The use of the Cray and clusters (see pictures below) was intended to accelerate the decryption process, to decipher 1,024 bit keys during business meetings with potential clients, and present them with the clear key at the end of the meeting, thus delivering a much stronger message to enhance security measures.
Admittedly, I initally bought it “for the kicks” – it originates from the INFORMIX data center in Berkeley, California at the time when IBM acquired the company and dissolved that data center. The equipment all ended up at WeirdStuff in Santa Clara, California, where I purchased many used systems on a regular basis. To agree on a price for it, I ended up buying a bundle of two SUN 2000 system, one SUN 1000, one EMC Symmetrix Data Storage Unit, and this Cray 6400 – this way, none of the units were individually priced.
“Under the hood” the Cray 6400 is practically identical with a SUN 10.000 and runs a special, parallel, version of Solaris – when Sun Microsystems had just acquired Cray, partly because Cray had a line of Sparc-CPU-based system to compete better in the market place (which did not work, obviously).
When I received the bundle of machines, they all powered up fine (I had to upgrade the power feeds in my house in the bay Area for it) – except the Cray. Turns out, it needs a special SUN IPX computer “SSP” (Sparc Service Processor) with a Cray card inside to start the whole thing. Subsequently I turned the entire Weirdstuff warehouse upside down (!) to find this extremely rare computer – but it had obviously gotten lost among thousands of the popular Sun IPX’s.
Luckily, I was able to find one online; a Cray employee was willing to trade it for something with me. Equally luckily, I also had an extremely rare SUN VOYAGER portable system (can hardly be called a ‘laptop’ – at best a ‘shlep-top’), on which I managed to get a Sparc-based Linux version running — he accepted this as a trade, and thus the Cray finally ran, just with some delay since delivery.
Later I sold the Cray (and the Sun 2000’s and 1000) to an ‘old iron’ enthusiast and Senior-Senior-SysAdmin (meaning he is REALLY good) in Portland (“Boondoggle”), Oregon, who already had the exact same model, and wanted to expand to run some MUD game on it; as he had access to some big underground cold-war bunker, he had the space and the power to run it continually. The machines went to the right guy for sure!
The ominous SSP Boot IPX (by BoonDoggle in Portland about my Cray) After months of waiting to find out if the machine had survived the shipping, the storage, and even the decommissioning before that – I finally got the satisfaction of knowing that the CS6400 I bought is, in fact, a working computer, and not just a very large conversation piece. In fact, it went so smoothly I was completely stunned; I mean, after flipping on the breaker the control board lit up and the JTAG interface came alive; hostview immediately refreshed itself with the machine’s configuration; both power supplies then powered on, bringup ran and the machine sailed through POST, OBP output popped up on the CVC, and boot net worked the first time. Damn, it was almost like I knew what I was doing, eh? I was born to admin big-ass 64-way SPARCs! Sometimes size doesn’t matter – that big hulking cabinet is a diskless client of the tiny little SparcClassic on the desk. If I had lugged the 1,000lb I/O cabinet down here I could have just let the Jumpstart finish, but I bailed out to the shell and poked around… so cool. So very, very cool. (Yeah, I’ve got perm-a-grin, and I’m all giddy. What a complete dork!) Right. Since I have no network connection to the outside world down in the basement (and didn’t think to bring a floppy with me… remember floppies?) all I got was a snapshot of the first “prtdiag” output, and this shot of hostview running on the SSP. I’ll get more specs and photos up on subsequent runs in the next few days. The next set of tests will be to try out the other 5 system boards and verify that they’re working, and to populate a board exclusively with the Sun-labeled 68-pin memory (501-2196) and test compatibility… just one step closer to total world domination!