Sun SparcStation 5 / SparcServer 5


Sparc 5's came in 4 "flavors", 70Mhz, 85Mhz, 110Mhz, and 170Mhz. The first 3 are exactly the same machine, just with a faster CPU -- the 170Mhz used a different CPU type, and thus, actually has some compatibility problems with Linux.

If you're having problems installing Linux on a 170Mhz Sparc 5, there's a good reason. Most of the major Linux distributions don't actually support the 170, (Redhat in particular). One of the better workarounds however, has been to install Linux on a 70, 80 or 110Mhz Sparc 5 and then physically move the harddrive into the 170 after the install is done. Apparently, Redhat's installer doesn't like the 170, but after the install is done, RHLinux should work okay (there have been some reports of unstability). Also, I've been hearing that Mandrake Linux is supposed to work with the 170.

The 70, 80 and 110's use a microSparc processor made by Texas Instruments, but the 170 uses a Fujitsu TurboSparc, a completely diffent CPU. Of course, all the models work just fine with Solaris.

Hardware FAQ Info

SPARCstation 5
        Processor(s):   microSPARC II @ 70MHz or 85MHz, 57.0/64.0
                        SPECint92, 47.3/54.6 SPECfp92, 1352/1518
                        SPECintRate92, 1122/1295 SPECfpRate92
        Bus:            SBus
        Memory:         256M physical
        Architecture:   sun4m
        Notes:          16M standard in 70MHz model, 32M standard in
                        85MHz model. 8 SIMM slots, 8M or 32M SIMMs,
                        mixable except that any 32M SIMMs must be in
                        slots before any 8M SIMMs. Code name "Aurora".
                        Uses SCA connectors (see Misc Q&A #29) for
                        internal SCSI drives. Socketed CPU chip.

Downloadable Documents

All documents are PDF format and require the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

pdf Sparc 5 Service Manual. Contains full disassembly and configuration details for the Sparc 5 series in general.
540kb download.

pdf Sparc 5 Promotional Pamphlet Gives general specs of the machine series.
235kb download.

pdf Sparc 5 110Mhz Service Manual Contains full disassembly and configuration details for the Sparc 5_110 in particular.
547kb download.

The Aurora Chassis

Sun Sparc 5 All Sparc 5's share the same "Aurora" Chassis, which was also used for the Sparc 20, and Sparc 4 machines. These machines are identified by the purple triangular ends where the "feet" are. Between the rightmost purple foot and the top of the case is a power light. The left purple foot has holes in it for the internal speaker, which is mounted just behind that side of the machine.

On the left side of the machine is room for two, 1-inch-high SCA SCSI Harddrives (stacked ontop of one another), with the SCA connector providing power, SCSIbus, and setting the SCSI ID. The lower of the two SCA connectors automatically sets the ID to #3, which is the factory default boot ID. The top SCA connector sets the drive to ID #1. The right side of the chassis will hold a floppy drive and optionally a CDROM drive. The initial version of this chassis required a really custom 1-inch-high CDROM drive built by Toshiba (see photo), but later versions of the chassis slimmed the floppy drive in the lower part of the bay, allowing the use of a regular height CDROM drive. Also note that some folks use the CDROM drive bay to mount additional 50pin SCSI HDs instead, but you'd better have adequate cooling if you do so!

Note that, like the Sparc10, the Aurora chassis also has the power supply fans working "opposite" what would be normally expected. Rather than draw hot air out of the machine, the fans are mounted facing the component side of the motherboard. So the fans draw cool air from the right side of the machine across the power supply itself, and then blow the air out, over the CPU and motherboard, which is supposed to keep everything cool enough, and then out through the other side of the machine. As a result, you should be careful to provide space around the sides of the machine so that it doesn't overheat. If you have 2 HD's in the machine, you should probably figure out how to get an extra fan in there as the HD's are furthest from the fans and getting the least cool air.

There are 3 SBUS slots for additional cards, but no MBUS, so the Sparc 5 is limited to a single CPU per machine. Like the Sparcstation 4, the 5 came out *after* the Sparc 20, and was essentially the 20's "dumber brother" in that the chassis and powersupply were very much the same (with the exception that the 20 needed a second row of Sbus/Mbus slots in the rear).

And the Sparcstation 4 is the 5's "dumber brother" in that it only supports a single SCA HD, and has even less general expandability, although some people have hacked a lot of extras into the SS4. The SS4 also has a very nice built-in framebuffer, which almost makes up for it having just a single SBUS slot.

