckster_in_Jax

Veteran Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2006
Messages
1,348
Location
Jacksonville, Florida
Are you looking for an older (slow) system or a high powered workstation?

HP had the Visualize workstations that were nice and Sun had the Sunblade series. Both with graphical interfaces and a good choice of software.
 

Eudimorphodon

Veteran Member
Joined
May 9, 2011
Messages
4,403
Location
Upper Triassic
Sun had the Sunblade series. Both with graphical interfaces and a good choice of software.

Just remember that the Sun Blade 100 and 150 are different animals from all the others. They had Ultrasparc II CPUs and ran very little faster than the previous Ultra5/10. They're probably preferable to them because they don't require Sun's proprietary keyboard and mouse, you can run them with normal USB peripherals (although technically you *should* have the Sun keyboard, or else you'll be missing a few keys), but don't pay "exotic" prices for one. They're essentially SPARC-powered eMachines.
 

Unknown_K

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2003
Messages
8,507
Location
Ohio/USA
I stuck a bootable UWSCSI card and drive into my Sun Ultra 5 and maxed the RAM to make it more usable. People did complain about the slow IDE in those back in the day (ATA/33?). Snagged the last version of Solaris for sparc (boxed with the last updates) shortly after I got it many years ago but I think I ran BSD on it. I think I also had Star Office for sparc as well. Anyway that is the only SUN I bothered to get.

The 68K HP's would be nice but those are probably rare at this point and you would want the correct keyboard, mouse, and monitor for them (good luck).
 

ClassicHasClass

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2013
Messages
1,572
Location
Sunny So Cal
I like my PA-RISCs, but that's nostalgia talking, since my first job out of college was on a HP 9000 K250. I wish I could think of something useful to do with the C8000 I have rotting in the server room, though its power draw makes my G5 look thrifty.

The 68K 9000s are built like tanks, though. It is easily my "biggest iron."
 

JonB

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2014
Messages
1,638
Location
South Coast, UK
I have an Ultra 5 in a 10 case with a meg of RAM. It's reasonably snappy running Solaris 8 and OpenWindows desktop. I also have an IPX Classic (without floppy drive, alas) and that is a bit of a slug. As mentioned the Ultra has IDE and VGA; the IPX is SCSI and Sun proprietary video connector (as a result of this, I had to keep the HUUUGE Sun monitor. At least it's a Trinitron, if a little blurred). I am concerned about the drive itself as it is due a meltdown. Maybe it'd run faster with a SCSI2SD card.. that would make an interesting experiment!

I think the most annoying thing about Solaris is that it does not come with any compilers out of the box. That's right, not even C! But despite all the OS software disappearing (behind paywalls? Why? Who's going to pay for it?), I did find one site where I could download a version of g++ for it. Took ages to set up and configure but it is working.

Both machines needed the NVRAM fix, which in my case meant open heart surgery on the chip to get at the battery connectors, then piggy backing a button cell holder on top. Not elegant, but works.

Sorry about the ramble. I've no experience with the HP machines so I can't opine on the relative merits of them vs. Sun boxes. But I did use HP UX and OpenWindows professionally for many years, and I can say that the Sun / OW combo feels identical, albeit slower.
 

lowen

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2014
Messages
1,495
Location
Western North Carolina, USA
I've used Sun workstations and servers for a long time, and have quite a bit of UltraSPARC hardware, including a small quantity of the 'Panther' board, which puts a 'better than Ultra 10' UltraSPARCIIi on an ATX-compatible board. I even have some of the very hard to find PS/2 keyboard and mouse port brackets. The Panther (501-4559) board is a nice board that fits a standard case.

I have a couple of larger SunFire machines, a V480 and a V490. I think the V490 has four CPUs (two CPU/memory modules), and the V480 has two CPUs (one CPU/memory module) and I think they're both 1.5GHz. These machines are quite heavy. I also have a smaller V240, but it is pretty heavy, too, about the same as a Dell or HP server of the same size (V240 is 2U)

$dayjob has a few larger Enterprise series machines, an Enterprise 5500, an Enterprise 6000, and an Enterprise 6500. The 5500 and 6500 are in the full-height Sun rack, and the 6000 is in the shorter mid-height rack. The 6500 was last run about five years ago with a Fedora 12 install on 16 400MHz (501-4995) CPUs and 20GB of RAM. These require a 30A 208 or 240 VAC single-phase circuit; a lot of electricity for less real power than my Dell R710 (12 cores (two six-core Xeons) with HT (24 threads) and 96GB of RAM with two much smaller regular PC-style IEC C13/C14 receptacle/plug pair.

