How to completely ruin a great piece of server kit (regarding the Sun X4200 M2)
Here’s how you do it. First, you take what is considered a pinnacle of x86 server design, the glorious x4200 where every single chip has been selected for maximum reliability and performance. Like, say, the quad on-board Intel Gigabit Ethernet chips. Then, you create a new revision called the x4200 “M2” and replace the first two Gigabit Ethernet ports with fscking NVidia NForce crap. That’s it. Done. You’ve just ruined it.
The Intel GigE chip and (perhaps more importantly) driver are considered the best across all operating systems. Whether it be FreeBSD, Linux, Windows, or Solaris, the Intel driver rocks. It’s understood. It performs. It’s reliable. People go out of their way to build systems with these chips. The Nvidia “nge” driver, however, is not exactly regarded as a top notch piece of software. Yes, I’m being polite.
Perhaps even more dramatic is what changing network chips does to OS driver profiles. I’m talking Jumpstart profiles. Kickstart profiles. Ghost images. Boot disks. In a bigger shop, now you’ve got re-qualify the machine, a process that might take weeks or months.
Come on Sun, this is the kind of thing that really pisses off sysadmins who know their hardware, and shops like ours where things are really standardized from top to bottom. We’re not going to keep wasting 2 days trying to get M2’s to PXEBOOT (also a change). We went through the entire stack, and it still isn’t working. To make matters more irritating, the change is mentioned nowhere on sun.com, the architectural whitepapers linked to from the site (about X4200 M2s) are now incorrect, and don’t get me started on the phone support. So we’re sending a stack of these back and we’re currently lighting candles in churches, praying that the x4100s don’t get screwed up as well. I mean can’t we just keep buying something again and again and again and again, and just have it work?