Sparc64 support

Bill Sorenson instructionset at
Wed Aug 5 19:10:35 UTC 2015

I have been advised to post this in this list. I was going to rewrite this
a bit but I'm not sure what parts people will be interested. Anyway:

I'm one of probably a few users of FreeBSD and OpenBSD on multiple
platforms left and I thought I'd share some of my experience with BSD on
some of the lesser used platforms.

I manage a fair number of systems, most of them running FreeBSD on 64-bit
Intel, but I probably have more sparc64 and powerpc systems running now
than on i386. I have made it a bit of a specialty of mine to make use of
BSD on existing equipment owned by a customer in a Solaris or OS X (or some
other, older Unix...) environment and migrating their special sauce to run
on it (or it could be as simple as setting up a FreeBSD Samba server on an
existing G5 Mac they own).

There are a lot of old SunFire servers running Solaris out there that will
take years to die, and a lot of companies aren't excited about buying a lot
of new hardware and porting their code over to Linux (thank goodness). When
they start to run into software support and management issues, I've found
FreeBSD to be a relatively easy sell. They get an up to date modern OS with
modern ports available and usually migrating their C code or perl isn't
much of an issue. They get to hold off on buying hardware until there is a
direct need (accounting really loves this).

The advantage for me is that when these companies start looking at new
hardware with the latest Xeon, they're already running FreeBSD 9.3 or 10.1.
Their code is already ported, the software they're now using is already
available and works. When they move, its basically a recompile and its good
to go. These customers stick to BSD and forget about Linux or paying Oracle
more money. Everything just works and they couldn't be happier.

I've always been interested in the older and more unusual hardware, its a
big part of how I found a niche in supporting it on a professional level.
Personally I run a sparc64 server, a powerpc G5 Xserve, a Alpha based DS20L
running OpenBSD and an old 68k Mac running NetBSD, partly for fun and
partly to make sure I can support my clients (ok, the 68k Mac is purely for

I've found a lot of value in FreeBSD's support for older platforms for
getting my foot in the door with a lot of customers. Yes sparc64 isn't the
future for FreeBSD but I still think it is very much the present. Its not
dead yet, there are a lot of users of this old gear out there if you know
where to look. For a company that has never heard of FreeBSD to adopt it
because it will extend the life of their hardware I think that is a very
powerful thing.

-Bill Sorenson

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