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Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!neat.ai.toronto.edu!rayan
From: ra...@ai.toronto.edu (Rayan Zachariassen)
Subject: Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Message-ID: <89Apr9.160219edt.38129@neat.ai.toronto.edu>
Organization: Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 89 16:02:06 EDT

Whether in the short or long term, we are looking at the high-end SGI
boxes as compute servers and timesharing boxes.  In this context we are
totally uninterested in their graphics aspects.  I'd like to hear from
sites that are already doing this, if any, with any comments about this
kind of use of the SGI boxes.  I'm especially interested in comparisons
with other systems prior to purchase, and differences between expectations
and reality after you got the box in.  I gather these things have just
started shipping so the field is probably still meagre...

In order to get technical details out of the local salescritter we have
to ask specific questions, so I'd also like some general answers to the
following to get us going:

Our major worry (in the fine SGI tradition...) is with the software, in
particular we consider any System V based box to start out with a negative
(this is our reality not our religion).  We understand SGI is committed to SV.
Does this mean they will track AT&T SV releases directly, or that whatever
SV-based OS that MIPS comes up with will shortly appear on the 4Ds?

The filesystem is a worry.  We're happy it isn't SV but unhappy at the
apparent gratuitous incompatibility with the BSD F^nS.  Our tools are
unlikely to work, right?  It also seems like a less robust design.  Will it
go away in favour of something else that is largely compatible with
F^nS ((Fat)Fast File System)?  I note that MIPS ships FFS with their
rice-computer OS, how come SGI seems to be waiting for SVR4 to do the same?

During testing on the personal iris, some anomalies showed up that could
be explained by the scheduler or VM being tuned for a single-user workstation
environment.  For example running a certain (non-graphics) program would
cause lost ether packets and horrible response time on the iris, but the
same program is apparently wellbehaved on other machines.  Similarly, logging
out of the PI causes lost packets.  Anyone experienced similar anomalies
on the 4D/2xx?  Anyone using them for timesharing?

How does the fine-grained multiprocessing support (threads libraries, compiler
support etc.) differ qualitatively from other implementations (MachOS,
Sequent, Encore, Sun)?

Can one use a 4D to serve root and swap for a SunOS 4.0 workstation?

How is the hardware reliability on the 4Ds?

Any other pertinent comments from customers are welcome.  The kind of
configuration that is of interest is a 4D/240S with minimal extra stuff
(small SCSI, cartridge), to which we'll add the storage subsystem w/ a
few gigs of disk.  Users would have access via the ether.  In the
timesharing application we would want to potentially support at least
twice the work our Sun4/280Ss are being asked to do (which is 30 users
+ 30 workstations, mostly light activity but occasional developers and
long-running and/or large jobs) which it does well when it works.

Please REPLY BY MAIL!  I will summarize if interesting info appears.

Thanks,

rayan

AI/NA/Theory, DCS, U of Toronto

Path: utzoo!attcan!uunet!lll-winken!csd4.milw.wisc.edu!bionet!ames!pasteur!
ucbvax!AERO4.LARC.NASA.GOV!blbates
From: blba...@AERO4.LARC.NASA.GOV (Bates TAD/HRNAB ms294 x2601)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re:  Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Message-ID: <8904101656.AA16000@aero4.larc.nasa.gov>
Date: 10 Apr 89 13:56:12 GMT
Sender: dae...@ucbvax.BERKELEY.EDU
Organization: The Internet
Lines: 13


     If you are not interested in graphics, why buy a SGI machine?
Buy something from anybody else, it is bound to be better, cheaper,
and better supported than a SGI machine.
     Do you not like UNIX or just System V in particular?
--

	Brent L. Bates
	NASA-Langley Research Center
	M.S. 294
	Hampton, Virginia  23665-5225
	(804) 864-2854
	E-mail: blba...@aero4.larc.nasa.gov or blba...@aero2.larc.nasa.gov

