Feeds

Sun suffers UltraSparc II cache crash headache

So do users

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

Sun Microsystems is advising support staff not to let on to clients that problems they have with its kit might be due to a wider year-old technical problem.

The surprising advice from the hardware giant covers problems involving a processor fault that can cause certain Sun servers, particularly those with 400MHz UltraSparc IIs, to crash without warning. Servers with 450MHz UltraSparc II processors are also affected, but to a lesser degree.

Our sources within the hardware giant tell us that staff are working under "orders" not to tell customers that any failures they experience could be part of a wider problem, involving cache memory on its UltraSparc II processor. The fault results in random parity errors which can force a server to shut down.

"Apparently the design [Sun's] is fine, but the execution [which was outsourced] leaves a little to be desired. Result, system crashes [or in Sun lingo system panic]. In the best case, system panics re-starts and you never see the problem again. Worst case boot-loop," our informant tells us.

"It has gotten to the point that just about the first thing we ask [users] is 'what speed processor do you have', and one system panic isn't enough for us to do something about it."

The problem came to light over a year ago and was widespread enough for respected analyst firm Gartner to advice users to try to stay clear of 400MHz, 4MB cache UltraSparc II microprocessor modules, which are the focus of concerns. Instead it advised users to pick 400MHz, 8MB cache UltraSparc II microprocessor modules.

At the time Sun admitted there had been quality issues with Static RAM (SRAM) on some 400MHz CPUs, and quality control problems with the fibre-optic controllers. Sun said the problem was due to components supplied by a third-party, and that it had changed its supplier.

Sun's line since then has been that few of its customers were affected by the issue and in any case the problem has now been solved.

However Sun published a best practice guide on "Addressing: E-Cache Parity Errors" in October 2000, which has been leaked to The Register, that suggests the problem is not as far in the past as it would like to say.

This states: "Some customers have experienced intermittent external cache parity errors which can be caused by a faulty component (SRAM) that is overly susceptible to a number of factors. These factors can include temperature, humidity, slot, process running, noise and ionizing radiation that occurs naturally in the environment."

Throughout last year Gartner reported that 60 clients have experienced problems with the bug on many of their Solaris servers. It reported that UE10000 with more than 36 CPUs and the UE6500 with more than 20 CPUs seemed to be particularly susceptible to the problem.

The UltraSparc III processor features a mirrored cache and is immune to the problem, although high-end servers using the chip are not expected to ship until the second half of 2001, at the earliest. ®

Related stories

Lights go out on UltraSPARC III supply
Sun debuts UltraSPARC III and embraces copper

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Kaspersky backpedals on 'done nothing wrong, nothing to fear' blather
Founder (and internet passport fan) now says privacy is precious
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Facebook, Google and Instagram 'worse than drugs' says Miley Cyrus
Italian boffins agree with popette's theory that haters are the real wrecking balls
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Sit tight, fanbois. Apple's '$400' wearable release slips into early 2015
Sources: time to put in plenty of clock-watching for' iWatch
Facebook to let stalkers unearth buried posts with mobe search
Prepare to HAUNT your pal's back catalogue
Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79
An era disrupted by the advent of the PC
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.