But they are fun machines to play with.
 

bifo86

Experienced Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2015
Messages
127
Location
Virginia, USA
As I recall from my Sun tinkering days a long time ago, the CDE desktop was horribly slow compared to OpenWindows (CDE being created by HP where OpenWindows was an in-house Sun project) on an IPX, but I still have a soft spot for the little Sun lunchbox computers because I remember being a teenager who had to get a ride from mom to the local unix group to borrow a 411 CD drive from a grad student. I later bought a 411 CD and an external 811 hard drive and had it running 2.5.1 with one of the ridiculously huge trinitron monitors in my bedroom. I miss the early days of ebay.

That being said, the Sun 13w3 video connector was common and vga converters are cheap and plentiful, as I recall the company that caused the most trouble with their 13w3 was SGI.

With regards to the poll, I haven't ever laid hands on an HP workstation so I won't vote, but the 9000 series has a lot of variation and are very interesting while the later post-Apollo workstations were very much 90s unix workstations and I'm not sure what was done with them for the most part. I've never been sure of what HP's niche was back then, because IBM was just carrying on as IBM with AIX and their fortune 500/government consumers. Sun was general use unix workstations, DEC was academic and scientific, and SGI was of course the graphics computer.
 

bifo86

Experienced Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2015
Messages
127
Location
Virginia, USA
I recalled that there was an existing HP 98x6 series emulator floating around out there, which emulates the first generation 68000-based HP 9000 series computers with the HP-IB and which are quite common, but they can't run Unix:
https://sites.google.com/site/olivier2smet2/hp_projects/hp98x6

It appears the author was working on a 9800/300 emulator which was the one that ran HP-UX on a 68020 with an MMU, but no updates for quite a long time: https://sites.google.com/site/olivier2smet2/home/hp200-300

He's the author of a lot of emulations of classic calculators that run on a framework he built, he puts out some for free with it but most of them you have to pay for so I think he abandoned the 9000 series emulations a long time ago, the 98x6 emulator seems to have been released in 2011.
 

ClassicHasClass

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2013
Messages
1,572
Location
Sunny So Cal
but the 9000 series has a lot of variation and are very interesting while the later post-Apollo workstations were very much 90s unix workstations

Strictly speaking, those are 9000 series too (the PA-RISC Gecko pizzabox is a 9000/712).
 

paul

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2004
Messages
808
Location
New Zealand
I have a 9000/735 and SUN Ultra1, IPC and SparcClassic. The SUNs are consistently well designed and of very good quality. This particular HP is of the older design that are expensively constructed, it cost over US$40k new, much more than the SUNs.

Some other HP models are of a clamshell construction and seem flimsy in comparison, e.g the 715. The HP has a coin battery for the clock and won't give you any RTC replacement issues as the SUNs do. It's easier to find an OS and software for the SUNs but I think HPUX is more refined and looks more professional, plus I have NextStep installed which is entertaining. The SUNs have a composite-sync RGB display output while the HP has SoG RGB. The SUNs use a weird resolution which doesn't natively match 1280x1024 LCD displays, so looks slightly blurry.

I don't use any of these however, they're just for display and reminiscing but all work perfectly.
 

commodorejohn

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2010
Messages
3,133
Location
California, USA
There are a number of Sun display adapters that do support 1280x1024 (or even higher.) It's just the earlier cards and the 1MB base-model versions of the later ones that are limited to the weird in-between resolution.
 

Eudimorphodon

Veteran Member
Joined
May 9, 2011
Messages
4,403
Location
Upper Triassic
There are a number of Sun display adapters that do support 1280x1024 (or even higher.) It's just the earlier cards and the 1MB base-model versions of the later ones that are limited to the weird in-between resolution.

Credit where credit is due, 1152x864/870/900 is a really smart resolution. It's almost exactly a "Megapixel", fitting 1-bit monochrome in 128k and 8-bit color/gray in 1MB with almost nothing left over. 1024x768 is only 3/4 megapixel and 1280x960/1024 is just a little bit too big. I used to run it myself in the mid-1990s on Windows and Linux because it was *the* way to go to wring the maximum utility out of one or two meg video cards.

I consider it underrated in the same way 64x16 text modes are today; that was a really popular format on the first generation of personal video systems for a bushel of good reasons. (It fix *exactly* into 1K of memory, address counting logic was a little more convenient since each line was an even binary number, etc.) Alas, yeah, no modern monitor scales 1152x864 well.
 
Top