Path: utzoo!attcan!uunet!cs.utexas.edu!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!ucbvax!
AI.TORONTO.EDU!rayan
From: ra...@AI.TORONTO.EDU (Rayan Zachariassen)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re: Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Message-ID: <89Apr10.092727edt.38134@neat.ai.toronto.edu>
Date: 10 Apr 89 13:27:16 GMT
Sender: dae...@ucbvax.BERKELEY.EDU
Organization: The Internet
Lines: 13

Because if one ignores the graphics then the boxes become a competitive
hardware platform for general purpose computing.  SGI keeps thinking of
themselves as a graphics company (at least that's the reaction we get from
high-ups when they see our lack of interest in the graphics).  This is a
pity because with the right OS they could make a killing in our kind of
market.  To answer your second question, UNIX is indeed the right OS, but
System V in particular is NOT.  If (say) a multiprocessor 4.3+BSD ran on
the 4Ds and competitive hardware price was maintained, they'd be the only
game in town for us.  We even frown on berkeleyized SV because the admin
stuff is different, but I guess we can live with it if we have to.  If there
is a future 4BSD-mips release, I'd love to see a port to the 4D platform.

rayan

Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!mailrus!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!
ucbvax!adt.UUCP!madd
From: m...@adt.UUCP (jim frost)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re:  Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Message-ID: <8904101515.AA13178@adt.uucp>
Date: 10 Apr 89 15:15:28 GMT
Sender: dae...@ucbvax.BERKELEY.EDU
Organization: The Internet
Lines: 61

>     If you are not interested in graphics, why buy a SGI machine?
>Buy something from anybody else, it is bound to be better, cheaper,
>and better supported than a SGI machine.

The high-end 4D machines have very good price/performance even without
the graphics (so do the Personals but without graphics new offerings
from DEC etc are better apparently).  If they beat other systems in
price/performance (they beat quite a few), then the graphics is just a
bonus.  Operators can play flight while waiting for backups :-).

Seriously, I believe that a properly tuned/configured 4D/2xx would
make a fantastic multiuser machine for the money.  The biggest problem
is the lack of serial ports, which can be fixed by either a cheap
machine as a front-end or a standalone terminal server such as
encore's annex box.  Exactly how well this will perform is up in the
air; all of our SGI machines are obviously tuned to work
single-user/single application and perform rather poorly if you break
these constraints.  I haven't looked into correcting this because we
generally have one user, one or more machines.

Since the machines are mostly SysV and are intended to be
workstations, there are some real problems with using them as
multiuser:

	* 'tar' is not a backup program, no matter who thinks so.  We
	  copy entire filesystems between machines for redundancy and
	  back up from one of the Suns, but our data space is less
	  then a half-gigabyte in general, not the case on large
	  multiuser machines.

	* SysV "ps" is too painful to use when managing a system with
	  lots of things running.  Someone ought to build an "sps".
	  Funky shell scripts could fix this but when you need to know
	  what's going on, you usually are in too much trouble to
	  waste that kind of time and resources to find out (eg some
	  idiot accidentally spawned two hundred jobs and filled the
	  proc table; never done it myself :-).

	* There are several programs (ftp has given me trouble in the
	  past) which don't clean up utmp correctly, bothersome but
	  not fatal.

	* The filesystem does not appear to be BSD FFS, something
	  which becomes an issue real fast with a lot of users.  It
	  doesn't have the 14 character bugaboo that bothers me so
	  much though.

	* If you use Sun's yp, you're in for a lot of fun.  It's not
	  the default for getpwent etc.  Aside from the problems that
	  caused, we've had few problems with it.

	* The graphics is not in the least bit secure.  Neither is
	  anyone else's that I've worked with.

