Sun LX50

Sun Microsystems LX50



Price: $2795.00 to $5295.00

Price varies depending on number of processors (1 or 2) and the amount of installed RAM.



  • Red Hat compatible

  • Restoration system works well

  • Serviceable design

  • Excellent performance


  • No redundant power supply

  • No hardware RAID

System Specifications: CPU: single or dual Intel Pentium III (1.4 GHz w/133 MHz FSB) with 512-KB Level 2 ECC cache. Memory: 256 MB (minimum), 6 GB (maximum). Networking: dual embedded 10/100 Base-T. Peripherals: dual channel Ultra 160 SCSI bays; two SCSI HDD bays; one CD and floppy or HDD bay; 36 GB and 72 GB SCSI drives supported; two 64-bit/66-MHz PCI slots (one full size and one low profile). Ports: two RS232 RJ45 connectors (one front accessible); four USB ports (two front accessible); SCSI 68-pin connector; PS/2 mouse/keyboard connector. Video: ATI Rage XL; VGA Video.

After a long wait, Sun Microsystems has made it clear that they’re adopting Linux in a big way. Built by Sun’s Cobalt group, the LX50 is Sun’s entry-level rackmount Linux server. Unlike most Sun servers, the LX50 is based on commodity Intel hardware rather than Sun’s own UltraSparc processor. The LX50 ships with either Sun Solaris or Sun Linux 5.0 installed.

It Packs a Punch

There’s a lot of power packed in the LX50. Its dual 1.4 GHz Pentium 3 CPUs are well suited to even the most demanding workloads. The LX50′s three SCSI disk bays can each handle 72 GB disks, and the unit can handle up to 6 GB of RAM. Indeed, Sun is targeting compute farms and grid installations as well as more traditional edge services (e-mail, Web, FTP, etc.) with this new machine.

Our evaluation unit arrived with 1 GB of RAM, two CPUs, and a single 72 GB Seagate Cheetah SCSI disk drive. The server ran our Java and database benchmarks with excellent speed.

The full-length 1U LX50 case was designed with serviceability in mind. No tools are necessary to get inside, and all of the disks are easily replaced without unracking the unit. It sports USB and RJ-45 serial ports on the front and back, making it easy attach an external console and various other peripherals. The dual Ethernet ports are helpful for clustered machines that require connections to multiple (often public and private) networks.

Blue Box, Red Hat

Sun Linux 5.0 is based upon Red Hat Linux 7.2. The default kernel is 2.4.9-enterprise, and ext3 is the filesystem of choice. However, Sun has added their own touch to the distribution. They’ve updated a large number of the applications, such as replacing Perl 5.6.0 with 5.6.1 and vim 6.0 instead of 5.8. You also get gcc, MySQL, and Apache.

Going beyond the standard Linux fare, Sun also bundles some of their infrastructure and platform software, including the Sun Grid Engine, Sun ONE & ASP, the Sun Streaming Server, and Tomcat. The LX50 is a powerful application development and deployment platform.


Being both a hardware and software vendor, Sun has always had a distinctive advantage: their software is customized to work specifically with their hardware and vice-versa. Sun Linux on the LX50 is no exception.

Sun provides a set of Restoration CDs that can be used to re-install some or all of the operating system after a disk failure or other problem. Restoration is refreshingly simple. Insert the first CD and reboot. A GUI interface appears and asks a few simple questions (no mouse required), and the restoration processes begins. Once started, no more user input is required. You simply need to insert the second and third CDs when prompted to do so.

We tested restoration from a mildly broken configuration as well as from a catastrophic filesystem change. It worked flawlessly in both cases, and completed in under 30 minutes.

The Bottom Line

While marketed as an entry-level machine, the LX50 has a lot to offer: raw performance, Intel hardware with a lot of room to grow, and a Red Hat compatible distribution. Existing Sun customers looking to move to Linux will find a lot to like in the LX50, not the least of which is Sun’s engineering and support.

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