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Appendix F. Installing Linux on Sun SPARC Systems

By David S.Miller

The SPARC port of Linux supports a wide range of systems, from the very low end to the extremely high end. Most people who have a Sun workstation or server around and would like to try Linux on it are likely to find that it is fully supported and works rather well. There are some small gaps here and there, but development is closing them as time goes on.

F.1. Supported Hardware

Support for Linux varies not only by series but by subseries. All series except the Enterprise 10000 and ancient sun4 systems are now fully supported. Work is under way to bring the others into line. Symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) kernels run on all series except sun4c.

In addition to the systems listed in this section, several clone vendors exist. If their clones are truly compatible with the equivalent Sun systems, Linux will work on them.

F.1.1. Sun4c Systems

These systems are supported by both the 2.0.x and 2.2.x series Linux kernels:


These two sun4c systems have the motherboard right behind the monitor tube in the same encasement. I like to jokingly refer to them as "SPARCintosh" systems due to this layout. The SLC systems were the first Sun hardware ever to successfully run Linux.


These machines are enclosed in a small shoebox-like case and use an external monitor.

SPARCStation 1
SPARCStation 1+
SPARCStation 2

These were the first "pizza box"-style Sun workstations. They also introduced SBUS slots to allow for the addition of expansion cards.

F.1.2. Sun4m Systems

These systems are supported by both the 2.0.x and 2.2.x series Linux kernels. Multi-processor configurations are also supported:

SPARCServer 6xxMP

These systems have a mainboard with two sun4m CPU module slots and SBUS slots as well. A VME bus is present but Linux does not provide any support for VME devices at this time.

SPARCClassic X

These enclosures are much like the IPC/IPX sun4c systems, but inside, they have the sun4m architecture. The CPUs are on the motherboard and graphics cards are also integrated in this way.

SPARCStation 4
SPARCStation 5
SPARCStation 10
SPARCStation 20

The sun4m pizza-box workstations. The first two have the CPU on the motherboard, while the latter two systems have two sun4m CPU module slots. SBUS expansion slots are present in all four. The SS5 possesses a special expansion slot for graphics cards, such as the 24-bit TCX.

F.1.3. Sun4d Systems

These systems are supported only by the 2.2.x Linux kernels. As with the sun4m, multiprocessor configurations are supported:

SPARCServer 1000
SPARCCenter 2000

The only difference between these two is that the latter has more expansion slots than the former.

F.1.4. UltraSPARC 64-bit Systems

All the UltraSPARC-based systems mentioned here (with one disclaimer about the Enterprise 10000) are supported by the 2.2.x Linux kernel only. Multiprocessor configurations are fully supported.

The systems include two classes of I/O architectures, SBUS and PCI. The older systems use SBUS while the newer ones are all PCI based:

Ultra 1
Ultra 2
Enterprise 2

These are the desktop SBUS systems. The first two are uniprocessor only, whereas the Enterprise 2 can host two processors. All of them have SBUS expansion slots. The Ultra 2 and Enterprise 2 have a UPA slot for high-end Creator/Creator3d graphics cards.

Enterprise 3000, 3500, 4000, 4500, 6000, 6500, and 10000

These are SBUS servers. The Enterprise x000 family have a high-speed packet switched bus, into which I/O or CPU/MEMORY expansion boards can be plugged. The I/O boards each have three SBUS slots and some standard onboard devices (Ethernet, SCSI, and fibrechannel). CPU boards have two cpus and SIMM slots for memory.

The Enterprise 10000 is slightly different, in that each system board holds up to four processors, SBUS I/O systems, and memory SIMMS. Although support for this system has been written for the Linux kernel, it is untested, so I cannot claim that it is supported at this time. Systems with a base price of U.S. $1 million are hard to come by for testing.

Ultra 30
Ultra 60

These are PCI-based UltraSPARC workstations made by Sun. Both come in a tower case, have four or so PCI expansion slots, and have standard devices onboard, such as Ethernet and SCSI. Both also have a UPA slot for Creator graphics cards. The Ultra 30 is a uniprocessor, whereas the Ultra 60 can have up to two processors.

When Sun produced these workstations, it also produced a reference PCI UltraSPARC motherboard that OEMs could buy and resell with their own cases, disks, power supplies, and so on. This motherboard had an onboard IDE controller for disk storage instead of a SCSI.

Enterprise 250
Enterprise 450

These are Sun's PCI servers. They have more PCI slots than the UltraSPARC workstations and boast the addition of various environmental control (fans and temperature monitors) and the ability to diagnose remotely. The Enterprise 450 can also support up to four processors. Both systems use onboard NCR SCSI controllers for storage.

Ultra 5
Ultra 10

These are the PCI desktop UltraSPARCs. The Ultra 5 is in a more pizza-box-like enclosure, whereas the Ultra 10 uses a tower case. The Ultra 5 has one PCI expansion slot, the Ultra 10 has four. The Ultra 10 also provides a UPA slot for Creator graphics. The onboard storage I/O provided by both is IDE.

Ultra AXi
Ultra AXmp

Sun has also made two more PCI reference motherboards suitable for OEMs. The first is for workstations, the latter for rack-mount SMP systems. IDE is the onboard storage I/O for the AXi, while SCSI is on the AXmp. The AXmp has various environment control, fans, the ability to diagnose remotely, and support for up to four processors.

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