That's all I can think of at the moment.  Some of the above may have
been fixed; the OS version we use on most of our 4D's is out-of-date
and we've yet to see an update.  I'd be interested in hearing about
performance if someone has tuned a 4D for multiuser.

jim frost
m...@bu-it.bu.edu

Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!mailrus!nrl-cmf!ames!sgi!...@patton.SGI.COM
From: j...@patton.SGI.COM (Jim Barton)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re: Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Summary: A Few Answers
Message-ID: <30349@sgi.SGI.COM>
Date: 10 Apr 89 18:24:36 GMT
References: <89Apr9.160219edt.38129@neat.ai.toronto.edu>
Sender: dae...@sgi.SGI.COM
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc., Mountain View, CA
Lines: 137

In article <89Apr9.160219edt.38...@neat.ai.toronto.edu>, ra...@ai.toronto.edu 
(Rayan Zachariassen) writes:
> Our major worry (in the fine SGI tradition...) is with the software, in
> particular we consider any System V based box to start out with a negative
> (this is our reality not our religion).  We understand SGI is committed to SV.

Sounds like religion - for SGI it's commercial reality, as it is for every 
other successful computer vendor.  Oh well, why tilt at windmills?

> Does this mean they will track AT&T SV releases directly, or that whatever
> SV-based OS that MIPS comes up with will shortly appear on the 4Ds?

IRIX != UMIPS.  We are committed to tracking AT&T releases.  IRIX currently is
at V.3.1, with V.3.2 late this year.  We will implement V.4 as expediently
as possible.  We will also consider any major OSF/1 feature which adds value
to the system.

> The filesystem is a worry.  We're happy it isn't SV but unhappy at the
> apparent gratuitous incompatibility with the BSD F^nS.  Our tools are
> unlikely to work, right?  It also seems like a less robust design.  Will it
> go away in favour of something else that is largely compatible with
> F^nS ((Fat)Fast File System)?  I note that MIPS ships FFS with their
> rice-computer OS, how come SGI seems to be waiting for SVR4 to do the same?

Why worry?  The SGI ExtentFileSystem is >faster< than the BSD FFS.  For
instance, on the Jim Barton extra-special-whizzy single-and-multi-process
blow-out-the-buffer-cache benchmark (substantiated by the AIM II disk 
benchmark and other tests), UMIPS 3.0 FFS on the M/120 runs about 15% slower
than IRIX 3.0 EFS on the >exact same hardware<.  And we've put alot of work
into EFS since the 3.0 release ...  As to robust, it also duplicates
superblocks, has cylinder groups, bitmaps and the like, but it can use
>all< your disk fairly effectively (try that with FFS!)

I'll be happy to send you a copy of the benchmark, as well.

> During testing on the personal iris, some anomalies showed up that could
> be explained by the scheduler or VM being tuned for a single-user workstation
> environment.  For example running a certain (non-graphics) program would
> cause lost ether packets and horrible response time on the iris, but the
> same program is apparently wellbehaved on other machines.  Similarly, logging
> out of the PI causes lost packets.  Anyone experienced similar anomalies
> on the 4D/2xx?  Anyone using them for timesharing?

Main problem is with the window manager, which is pretty heavyweight.  For all 
that nice display and all, it takes lots of memory, which has to be fought
over with the application you are running in a limited memory system.  If
you really aren't interested in graphics, don't start the window manager,
and the performance will be very good (you >said< server, right?).  Try
running your same application on a Sun 4 with NeWS and 8Mb of memory (assuming
you can get Sun to sell you one) and amuse yourself with the results.

As to the lost packets, I believe that this bug is fixed in the latest
release available to the field.

> How does the fine-grained multiprocessing support (threads libraries, compiler
> support etc.) differ qualitatively from other implementations (MachOS,
> Sequent, Encore, Sun)?

Its better, of course! :-).  The thread implementation has been published in
USENIX proceedings, etc..  It provides a much more natural model for multi
threaded applications than any other model I know of.  We also support
a layer of synchronization using spinlocks and semaphores that religiously
avoids kernel interaction.  Remember that syncrhonization latency is the
chief problem in getting high performance from fine-grained parallelism.
On top of this are some of our primitives, plus the Sequent m_* routines
for simple parallel programming.

