Cobalt

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Revision as of 15:22, 22 November 2004 by Vampwillow (Talk | contribs)

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Note, This page does _not_ cover the x86-based Qube 3, Raq 3 and later Cobalt servers. I've got some resources on my wiki here.

General

The Qube and RaQ series was created by Cobalt Networks Inc. (which was later bought by Sun Microsystems). EOL of the RaQ2 series was in 2001.

The machines were build to suit different purposes. Therefore they were sold with different hardware options regarding memory, storage options and networking.

The boxes were shipped with a web-based administration GUI on top of a Red Hat Linux running a 2.0.x-kernel. Additionally certain basic settings could be set using the LCD display and the control buttons.

Processor Options

Cobalt Qube and Cobalt Raq were equipped with RM5230 processors running at 150MHz. Qube 2 and Raq 2 use the RM5231 CPU which doubles the cache size over the RM5230 running at upto 250MHz. This processor is a MIPS IV architecture with minor extensions. At the moment, Linux/MIPS will run in 64-bit mode on these machines, but support is very experimental at the moment, and therefore is not recommended for production use. Running a 32-bit kernel however is quite stable.

Memory

All boxes have two 72-PIN EDO slots on the same board as the CPU. The boxes came with standard amounts between 16 and 256MB RAM. Maximum is 256MB (2x128MB DRAM EDO SIMMs, 3.3V).

Serial Console

These boxes are completely headless, using a serial console that originally runs at 115200 bps (8-bits, no parity, 1 stop bit). To enable this during the startup, hold in the "password reset" button whilst powering the unit on. On RaQ machines this button is behind the hole on the lower right corner of the LCD (use eg a pin to operate). When "Console ON" appears on the LCD panel, power-cycle the box. From now on you should see the Cobalt firmware (or CoLo) starting up.

Storage Options

The original Qube, as well as the Qube2, had a single ATA66 IDE socket on the main board.
The 19", 1RU RaQ-case fits for up to two hard disks (each max. 137GB - please keep the rating of the power supply in mind). Additionally some RaQ2 have an onboard LSI-Logic (this photo) SCSI controller (NCR53C810, ultra narrow) which hooks to an additional mini-micro 50-pin SCSI port at the back.
The Qube2 can happily accept any PCI SCSI card that will physically fit inside the case (I'm happily using a Adaptec AHA-2940AU PCI SCSI card without any problems).

Note that the Cobalt firmware only recognises the Master IDE HDD plugged into the onboard socket.

Networking Options

The Cobalt servers are equipped with either one or two 10/100Mbit ethernet interfaces. These interfaces are a very close relative to the DEC Tulip series (DS21143) of network cards. Again, if your server has a PCI slot you can install a PCI network card into that slot to use it with Linux. Note that you can only netboot with the onboard Primary (eth0) interface.

Network performance using a current kernel is rather poor (only up to 1,5 MB/s).

Firmware

The stock firmware on the Cobalt servers is basic to say the least. It supports netbooting using DHCP & NFS, as well as booting off the hard drive. The firmware expects to see a kernel image called 'vmlinux.gz' on the root directory of the first partition on the first drive. It can only read EXT2 revision 0 partitions (create them using mke2fs -r 0 /dev/BLAH) and cannot load kernels of over 675kB in size.

Peter Horton is the current maintainer of the CoLo boot loader. CoLo, unlike the original bootloader, has no limitation on the size of kernel to load, and also features support for initial ramdisks, EXT2 and EXT3 support, as well as loading kernels over NFS and TFTP. It is configured through the use of scripting, with the capability to chain scripts together, ask questions on the LCD panel and perform various tasks. CoLo can be found here: http://www.colonel-panic.org/cobalt-mips/