Feeds

Sun suffers UltraSparc II cache crash headache

So do users

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
'Internet Freedom Panel' to keep web overlord ICANN out of Russian hands – new proposal
Come back with our internet! cries Republican drawing up bill
What a Mesa: Apple vows to re-use titsup GT sapphire glass plant
Commits to American manufacturing ... of secret tech
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.