The SS5 Motherboard and Models

internals All Sparcstation 5's came with 3 SBUS slots, and a higher-speed bus known as AFX, which shared it's connection with SBUS slot 3, which also placed it furthest from the power supply. This bus seems to have been exclusively created for higher-speed graphics cards, a "sort-of AGP" that allowed the use of signifigantly faster and higher capability framebuffers, including a 24-bit model. While I've never actually seen or used an AFX card, they are rumored to exist. The AFX bus seems to have ONLY existed for the Sparc 5 series, no other Sparcstation or server of any model (that I know of) seems to have this connection.

Sun also marketed these same machines under the name "Netra" (Sun continues to sell new machines with this same name), which were preloaded and configured to act as web-servers, and didn't include framebuffers or keyboards. The package was sold as "set-up and ready to go" webservers.

jumpersSome SparcStation 5's come with socketed CPUs rather than the soldered-on CPU. As a result, these can be upgraded by changing the CPU, and then moving two jumpers on the motherboard which control the RAM timing. Simply changing these jumpers will NOT overclock the CPU, so don't bother trying (or, go ahead - prove me wrong!). Specifically, these jumpers control the memory controller wait states. Wait states are used to maintain the memory timing requirements of 60ns DRAM.

These socketed CPU machines can go from 70Mhz to 165Mhz with the Fujitsu TurboSparc Upgrade. Those of us with soldered CPU machines would have to swap motherboards. However, this does go to show the modularity of the machine that the same motherboard supported different processors (without the Mbus, this is practically a first for Sun).

To give the image here of the jumpers a frame of reference, my machine is set to 100Mhz (for the microSparcII at 110Mhz). Jumper "J0103" is on (1) while J0104 is off (0).

Sparc 5 Memory Jumper Config
Sparc 5 SBUS Jumper Config
div_ctrl /2
div_ctrl /3
div_ctrl /4
div_ctrl /5

J0105 and J0106 are on the other side of the CPU, near the floppy, SCSI and power connections. These jumpers set the "divide control" bits used by the microSparc II. Set a 70Mhz machine to divide by 3 to obtain an SBUS speed of 23.33Mhz. Set an 85Mhz machine to divide by 4 to obtain an SBUS speed of 21.25Mhz. Set a 110Mhz machine to divide by 5 to obtain an SBUS speed of 22Mhz.

rear Interestingly, I don't think the Sun manufactured 170Mhz machines use either of these sets of jumpers. What you set for the 165Mhz "upgrade" for the 70-110Mhz machines is unknown to me at this time.

Here's a parting shot of the machine, where you can more clearly see the AFX slot, just behind the SBUS slot, but in front of the RAM. Note how fairly uncluttered the motherboard seems - they could have put twice the computer in the same space.

The SparcStation 4, which would come a little later, would have a built in framebuffer on the motherboard, so Sun was thinking ahead by trying not to to stuff too much into the machine at once. Still, it would have been nice if they could have just built one all-around decent workstation instead of 3 completely differently configured and priced machines (SS20, SS5, SS4) based on the same chassis.

Still, the SparcStation 5 is a good compromise between the SparcStation 20 which is very expandable and powerful, but expensive, and the SparcStation 4, which was built as a very cheap workstation with limited expandability.

Table of Sun Sparc 5 Model Configurations
Model TypeSun Part NumberNotes
Sparc 5 70Mhz501-2286
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM, earlier revision CPU
Originally shipped with 16MB RAM, earlier revision CPU
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM, earlier revision CPU
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM, later revision CPU
Originally shipped with 16MB RAM, later revision CPU
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM, later revision CPU
Sparc 5 85Mhz501-2572
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM, 2.3/2.5 revision CPU
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM, 2.3/2.5 revision CPU
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM, 3.x revision CPU
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM, 3.x revision CPU
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM, 2.6 revision CPU
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM, 2.6 revision CPU
Sparc 5 110Mhz501-2778
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM
Sparc 5 170Mhz501-3059
Originally shipped with 0MB RAM
Originally shipped with 32MB RAM

A SparcStation 5 "hack"

The two following images are by Brian Hechinger who wrote on SunHelp, on Tuesday January 09 2001, regarding my "ultimate fan fack":
Hmm. i wanted to put faster drives in my sparc5 (Quantum Atlas, probably the hotest running frickin drives around) so i did something similar. not quite as elegant, since i had to put mine externally due to the limited clearance in a pizzabox. the downside, is this machine has to be on the top of the stack, but that's fine by me.

the case top has since been moved to a sparc20 since i made my sparc5 a firewall after i got the 20, so i didn't need the super speedy disks in it anymore.

here are some pics. taken with a super old, super crappy digital camera. i'll probably take more with my new diggy and put them up sometime, but i want to finish setting up my "computer lab" first.

the state it was in before the fans. notice the "extremely large cooling fan". it's actually on, but the camera has a pretty quick shutter.

here are two shots of it with the fan mods. almost looks like i just set them on, but there are actually holes and the fans are bolted down.
I've included these last two images below: