(May 6, 2010)
At one of my customer sites, I have a pile of Sun X2200-M2 systems. After a recent move where the pile was moved from one location to another, I started having problems with a couple of them. One which had been reliable started throwing recoverable ECC errors in one DIMM. A second one started throwing unrecoverable ECC errors. Two others, which had not been used up until now due to power and heat constraints, were powered on and they too started throwing recoverable ECC errors.
With the first one, removing the suspect DIMM and its partner resolved the issue. The second one was dead, it would loop-reboot and after shuffling RAM around it eventually refused to POST completely.
The other two seem to be exhibiting an issue where these errors are not really errors. When I looked into this a couple of years ago, the answer was "this is not an error, update your BIOS". So I naturally thought that before I start killing myself over this possible non-error, I should update the BIOS.
So as you can see I have a link to Sun's collection of Systems Handbooks
. And under EOL'd systems, I can find the handbook page for the X2200-M2
. From there, there is a link to the listing of available BIOS versions
So far, so good, but here's where it gets strange.
I clicked on the latest version, and was prompted to log in. (This led to all sorts of unrelated hilarity involving multiple clicks on a password reset, grey listing, and my inability to type properly.) After logging in, I get told:
I get told that I need a valid, current support contract to make this download.
Wait, what? I didn't need one the last time I wanted a BIOS update.
I need a valid, current support contract to download a BIOS update?
I have… let's see. I have 13
of these X2200-M2 computers in my pile. Plus 4 or 5 Sunfire v20z computers, a V240, a SunFire 220R, plus a couple of well-loved Ultra-10 computers. At other sites I have had Ultra-5 and Ultra-10 systems, 220R and 240Rs, Ultra-60s, stacks of v60x plus assorted v65x and storage arrays. One customer still has several tables full of fifteen-year-old Sun systems, all running well. I have personally been responsible for the selection of Sun x86 computers being installed over Dell or HP systems at a couple of other customers. Given the choice, I pick Suns.
After all that -- I need a valid, current support contract to download a BIOS update
Sun has been a company in transition for a while. Up to Solaris 7 or 8, you could go to Sun and download the latest Security or Recommended patch clusters. More recently, the clusters were unavailable if you didn't have a contract. However the individual patches were still available, even if the dependency hell of patches made them effectively useless for all but the most dire situations.
I watched with some amusement the April Fools Day announcement that Oracle was buying Sun. It turned into the ultimate prank, in that it was actually true.
Oracle has since announced that the only support you can buy for Solaris is the full-bore solid-platinum level. The followed THAT up by saying that you needed a support contract to legally run Solaris after the 30-day evaluation period, and followed THAT up shortly thereafter by announcing that the only way you could buy
the only supported contract level was if the Solaris was running on Sun hardware.
They have left OpenSolaris in limbo, since the promised April 2010 release of the OS will most emphatically not happen in April. And nobody seems to know (or if they do, seem unwilling to say) what the immediate future is , or exactly what the fate of OpenSolaris will be.
Combine this with making basic support files like BIOS versions unavailable without
the only supported contract level… Making it impossible for me to keep older Sun gear in service definitely reduces their functional long-term value, something we will remember when we are making decisions about new computers.
It makes me think that Oracle has changed Sun's passive-aggressive customer support into official customer hatred. I don't think they could have picked a better way to kill off the low-end of their market. Alienating the hobbyists will just drive them elsewhere, to Linux and the various BSD flavors. And if the hobbyists don't know Sun and Solaris, it won't sneak in to companies the way Linux does.
Put it all together and Sun/Solaris is only viable if the project can stand a stiff, stiff budget hit. It will be exceedingly rare in future that I will be able to justify going with Sun for… well, for anything
Goodbye Sun, thanks for the memories.