The forces of nature being what they are and B20's position in the Microsoft universe, it seemed inevitable that a unusual visitor might come my way one day. In this case, a Sun Fire x4100. Wow, I mean, this is the closest I've gotten to a Sun product since 1994 when I was doing a Solaris port (and a PharLap port) at Autodesk. I think it was a Sparc Station 1. Anyway, the forces of my nature being what they are, I decided to install a recent build of Longhorn Server just to see what happens.

The unit itself is very nice. Very light, very easy to unpack and install in the rack. It's a 1U tall unit with nice access into the chassis and clearly labeled and organized ports on the box. As configured, it came with two Model 825 AMD Opteron processors (a dual core model), 8 Gigs ram, and 2 73G SAS 10K drives. The platform itself comes with a few extra features, the nice ones like 4 Intel PRO/1000 MT NIC ports, AMD 8000 series chip set, ATI RAGE XL display chip and 1 LSI Logic 3000 series SCSI controller. Top shelf components from manufactures that go to great efforts to maintain compatibility and drivers. This gave me the idea that the Sun Fire 4100 might just work with Longhorn Server just using the on-board out of the box drivers.

I got myself a copy of Longhorn Server, I won't tell you what build other than to say it is after Beta 2. It really doesn't matter, if this install actually works I'm sure at some point the drivers will appear in a public distribution. Even though I'm an employee of Microsoft, I really don't know.

Anyway, I slid the DVD into the drive (a very sexy tray-less front loader) booted the machine and went to lunch. After a while I came back to the system to see the configuration task dialog. I give it a name, password, join it to the domain, it reboots. Easy as cake. Take note, I didn't need a setup up floppy to load raid drivers, didn't need to hit return and F8 a bunch times, or any of that. I just loaded the disk in the server and turned it on for the very first time. Everything got taken care of for me. This is the way computing SHOULD be!

After reboot I logged in to see what got configured. As I guessed, everything important found a driver. The raid array, the display card, and the network adapters all found drivers. It's a fully functional system right out of the box. I haven't seen this in a server IN A VERY LONG TIME. The out of box experiences rivals ANYTHING ever done by Apple.

Much of the credit goes to the Longhorn Server team and the redesign of the installation process. The rest of the credit goes to the team that decided on the components that went into the Sun Fire. The Intel NICs are the best supported NICs on the planet and even though the platform is AMD, it was a wise move to go with the Intel product. The LSI controller is another great example. Other manufactures that choose other chips don't have this luck this early in the development cycle. Still others might have to wait after RTM depending on the strength of the driver teams.

My little heart is making pitter-patters, this is SO cool.