SUMMARY: Running SunOS 4.1.4

From: Steven Aizic (
Date: Tue Feb 16 1999 - 18:45:10 CST

Greetings All,

I was wondering.. I heard that the most "powerful" Sun that you could run
SunOS 4.1.4 on was a Sparc Station 5.

Is there any truth to this? Has anyone gotten it to work on anything more
powerful? I'm specifically interested in installing it on an Enterprise
server. I want to trash 17 of our SunOS Sparc 5 servers and replace it
with an E4500 or something.

Thanks in advance. Of course - Will Summarize.

SUMMARY of answers: There were numerous responses, many conflicting. The
general concensus was that a Sparc 20 was the best server to run SunOS.
I have included all the replies below for those who are interested. Two
individuals replied that SunOS 4.1.4 will probably work on an E1000 and I
definitely intend to investigate this further.

The reason I can't switch to Solaris is because people here won't let me.
They refuse to port all their code with system calls etc. - so I was
hoping to replace all our SunOS servers with one, powerful server, and
that way I only have to administer 1 SunOS server instead of many.

Thanks to the following load of responses for their help:
You can't run SunOS on any of the new servers, AFAIK. But I'm intriuged.
Why don't you want to transition to Solaris for a server ? For application
machines, I can understand (I'm in the middle of deploying a bunch of
SS20s around the world to run a SunOS application) but I don't see any
reason not to change to Solaris for a (or more) server(s), unless of
course your servers must all run some historical application - if so,
tough luck !
Hi, It seems that all "SUNsparc" based servers work under 4.1.x, but the
biggest is the E1000. I'm not sure that ULTRAsparc cpus are compatible
with SunOS 4. May I ask you the purpose of this ? A old project which
only works under 4.1.x ? or an allergy to solaris ;-)
Don't quote me on it, but a SPARCStation 5 is a sun4m architecture.
Common sense would dictate that SunOS 4.1.4 should run on any machine
that is a sun4m architecture. This would include SPARCStation 20.
However, once you get to the sun4u stations, I don't know if SunOS 4.1.4
has support for these. However, Sun might have a hardware upgrade that
might work.
Would it be too much of a problem upgrading to Solaris, since MOST
binaries will work unless they make certain system calls.
Hi Steven,
The most "powerful" Sun that you could run 4.1.4 would be a Sparc 20 with
dual Ross CPU's. 4.1.4 won't run on the Enterprise equipment.
We could offer you a Sparc 20 with dual 150 MHz CPU's which would be equal
to four Sparc 5's with 170 MHz CPU's as one way to consolidate. If you'd
like to upgrade your OS to a 2.x or 7 we have great pricing on E4000's...
You can also run SunOS 4.1.4 on the SPARCstation 10 and 20. They're
nominally "bigger" than a SPARC 5 (actually, a SPARC 10/20 with a pair of
150 MHz HyperSPARC modules would probably give a SPARC 5 a good run for
it's money). But that's about it, SunOS doesn't run on any of the new
Ultra SPARC based "big iron".
You could run it on a sparc 20, but that's the absolute top end.
Beyond that, switch to solaris. Unless you've got some unsupported
legacy application that won't run under solaris, you'll be much happier
with the performance, overall.
This is just a guess, but you probably could run 4.1.4 on a 6xxMP
You cannot run SunOS on anything that has an Ultra Sparc Chip.
More or less correct; the machines that boot SunOS 4.1.4 are limited
to sun4, sun4c and sun4m kernel architectures. The most powerful
systems supported are probably the MP HyperSPARC (MP SuperSPARC is not
supported and doesn't work for all workloads)
No chance to get it to work on anything Ultra.
Solaris 7 is heaps better than SunOS 4.1.4
I believe 4.1.4 supports SS10 and SS20 as well as the SS5 (and older).
4.1.4 was "end of lifed" long before the Enterprise boxen were designed,
so it doesn't have the hardware support to run one of those systems.
'Tis a very great pity; I think Solaris 2.6/2.7 is just getting back to
being as fast as 4.1.4 was.
That's not correct. The most powerful Sun on which you can run SunOS
4.1.4 is a SS20-151, which contains a single 150MHz Ross HyperSPARC CPU.
More powerful Sun clones exist that can run SunOS 4.1.4, including a
beefed-up four-way SS20-derived system with 200MHz Ross HyperSPARC CPUs.
It will not run on any Enterprise server. All UltraSPARC systems require
Solaris 2.x.
