AIX, Linux and POWER Portal

Hardware => RS/6000 (Power III and earlier) => Topic started by: Leografix on August 23, 2011, 04:33:20 AM

Title: Confusion about ethernet cards for older PPC systems
Post by: Leografix on August 23, 2011, 04:33:20 AM
I learned by now that not "every" PCI ethernet card can be installed into any PPC based system and I also learned that some third party products like 3com cards do have to have the "IBM" addition in order to work in a PPC based system. As far as I understood it by now there are also differences between p-System machines, POWER machines and RS/6000 machines.

As my Apple Network Server seems to be something different from any IBM PPC based system I am pretty confused by now regarding PCI ethernet cards. As I don't know how to determine if my box is more similar to a p-System, a POWER System or a RS/6000 I don't know what card to watch out for. The only things I know by now:

my box definitely is PPC based - so ANY (!) PCI card has to have some PPC code in it's firmware or it even won't be recognized. While some original standard Apple cards from that time are recognized in AIX 4.1.5 the refuse to operate completely or up to some degree. So I -> THINK <- that PPC based IBM ethernet cards (or 3com or SMC) MIGHT work if they meet these requirements (and if there are file sets available...). Mounting cards into my system sometimes reveals the missing file sets in "Smit" so I at least know for which file set I will have to watch out for.

But what confuses me: as far as I understood it by now I could install cards and the necessary file sets. But this doesn't automatically mean that these cards will operate as expected. The word "compatibility" (regarding the p-System, POWER and RS/6000 problem before) seems to be still very important.

I am not sure if I expressed my question clear enough. After fiddling around with about 12 different cards (IBM, Apple, 3com and else) without any success I am nearly giving up the hope reaching 100 MBps transfer rates via ethernet. But I simply can not imagine that there is absolutely no IBM card that will not work in my box.

Does anyone in here have an idea on what I could do to find some suitable cards?

Title: Re: Confusion about ethernet cards for older PPC systems
Post by: Michael on September 06, 2011, 09:08:21 PM
In "those" days configuring PCI/ISA cards was an art. I looked for a redbook I used back then for setting up cards using a combination of the SMS menus and hardwiring - i.e., not all cards are "plug and play".

You may need to use the machine setup (BIOS setup) top verify the actual addresses being used. This was especially important when you wanted to have multiple cards (e.g., token ring and ethernet).

From an old system with a 10M/bit card

michael@x121:[/home/michael]lsdev -Cc adapter
sa0    Available 01-C0 Standard I/O Serial Port 1
sa1    Available 01-D0 Standard I/O Serial Port 2
sioka0 Available 01-F0 Keyboard Adapter
sioma0 Available 01-G0 Mouse Adapter
fda0   Available 01-H0 Standard I/O Diskette Adapter
pmc0   Available 01-I0 Power Management Controller
scsi0  Available 04-C0 Wide SCSI I/O Controller
gga0   Available 04-01 IBM Personal Computer Power Series S15 Graphics Adapter
siota0 Available 01-A0 Tablet Adapter
ppa0   Available 01-B0 Standard I/O Parallel Port Adapter
paud0  Available 01-E0 Ultimedia Integrated Audio
ent0   Available 04-B0 IBM PCI Ethernet Adapter (22100020)
scsi1  Available 04-05 Wide/Fast-20 SCSI I/O Controller

michael@x121:[/home/michael]lsattr -El ent0
busio         0x1000100      Bus I/O address                   False
busintr       6              Bus interrupt level               False
intr_priority 3              Interrupt priority                False
tx_que_size   64             TRANSMIT queue size               True
rx_que_size   32             RECEIVE queue size                True
full_duplex   no             Full duplex                       True
use_alt_addr  yes            Enable ALTERNATE ETHERNET address True
alt_addr      0x0000c50dd140 ALTERNATE ETHERNET address        True

Note in the lsattr output that busio, busintr and intr_priority all have the value "false" as user settable. This is a "plug and play" card that needs to have jumpers set before installation. AIX 5.1 was able to find the address.
Older cards, and especially the drivers just had default values in the PdDv - and these were often wrong. However, these drivers have "True" as user settable.

That would be my first area to research.
Title: Re: Confusion about ethernet cards for older PPC systems
Post by: Leografix on September 07, 2011, 04:45:13 AM
Well, then there will be some troubles....

The Network Server does not have a BIOS but an OpenFirmware implementation of the early PowerPC versions Apple, Motorola and IBM focussed on in the early 1990's. OpenFirmware of these days did not offer any hardware options regarding the PCI BUS (as far as I know).

Nevertheless I contacted a RS/6000 broker vom Austria who offers hardware for those systems of that time as I found other informations regarding these cards in the meantime. Most likely compatible cards will have to have:

- short PCI BUS interface (in contrary to most long interfaces of IBM of that time)
- PowerPC compatible
- binary compatible to RS/6000 systems

It my NOT be compatible to early RS/6000 POWER 2 cpu machines and to the "Micro Channel BUS" used in some machines (whatever this is).

I've been sending these informations to that broker and he will mail me a card which - in his opinion - will fit. It is an IBM card, product number 2968. He also replied that there once was a 3com card (especially dedicated to IBM PowerPC systems), part number 2986 but he doesn't own that one anymore. Alongside the IBM card he will send me a copy of an AIX 4.1.5 system installation he owns for IBM notebooks. Hopefully on this CD will be the necessary drivers (he can't tell me if these installation media war CPU specific or not).

So I will see if this card works (in case the necessary driver is contained within the media).

Anyway I am still looking many many times at bay's and else for 4.1.4 and 4.1.5 installation media just to get hands on the driver installation CD - the fixes downloadable at IBM's are not for installation but only for updating....

I will let You know how all this went out!

Title: Re: Confusion about ethernet cards for older PPC systems
Post by: Michael on September 07, 2011, 12:36:44 PM
the BIOS is only needed for cards that can only be adjusted by BIOS, rather than hw jumpers, and/or for reading out the actual values of the cards.

Microchannel is MCA, and/or the bus IBM developed for the PS/2 series. None of those cards will fit. They were better than the ISA bus, and maybe better than EISA. In any case, due to lower volume of sales, they were always more expensive.
In the end, IBM dropped the rspc and mca architetures and only used CHRP (Common Hardware Reference Platform) starting around 2001 or 2002. Not sure if CHRP is still the norm for current systems (NIM refers to systems now as 64 - for 64 bit)
Title: Re: Confusion about ethernet cards for older PPC systems
Post by: Michael on September 07, 2011, 01:17:19 PM
Unfortunately, about two years ago I did something very uncharacteristic for myself, and trashed several boxes of CD's - all AIX 4.1.X vintage. However, I found a very old CD of redbooks (published in 1996 or 1997) so it has most of the redbooks that are now missing from the ibm redbook site.

The one you want to look at: A Technical Introduction to PCI-Based RS/6000 Servers, section 6.8.1 especially, can be downloaded as a PDF here:

Many thanks to google!
Title: Re: Confusion about ethernet cards for older PPC systems
Post by: Leografix on September 07, 2011, 02:00:04 PM
Wow, now this is what I call "in deep information" - thanks a lot for this one! Will study it as soon as possible!