In the environment, we support a multi-process asynchronous debugger which
works on normal and "threaded" processes (Sun, Mach don't!).  The profiler
handles a threaded process correctly.  All this is integrated with the normal
high-performance MIPS compilers.

> Can one use a 4D to serve root and swap for a SunOS 4.0 workstation?

I assume so.  We are currently at NFS 3.2, so if that's all it needs, it
should work.

> How is the hardware reliability on the 4Ds?

Reliability is good.  We publish a demonstrated MTBF number for all machines.
PowerSeries products are rated for at least 6000 hours.

> Any other pertinent comments from customers are welcome.  The kind of
> configuration that is of interest is a 4D/240S with minimal extra stuff
> (small SCSI, cartridge), to which we'll add the storage subsystem w/ a
> few gigs of disk.  Users would have access via the ether.  In the
> timesharing application we would want to potentially support at least
> twice the work our Sun4/280Ss are being asked to do (which is 30 users
> + 30 workstations, mostly light activity but occasional developers and
> long-running and/or large jobs) which it does well when it works.

You may want to buy the storage from us.  We currently support >10Gb of
storage on a single machine through large-capacity SMD drives.  Since 4
processors with twice the power of a Sun 4 are in the same box, I would
think the load you describe would be easily handled.  In my lab, we use 
a 4D/120 with 2 extra processors (an "unofficial" 4D/140).  We have a
150Mb SCSI cartridge, 9-track, E-net, etc.  The disk configuration, from
/etc/motd, is:

Maddog 4D/140S  IRIX 4D-3.2A (Alpha 7)
ASD Compute/File Server

===============================================================================
CDC Sabre 9720-1230 1.2Gb SMD  xyl1d1s0	/
                               xyl1d1s6	/usr		build tree
Fuji Eagle 2351	    400Mb SMD  xyl1d2s1	/usr/tmp
                               xyl1d2s6	/f		user data
Toshiba MK156FB	    156Mb SCSI dks0d1s7	/e		MIPS source
Fuji Eagle 2351	    400Mb SMD  xyl1d0s7	/d 		user data
Hitachi 514-38	    380Mb ESDI ips0d3s7	/g		user data
Hitachi 512-17	    150Mb ESDI ips0d0s7	/vme0		BRL, MIPS bench
Hitachi DK514C	    380Mb SCSI dks0d2s7	/vme0/jmb/other	user data
=======================> 3.1 Gb and counting <=================================

This machine is used by > 30 workstations and lot's of users, performs as
a build machine, as well as supporting our development environment, with lots
of NFS filesystems, constant E-net traffic and more.  Since a 4D/240 is twice
as fast as this machine, you should have no problems.

> Please REPLY BY MAIL!  I will summarize if interesting info appears.

I thought the net might be interested in the quasi-official SGI answer.

> Thanks,
> 
> rayan
> 
> AI/NA/Theory, DCS, U of Toronto

My pleasure.

-- Jim Barton
Silicon Graphics Computer Systems    "UNIX: Live Free Or Die!"
j...@sgi.sgi.com, sgi!...@decwrl.dec.com, ...{decwrl,sun}!sgi!jmb

  "I used to be disgusted, now I'm just amused."
			- Elvis Costello, 'Red Shoes'
--

Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!mailrus!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!
ucbvax!adt.UUCP!madd
From: m...@adt.UUCP (jim frost)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re: Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Message-ID: <8904111520.AA05578@adt.uucp>
Date: 11 Apr 89 15:20:09 GMT
Sender: dae...@ucbvax.BERKELEY.EDU
Organization: The Internet
Lines: 48

>In article <89Apr9.160219edt.38...@neat.ai.toronto.edu>, ra...@ai.toronto.edu 
(Rayan Zachariassen) writes:
>>We understand SGI is committed to SV.
>
>Sounds like religion - for SGI it's commercial reality, as it is for every 
>other successful computer vendor.