What are you doing on those 17 servers? Why are you tied to SunOS 4.1.4?
Good so see Sun still feels the need to mislead people about what 4.1.4
supports. You're fortunate you're running it on Sparc5s. I've honestly
ran into people who insisted to me that it couldn't run on anything faster
than a SPARC *2*. Even if you didn't get the info from Sun, whoever told
it to you had to get his "facts" from somewhere. Anyway, on with the
Upper Bounds of 4.1.4: 4.1.4 will never run on any of the ultra class
machines, Sun chose not to ever port it that far. The fastest you're
going to see it running on these days would be to upgrade a Sparc20 to
multiple HyperSPARC-200mHz processors. Ross has gotten out of the game,
but they're still available from many VARs. Ross also sold their own
SPARC line for a brief period, but the higher end ones had some problems
and again, Ross seems to have gotten out of the game.
Actually, I think there were some HyperSPARC modules that had as many as 4
cpus per, which would mean 8 in a sparc20. It would mean slowing down the
individual cpu speed, but would allow many more processes to be running,
of course.
Depending on the speed of your Sparc5s, either of those options might work
well. You might also be able to track downsome "turboSPARC" upgrades for
the Sparc5s. You'd still be running on Sparc5s, but at 160Mhz (cpu swap)
or 170mHz (board swap from Tatung, or try Sun) you can give the old SunOS
boxes a nice boost in performance.
If you're just serving NFS, you could of course go with an Auspex. It's
pricey, and runs apps relatively slowly, but does run Auspex's version of
SunOS and as such fits into a SunOS network transparently.
The E1000 *might* run SunOS, depending on when it was released, but I
haven't worked with it to know. It's been EOLd, but you might be able to
find a used one, or a VAR might have one leftover. You'll need to do some
research as to whether it'll run SunOS, but be warned: Most System
Administrators and even quite a few Sun employees have been brainwashed
into assuming 4.1.4 can't run on any multiple CPU machine, etc... The
party line has become Solaris 2, so you're not only on your own with
4.1.4, you're going to be encountering a lot of people believing they're
helping you with misinformation they may honestly believe. If someone
says it doesn't work, ask them how they know. (Don't be rude, of course
The simplest criteria to check if things run 4.1.4:
        1) no ultraSPARC. Whether it could have been ported or not, Sun
        chose not to do so.
        2) was it sold before Solaris 2.5 was released? That is, did 2.4
        support it? 4.1.4 was released between the time of 2.4 and 2.5,
        so if they can run it, 4.1.4 can quite possibly run on it.
This was 1994, but it's rather surprising how much hardware was around
You cannot run SunOS on any Ultra systems for sure. You *may* be able to
get away with SunOS on a Sparc20 but I'm not certain.
I think it will run on a Sparc 20 and know it will run on a 10 but I doubt
it will run on anything much higher.
Hi Steven, The most "powerful" Sun that you could run SunOS 4.1.4 on was a
Sparc Station 20. No Enterprise server will run SunOS.
No. I'm happily running 4.1.3_U1B on original SS10's, and SS20 clones,
including a multi-CPU SS10 (unsupported config in SMCC-ese). Ultras,
however (i.e., the sun4u kernel architecture), are right out.
The last machine that Sun sold that was capable of running SunOS 4.1.x was
the SPARCstation 5/170. Sun no longer sell it.
Depending on whether ROSS ever made a dual HyperSPARC 200MHz module, the
fastest thing you can run SunOS 4.1.x on is a SPARCstation 20 with two
ROSS 200MHz modules in it. If they're dual-CPU modules, that gives you an
aggregate of 800MHz....
Anything with an Ultra in it will not run SunOS 4.1.x.
Well... I have never laid my hands on an SS5, and I don't remember the
specifics, but I believe that an adequately equipped SS20 (or clone)
with, say, 2 or 4 x 200 MHz HyperSPARCs must be somewhat more
"powerful" than even the hottest SS5, and this is, AFAIK, as far as it
goes. Forget about SunOS 4.1.x and Ultras; it will not happen.
  But then, a 20-MP is by no means a crawler; its CPU performance is
roughly equivalent to an Ultra-2 model 2170 (2 x 170 MHz). I don't know
for sure how it measures up in other areas such as I/O bandwidth etc.,
but it will certainly not be anything close to an E4500...

                                  Steven Aizic

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