Nixsys Public Access UNIX System

Information about the Nixsys PAUS servers:



The machines providing resources for Nixsys PAUS (Asche, Sombra, and Hoss) are DEC (Digital) AlphaServers, from the Rawhide family of computers, with 21164 Alpha CPUs, EDO ECC SDRAM, original DEC PCI adapters, and SCSI hard disk drives. The servers have 100Mbit connections to a switch, which eventually connects to multi-homed DS-3 lines on the backbone of the Internet. They also have a 100Mbit cross-connection to each other. The servers are housed in a climate / humidity / temperature / dust controlled colocation facility managed by the good folks at Waveform Technology. The following paragraphs provide some more information about the servers, their history, and thumbnail images, which are linked to larger, more detailed images.

The Grand Tour


AscheMeet Asche. "Asche" is a German word meaning "ashes" in English. This machine has been part of Nixsys PAUS since the beginning and does most of the work. This image shows Asche in its natural state, with the OCP text reading "". Asche was purchased diskless, with 256 MB of memory, and a single 533 MHz processor. It also came with S3 video, ethernet, Mylex RAID , SCSI , and FDDI adapters. The FDDI adapter was swapped for another ethernet adapter graciously given, along with two (2) others by Seacoast Digital Computers. The remaining two ethernet adapters were installed in Sombra and Hoss, allowing the machines to cross-connect via twisted-pair ethernet cables. Thanks to Seacoast Digital Computers and Waveform Technology for making cross-connection possible.

five spare fans from Bill BohrerThe original CDROM drive died and was replaced by one from Bob Reeves, who was so nice that he gave it to us along with four (4) others for only the cost of shipping them! Many thanks to Bob for his kindness. Another unit replaced the dead drive in Sombra and one is stored as a spare in the likely case that another unit fails. The two remaining drives were given to Bill Bohrer, another Alpha fanatic who gave a 533 MHz processor for Sombra. This will allow for the testing and development of MP kernel support for NetBSD/alpha. Bill also imparted us with five (5) spare CPU fans, in case of failure. Our immense gratitiude to Bill Bohrer.

Today, Asche is a DEC AlphaServer 1200, codenamed "Tincup". The server is populated with four 4.3 GB and three (3) 36.4 GB disks. With a single 400 MHz processor and 832 MB of memory, the server chugs happily along. Asche runs NetBSD/alpha as its OS and The NetBSD Packages Collection (pkgsrc) for all of its 1200+ third-party software packages. Other software packages have been submitted by users of the system.

Asche with front door openHere's Asche with the front door wide open. Inside are seven (7) SBBs housing the hard disks. The illuminated LED on the sixth disk indicates disk access.


SombraSombra is a DEC Server 5000 Model 5300 6400A, codenamed "DaVinci", and was purchased with four 4.3 GB SCSI hard drives, a single 400 MHz processor, and 320 MB of memory. Included were video, and dual-channel RAID and ethernet combination adapters. "Sombra" is a Spanish word, with one translation being "shadow" in English.

closeup of CPU daughter boardAround the time Bill Bohrer bestowed 533 a MHz processor to this system, another 512 MB memory was purchased and Asche and Sombra swapped processors. Memory modules were exchanged between both machines, resulting in the current configuration. This photograph is a closeup of the second processor daughter board installed in the server showing the processor, with fan assembly, and 4 MB of cache. The second memory riser was removed from the brown connector below the processor riser to make this shot possible.

view of Sombra from the backToday, Sombra is a dual 533 MHz processor machine containing three 9.1 GB disks and 256 MB of memory running NetBSD/alpha as its OS and The NetBSD Packages Collection (pkgsrc) for all of its third-party software packages. Sombra is not currently colocated in Waveform's facility, which will hopefully change in the future. Here's a shot of Sombra from the back, presenting its dual power supplies, I/O ports, video, FDDI, dual channel SCSI and ethernet combination, and second ethernet adapters.


Hoss at PSDSBehold the power that is Hoss. The name "hoss" seems to have myriad meanings, but in this case the intended connotation is "a big guy". Fitting indeed! Hoss weighs in about three hundred (300) pounds and has wheels. Hoss was shipped from PSDS on a palette and fork-lifted onto a truck carrying it to the test site. It took three to four people to lift Hoss on and off the truck between the test site and colocation facility. Here is Hoss during the testing phase at PSDS. Photo courtesy of Kent Ehrman.

Hoss with front door open at PSDSHoss with the front door wide open during the testing phase at PSDS. The three power supplies in the server provide a full N+1 power configuration. One power supply can fail and system operation will continue. Photo courtesy of Kent Ehrman.

