Introducing the Ultra EPYC AMD Powered Sun Ultra 24 Workstation

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The Ultra EPYC Build

This was one of those projects that seemed fun, but could easily have taken a turn for the worse. The process was very straightforward.

Ultra EPYC Assembly Complete
Ultra EPYC Assembly Complete

The motherboards were quite similar in their layouts since they are both ATX and both designed more like professional workstation assemblies rather than gaming assemblies.

Sun Ultra 24 Motherboard Assembly V Ultra EPYC Assembly
Sun Ultra 24 Motherboard Assembly V Ultra EPYC Assembly

Likewise, the Sun team used a surprisingly nice 530W 80Plus ATX power supply which meant that the EVGA SuperNOVA 1kW G3 unit was a drop in replacement. The EVGA G3 may put out almost twice the power, but it is only marginally longer and has modular cables which make installation much easier.

Sun Ultra 24 PSU V Ultra EPYC EVGA PSU
Sun Ultra 24 PSU V Ultra EPYC EVGA PSU

Storage in the Sun Ultra 24 utilized 3.5″ hot-swap bays that are frankly more evolved than many consumer cases today. Our Solaris 10 OS was installed on a Seagate ES.2 7.2K rpm SATA drive. We opted to replace this with a 380GB Intel Optane M.2 SSD.

Sun Ultra 24 250GB Hard Drive V Intel Optane M2
Sun Ultra 24 250GB Hard Drive V Intel Optane M2

This SSD we utilized a heatsink to keep the device cool. We also affixed it directly to the motherboard.

Gigabyte MZ01 CE0 Using Intel Optane 905P 380GB M2 SSD
Gigabyte MZ01 CE0 Using Intel Optane 905P 380GB M2 SSD

Sun utilized a standard ATX I/O faceplate, so we were able to retrofit this easily.

Ultra EPYC Rear IO
Ultra EPYC Rear IO

If you look at the size of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, it is amazing to see how far we have come in the last twelve or so years since our CUDA 1.1 Quadro FX 1700 was a viable option.

Sun Ultra 24 NVIDIA Quadro FX 1700 V RTX 2080 Ti
Sun Ultra 24 NVIDIA Quadro FX 1700 V RTX 2080 Ti

The add-in card area was a challenge. The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is so long that it only fits in one of the lower slots.

Ultra EPYC Add In Cards
Ultra EPYC Add In Cards

We added a Noctua NF-A9x14 fan to the front of the chassis. It was the only 92mm fan we had in the lab when we did the build. There was some custom mounting mechanism that we did not have the parts for since the donor Sun Ultra 24 did not have a fan here. Zip ties can fix almost all issues and they did here.

The “beauty mark” was retained, by putting a similarly minimal amount of effort to find a color matching part and using something black and ugly. Mission accomplished.

Ultra EPYC Beauty Mark
Ultra EPYC Beauty Mark

Finishing off the Ultra EPYC is the badging. We purchased a retail boxed AMD EPYC 7351P for the STH hosting cluster (yes if you are reading this, you are using AMD EPYC today.) The retail unit came with a case badge that is too big to fit on a standard 1U chassis. This case badge has sat for months looking for a home. Now, it found its spot right next to the Ultra 24 badging. STH is proud to bring you, the Ultra EPYC.

The Ultra EPYC Cover
The Ultra EPYC Cover

The Intel Core 2 Duo sticker was removed, and the Ultra EPYC is born.

Ultra EPYC Hero Three Quarter
Ultra EPYC Hero Three Quarter

Now for the challenges in the build, because not everything went perfectly.

28 COMMENTS

  1. This article was so well done. It was cool to get a history lesson as well.

    Hey you missed that the case has thumb screws 10 years ago.

  2. We ran datacenters full of Sun gear. They were arrogant but they also made so much technology we still use today.

  3. Thanks for the article. I enjoy these restomod builds. I personally fit modern running gear into old SGI chassis. I currently run a Threadripper in an SGI Fuel chassis and have an Octane ready to go an ITX build with Ryzen 3000 when it is released.

