Getting a LaCie FireWire disk running on a SunBlade 2000 using Solaris 10 08/07 Release

I have read of all sorts of problems getting FireWire drives working under SPARC Solaris the following is my experience getting a LaCie 500GB external FireWire 400 disk running.

The first problem i ran into is that the system will lock up hard if there isn't a volume label and you try to do much with the disk. This includes running the format(1M) utility.

The solution? First disable volfs with svcadm disable volfs then use rmformat(1) to format the disk. Just use rmformat -b label devicename where label is the name you want to give the new disk and devicename is the path to the device. Running rmformat with no arguments will give you the device paths to all removable drives on the system.

Next you have to run newfs with the device path as the only argument. Make sure you use slice 0 (cntndns0 instead of s2 as given by rmformat) Answer y and wait a long long LONG time for newfs to finish.

Once this is done you can re-enable volfs with svcadm enable volfs and the drive should come up and be mounted under /rmdisk/label where label is the name you gave to the -b argument of rmformat(1)

If volfs doesn't mount the drive make sure you have /etc/vold.conf edited properly or just mount it manually or through /etc/vfstab


After writing this short article I discovered some problems with Firewire performance Reads are as fast as you can expect them to be but writes were down around 1MB/s I'm currently investigating whats causing this. If you try this with your SunBlade or other Sun with built in firewire please let me know your results and what drive you used. you can contact me at wschaub at

I solved the problem 04/12/2008

I suspected that maybe the Sun's firewire chip was somehow a problem so I installed a cheap Texas Instriments based Belkin 3 port firewire card into the Sun. the drive now reads and writes close to the max speed for firewire.


I figured out another annoying problem with Solaris FireWire support and did a Blog post about it.

In general I think USB 2.0 is likely the way to go on Solaris unless they really improve the scsa1394 driver. However, with a little elbow grease and some luck (and being sure your enclosure only uses oxford chipsets) FireWire can still be useful for storage on a sun machine with no other viable way to attach cheap external storage.
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