Sun Gigabit 1.0 (vge): When you don’t have the driver CD anymore

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The vge (Sun Gigabit Ethernet 1.0) card is an SBus 1000base-SX Ethernet card, which Sun unceremoniously discontinued in favor of the somewhat better 2.0 GEM card. The drivers were bundled with the card on a CDROM, which isn’t a separately orderable item from Sun. These cards show up on eBay and such and are cheap enough (mine was $100) so they may have some allure, even if the drivers only work in Solaris 2.5.1 - 2.6 for Sparc.

Which, in my case was just fine, since I can’t upgrade the system beyond 2.6 anyway. (Long story) I love SunSpectrum tech support. I’m milking it for all its worth while we still have coverage.

The VGE card is officially end-of-life, and Solaris 2.5.1 and 2.6 are in “Vintage Phase II” support. And the E3000 I’m installing in isn’t even under contract. So Sun really went the extra mile for me on this… I can’t say enough good things about them.

According to the Sun docs for the "Gigabit Ethernet 1.0" card, the software package that contains the driver is SUNWvge. If you search around for that package name, the best you can find is patch 106178-03. And it’s for contract customers only. It isn’t too useful because patchadd or pkgadd won’t let it be installed automatically if you don’t already have the driver installed. You can probably extract the /kernel/drv/vge from it and try to load that manually, but it didn’t seem a good idea to me.

After a lot of going around in circles trying to find a source for the CD or at least the files on it, Sun came through with a cpio archive of it that they left for me in a hidden directory on the SunSolve ftp server. It would be wrong to link to it directly (and Sun has probably removed it by now) so we’ll just cheat and put copies of it elsewhere. ;-)

So, here goes:

If you install the software before the card, reboot with -r afterwards. You can install the patch on top of the fresh software install without a reboot in between; or at least, it worked for me. You may want to try the OBP test procedure in the manual if you’re not sure if your card works or not.. and try the VTS tests afterward if you can.

NFS won’t seem much faster with this card installed, because the stock network stack settings assume slower links and slower machines. You can tune some of these kernel settings with a script that does:

ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_recv_hiwat 65536
ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_xmit_hiwat 65536
ndd -set /dev/tcp tcp_cwnd_max 65536
ndd -set /dev/udp udp_recv_hiwat 65536
ndd -set /dev/udp udp_xmit_hiwat 65536

This is actually recommended on page 10 (page 40 in the PDF) of the above manual 805-1136. On our E3000 I saw NFS file transfer speed more than double, just with these changes. Speed was > 17MB/sec, compared to about 6-8MB/sed for 100Mb/s Ethernet. Not a factor of ten faster, but still decent enough to knock over an hour off our backup window.

- J. Akari

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