  4. I’m impressed with how accessibel this is. Bend one part. break something else and you’re using EPYC in this old case. It looks like your power button isn’t working either but you’ve got IPMI so you can reboot from your phone if needed.

  5. A $1550 CPU with 8ch ECC RAM?
    100Gb, 10Gb, 1Gb NICs?
    12.8TB SAS array and Optane?

    This is a Sun server not a workstation.

    Great PSU tips on p5

  6. The beauty mark comment was spot on. You’re showing why Sun was in decline and about to be sold to Oracle.

  7. I’m not gonna lie. STH is usually like the authoritative encyclopedia of content and this is totally not.

    But you’ve 100% nailed your demographic with this build. No RGB lights and a Sun logo. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read more than 2 or 3 pages on an article STH or other but I couldn’t wait to see more word for word.

    I just did a search for other Ultra 24 builds and there aren’t many. Maybe you’ve started something? I’m not going to cut sheet metal for a build, but bending a few bits I’ll do. I can’t wait until my interns this summer see a Sun box under my desk at work.

    That AMD easter egg was a 1 in a million find too as others pointed out.

  8. “Sun Ultra workstation families that are powered by the latest multi-core AMD… processors, and run virtually any OS”

    Fixed with EPYC by STH Mr. Fowler. #IRememberSun

  9. I love the thought process. You’re using IT SAS like SUN would with ZFS – no SAS RAID for that.

    Most people that do these are either gaming people or gaming people doing servers. It’s fun to see something that’s thoroughly modern with a nod to the past.

  10. Really nice, I worked on Sun workstations for many years and have found memories of Sun and Solaris. Solaris was unbreakable Unix, too bad Oracle abandoned it.

    Changing gears, man, if you really NEED such hardware in your workstation you must be doing some awesome stuff – and doing it all at the same time.

  11. Nice – I’d pop the black faceplate off and get rid of the white writing. Every port is USB3.0 so why label it? The white writing is a bit of a distraction, but then again I like discreet things.

  12. Having sentimental memories of a 1990 Sun Sparc Workstation that we used to get orbital parameters, if I recall correctly Byte Magazine at the time reviewing the 20MHz RISC based CPU making note of how a spark is the last thing a user would want associated with their computer, thus odd naming selection, am happy if not excited to see this effort to revive a mint condition, classic upright Sun workstation case with new innards.

  13. Actually, Oracle still supports Solaris and releases new versions every now and then even though there are not as many engineers working on it anymore.

  14. Well done! Would love to see a rebuild of a Sun Ultra 40 (M2)! The old AMD version before the Intel switch and the “beauty mark” but very different hardware layout (custom psu).

  15. I love the Sun workstation enclosures. If only someone would make generic enclosures that looked like that.

    Does anyone know if an EATX board would fit?

  16. I’ve been lurking at this site for a while now, and I really do appreciate the writing. There is one point of criticism though that if you would correct would be appreciated especially when one is doing a build. That item would be the cost breakdown of the build.

  17. where are you finding these machines for 100? 395 is the cheapest on eBay, please let me know where i can pick a few up for a cool Benjamin!!!!!!

  18. Hello:
    Great job! Very neat.

    I also have a U24, got it three years ago but for ~$300.
    It’s really great hardware, even by 2019 standards.

    I was wondering: could you tell me what BIOS version your “barn find’s” motherboard came with? =-)
    Thanks in advance,
    JHM

  19. I just finished the same swap on my Sun Ultra 20. I had to slightly file the holes for the PSU because of a slight misalignment, about 1/16″. Otherwise, it just dropped in. I’ll be replacing the IDE DVD Reader with a SATA DVD RW

  20. 1) Can you put a fan BEHIND the drive cage or is there metal that comes down which would render that idea useless?

    2) I’m surprised that your 100 Gbps Mellanox cards are only single port and not the dual port variant, especially given the fact that they’re PCIe 3.0 x16/x16 cards being inserted into a PCIe 4.0 x16/x16 slot.

    Either way, pretty neat though. It’s a nice looking box. Oracle should totally bring these back.

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