HossThis machine's codename is "Dodge" and has been part of Nixsys PAUS since the April 8, 2005. This image shows Hoss in its natural state, with the OCP text reading "". To the left of Hoss is a rack housing much of Waveform Technology's equipment, including some colocation customers.

Hoss with front door openHoss with its front door open showing two sets of seven 9.1 GB drives. These fourteen (14) disks are divided into four logical volumes. Volume one is a two disk RAID0 set containing its OS. Hoss currently runs Tru64 UNIX. The other three volumes are RAID5: two sets of four disks and a set of three disks. The remaining disk is a hot spare, which can replace a failed disk during system operation.

backside of HossThis image shows the backside of Hoss. The four LEDs behind the ventilation grill are processor status indicators. Hoss contains four 466 MHz processors and 1 GB of memory. Below the server in the system drawer, is a unit containing seven physical disks and below that, a powerstrip.

Inside a Digital Server 5000 Model 5300 6400A

server diagram on the inside top cover
of SombraFor this example, we'll use Sombra, however, the AlphaServer 1200 is almost identical. The difference between these two models, other than the color, is that Sombra was designed to run Windows NT and not able to run VMS. This image shows the "cheatsheet" on the inside top cover of Sombra. A useful diagram to have.

inside top view of SombraAn inside view from the top of the machine. Top left-hand corner is one of two power supplies. Top right-hand corner is the CDROM drive and below that is another 5.25 inch space, currently empty. Below the power supply and to the left of the void is an underside view of a processor.

inside left view of SombraAn inside left view of Sombra showcasing it's dual processors, two memory risers, single 32 bit PCI slot, four 64 bit PCI slots, and single 64 bit PCI / EISA slot. The white data cable connects the SCSI adapter to the SCSI subsystem bus. On the right of the image, are two huge fans used to draw air through the unit.

inside right view of SombraHere's an inside right view of Sombra. To the right, are two power supplies, which share the load. In the middle, are power cables and connections to the SCSI backplane. The unit in the lower left corner is a SCA power terminator connected to the SCSI backplane. The server supports two of these connectors.

diskless Sombra showing SCSI backplanePictured is Sombra with all disks removed, showing the SCSI backplane. The white connectors couple with the backs of the SBBs shown in the next image. A very elegant, clean design.

Storage Building Blocks and blanksThis image shows three SBB canisters and four SBB blanks. The unit farthest left is a top view, while the one next to it is the underside. Sitting atop both of them is a view of the back, displaying the backplane connector. The blanks are used when canisters are not available to ensure proper air flow in the server.

closeup of memory daughter boardA closeup of a memory riser. The memory (3.3V) must be installed on the daughter boards in matched pairs, starting at slot 0 (closest to the connector and main board), larger pairs first. With the latest firmware, these machines can support up to 8 MB of memory. Memory on each board is not specific to its processor, but instead fully available to the system.

In the Colo

sign atop HossWhen Hoss was shipped from PSDS, it was packed with this piece of cardboard, separating the server from the front door, which was atop the machine. Being that our machines are the largest ones in the facility, a joke arose stating that Hoss would be the new workbench. Hence the sign.

Asche and Hoss togetherThis image shows Asche and Hoss, together at last, with an APC Symmetra to the left of Asche and a stack of 1U servers on the rack beside Asche. The Symmetra ensures power to machines in the facility should a power outage occur and is backed up by a diesel-powered generator.

Bill, the Symmetra, and AscheHere is a thumbnail image of Bill Wichers, UNIX System Administrator for Waveform Technology, leaning on the Symmetra. Notice Asche in the lower right-hand corner of the image. This should provide a sense of scale.

The MFLOPS benchmark

This rating of processing power may quite possibly be one of the most useless tests ever invented. However, the output is being provided for historical and / or hysterical reasons. Visit the home page of the flops.c project for more details.

nixsys% flops
FLOPS C Program (Double Precision), V2.0 18 Dec 1992
Module Error RunTime MFLOPS
1 2.8422e-14 0.1609 87.0016
2 2.5047e-13 0.0909 77.0230
3 -7.6605e-15 0.1543 110.1882
4 2.2771e-13 0.1618 92.7024
5 3.8858e-14 0.2612 111.0250
6 7.5495e-15 0.2070 140.0972
7 -1.1369e-13 0.2433 49.3229
8 1.2612e-13 0.2163 138.6794
Iterations = 128000000
NullTime (usec) = 0.0038
MFLOPS(1) = 85.4292
MFLOPS(2) = 79.2333
MFLOPS(3) = 103.9272
MFLOPS(4) = 123.0702
site driven by NetBSD: 
Multi-architecture OS

Additional Notes

The "site driven by NetBSD..." image was created by Savas Efstratiadis and taken from the Other NetBSD Logos page.

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