DEC?

Seriously, not every vendor who supported SysV was successful, nor
(more to the point) does every successful vendor support SysV, even
throwing out those companies who don't care about UNIX at all.  Most
of the very successful vendors support SysV but add a lot of the BSD
functionality -- job control and sockets are the biggest ones; almost
everything else just affects performance.

>We will also consider any major OSF/1 feature which adds value
>to the system.

I don't think you'll see anything in OSF/1, which is going to be
pretty vanilla IBM AIX; OSF/2 is supposed to have a lot of new
functionality but that's vaporware for awhile.  I'll be surprised to
see OSF/1 out before this time next year no matter what the official
word is.

>The SGI ExtentFileSystem is >faster< than the BSD FFS.

Could we get some info on your benchmark?  I'm particularly interested
in how each FS was tuned.  I tend to believe the results considering
the FS throughput our SGI's have, but tuning can be everything.  I'd
also like to know what you do to keep fragmentation down when the FS
fills up; I'm curious.

Our biggest complaint about SGI performance is that it degrades
substantially over time.  I'm fairly certain that this is a VM problem
since it happens with every large application I've run, including some
which have pretty clean usage and do *not* have this problem under 4.3
BSD.  The system returns to its former spunkiness after reboot.  I
might expect that it's related to 4Sight except that logout/login
doesn't correct the problem.

Speaking of 4Sight, it would be very useful to some people if SGI
would provide a method of accessing graphics without the window
manager.  4Sight eats up a lot of memory ("heavyweight" as you say) as
well as some graphics resources (particularly bitplanes) which
applications could make use of.

jim frost
m...@bu-it.bu.edu

Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!mailrus!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!
ucbvax!pasteur!ames!sgi!...@patton.SGI.COM
From: j...@patton.SGI.COM (Jim Barton)
Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
Subject: Re: Experiences with 4D/2xx as timesharing systems?
Message-ID: <30513@sgi.SGI.COM>
Date: 12 Apr 89 15:14:12 GMT
References: <8904111520.AA05578@adt.uucp>
Sender: dae...@sgi.SGI.COM
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc., Mountain View, CA
Lines: 35

In article <8904111520.AA05...@adt.uucp>, m...@adt.UUCP (jim frost) writes:
> Could we get some info on your benchmark?  I'm particularly interested
> in how each FS was tuned.  I tend to believe the results considering
> the FS throughput our SGI's have, but tuning can be everything.  I'd
> also like to know what you do to keep fragmentation down when the FS
> fills up; I'm curious.

Send me some personal mail and I'll send you a copy of the benchmark I used.
The test was done on a clean filesystem on both, with no other activity
going on.  Both systems were "stock" as delivered from the manufacturer.

> Our biggest complaint about SGI performance is that it degrades
> substantially over time.  I'm fairly certain that this is a VM problem
> since it happens with every large application I've run, including some
> which have pretty clean usage and do *not* have this problem under 4.3
> BSD.  The system returns to its former spunkiness after reboot.  I
> might expect that it's related to 4Sight except that logout/login
> doesn't correct the problem.

I've never seen this; do you have any quantitative data?  What release are
you running?  Our big server (maddog) is a multi-user machine running builds,
etc., all the time.  We've never seen it slow down over time.  If this
really happens, I really want to fix it!

> jim frost
> m...@bu-it.bu.edu


-- Jim Barton
Silicon Graphics Computer Systems    "UNIX: Live Free Or Die!"
j...@sgi.sgi.com, sgi!...@decwrl.dec.com, ...{decwrl,sun}!sgi!jmb

  "I used to be disgusted, now I'm just amused."
			- Elvis Costello, 'Red Shoes'
--

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