A few weeks ago, I got an itch to build a workstation with AMD EPYC. There are a few constraints. First, I needed a higher-clock part. Second, I knew the whole build would be focused more on being an ultra high-end workstation rather than simply utilizing gaming components. With that, I decided it was time to hit on a bit of nostalgia for our readers. Mainly, I wanted to do an homage to Sun Microsystems. Sun made the server gear that the industry ran on for years, and as a fun fact, if you go behind the 1 Hacker Way sign at Facebook’s campus, they left the Sun Microsystems logo. Seeing that made me wonder if we could do an ultimate AMD EPYC build in a Sun Microsystems workstation.
The “Barn Find” Sun Ultra 24
When picking a Sun platform for the Ultra EPYC, I wanted a Sun Ultra workstation. Sun Microsystems started in 1982, and was purchased by Oracle in 2010, making the company’s oldest products almost ten years old. I had various Sun Workstations over the years including the Sun Ultra 5 and Sun Ultra 10 about 20 years ago. Those were frankly too old.
The Sun Ultra 24, codenamed “Ursa”, was notable because that was the first Sun workstation to switch from AMD Opteron to Intel, namely with the Core 2 Duo. Since we are doing an AMD EPYC build, I felt it was a good choice to bring back to the AMD side. I also remember that this workstation had a small easter egg, and we found a system that indeed included what I wanted.
One of the cool things about being Silicon Valley-based is that tech happens here. A lot of servers and workstations are purchased, and a few see little to no use. I wanted to get as new of a Sun Ultra 24 as possible for the project. These are 12-year-old machines, so finding one without any signs of wear is not easy. After calling some of our normal sources, I found a Sun Ultra 24 that I immediately called the “barn find.” It still had original packaging including manuals and a Solaris CD.
The STH “Reviewber” delivery car carefully transported it home. I was so excited that unpacking did not even make it out of the trunk.
Of course, that meant not even getting it out of the trunk before the cover was popped.
Inside the box was a perfect Sun Ultra 24 system that had been powered up to an error, put back in the box, and not used.
The Sun Ultra 24 Easter Egg
If you just buy any old Sun Ultra 24 on ebay or Craigslist you may not get a complete set of documentation. Our barn find Ultra 24 had the complete set, including a letter thanking us for the purchase of an Ultra 24. If you recall, this was the first Sun workstation model to sport Intel CPUs after using AMD Opterons for generations. Here is the welcome letter:
As you can see (highlighted), Sun said its workstations included AMD Opteron processors, but the Ultra 24 actually had an Intel CPU. In our case, an Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 that ran at 3.33GHz. John Fowler, do not worry. Twelve years later, STH is here to put a proper multi-core AMD processor into the Sun Ultra 24.
This is a bit of trivia that you can tell your friends about.
Next, we are going to show off the 12-year-old donor system, and the glory that was Sun hardware. There are even some parts that modern workstations have not been able to replicate as well.