[TUHS] the guy who brought up SVr4 on Sun machines

Nevin Liber nevin at eviloverlord.com
Thu Jan 5 04:56:03 AEST 2017

On Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 9:35 PM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:

> On Tue, Jan 03, 2017 at 10:23:28PM -0500, Dan Cross wrote:
> > My favorite version number was SunOS 4.1.4U1: I was told that the ``U1''
> > meant, "you won", as in "you won. Here's another BSD-based release."
> That might have been the Greg Limes release.  I may be all wrong but
> someone, I think it was Greg, busted their ass to try and make SunOS
> 4.x scale up on SMP machines.  There were a lot of us at the time that
> hated the SVr4 thing, it was such a huge step backwards.

Greg Limes says:

Larry has it very nearly right, or at least very nearly matches my
memories. The few exceptions are only important in light of this being an
attempt to record history as accurately as possible. Yeah, I was the naive
kid who pushed and pushed and pushed until it happened. I had and still
probably have absolutely *NO* idea how many other people were pushing along
with me, but I do know that I had the full support of at least three layers
of management, and I do know that many of the changes were only possible
thanks to the hard work of the other engineers that worked on the Sun-4M
(4/600 series) port. While there was heroic effort involved, it was not the
result of the effort of a lone hero.

The release was (or was supposed to be, and I remember it as) "SunOS 4.1.3
u1" because we were told on no uncertain terms that there would be no
release called "SunOS 4.1.4" but it was OK to send out an update release
rolling up patches previously sent. I was *never* told why, which only made
me (and my management chain) push harder. There were enough changes to
warrant U1, U2, and U3 releases; I know U1 went out the door, and I know
that U3 was ready for release when I departed, I don't recall whether U2
made it out the door or not. I do not recall the method we used to triage
the changes into three releases.

There was really no explicit "try to make SunOS 4 scale up on SMP machines"
in this code -- in fact, for many common workloads, things scaled
surprisingly well. The NFS crew in particular indicated they were quite
happy with our scaling, but I would defer to Neal Nuckolls on that score.
The purpose of U1 and subsequent updates was to bring a number of kernel
bug fixes back into the mainline sources (um, maybe some of these fixes
improved scaling, but it was not the basis for the release).

Non-historical observation ... the interesting thing about the paper Larry
linked, for me, is that it exactly describes the huge sucking black hole
that made Linux (or something very much like it) inevitable. It is no
coincidence that the same passion we       found at Sun working on SunOS,
we also find in the community of developers working on the Linux kernel. I
always wondered how many of Sun's Kernel Hackers found their path there.
 Nevin ":-)" Liber  <mailto:nevin at eviloverlord.com>  +1-847-691-1404
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