Digital Equipment Corp delivered on its promise of 150 client-server hardware and software products earlier this week, claiming the move to be a manifestation of the new Digital, John Abbott reports. Robert Palmer has been installed as president and chief executive for one year now, and the roll-out of the company's new generation Alpha products as successors to the VAX line is now well under way. But that roll-out, which leaves both DEC VAX and Ultrix/MIPS users faced with the prospect of migrating to a new architecture, has slowed the company down as its customers consider their options. Particularly on the Unix side, DEC has been overtaken by rivals such as Sun Microsystems Inc, IBM Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co. This leaves DEC UK Chairman Geoff Shingles' assertion that DEC will be the number one in client-server by 1995 in considerable doubt - although when Shingles is pressed he says that it is the perception by the marketplace of DEC as a market leader rather than a dominance in actual systems sold that he expects to see by then.
New Alpha machines are accompanied by new VAXes, VAXft
First, the hardware. DEC launched two new Alpha AXP workstations, three workgroup servers, two departmental servers and a high-end enterprise server. It also launched five new VAX systems and a new fault-tolerant VAX. The workstations are the Model 600 desktop system, using the 175MHz Alpha CPU, and the Model 800 deskside machine with a 200MHz Alpha. Rated at SPECint92 105 and SPECfp92 162, the 3000 Model 600 AXP is claimed to offer up to two times the performance of competitive machines from IBM, Hewlett, Sun and Silicon Graphics Inc. It costs from UKP17,000. The 3000 Model 800 AXP (SPECint92 120, SPECfp 184) is a tower-based system, 15% faster and 30% cheaper than DEC's previous high-end system, the Model 500X. It starts at UKP34,000. Of the three workgroup servers, the 2000 Model 300 AXP is the lowest-priced Alpha server for desktop clients and application deployment: it uses standard personal computer memory and a six slot EISA bus. It will run OpenVMS, OSF/1 or Microsoft Corp's NT. Prices (US only so far) begin at $9,700. A personal computer local network configuration with Pathworks and OpenVMS costs $7,000. The 3000 Model 600S, replaces the Model 400S and is 30% more powerful for the same ($21,200) price. The 3000 Model 800S desk-side server with six 100M-bytes per second TurboChannel buses similarly replaces the Model 500S. It starts at $34,100. There are two new DEC 4000 departmental servers: the 710 and 720, in both single and dual processor configurations, rated at between 183 and 300 transactions per second and priced from $47,300. The DEC 7000 Model 600 AXP is 10% faster than previous models at a lower price. It offers six-way symmetric multiprocessing, support for 3.5Gb memory (14Gb soon) and beyond 10Tb storage. It has maximum input-output bandwidth of over 400M-bytes per second; prices from $126,300. DEC also launched enhanced MicroVAX 3100s (Models 30, 40, 80 and 90) and VAX 4000s (100a, 500a, 600a and 700a), for those not impressed by the Alpha story (although these systems are billed as Alpha ready). And there is a new VAX-based fault-tolerant system, the VAXft Model 810. Meanwhile, DEC says it has an agreement with Italian industrial manufacturer Alenia SpA for the design and manufacture of future AXP fault-tolerant systems running DEC's OSF/1. Alenia will also manufacture the VAXft Model 810.
LinkWorks is first DEC framework
Few details about DEC's Frameworks strategy were given at the press announcement. Billed as a replacement to NAS, now seen as too ambitious and all-encompassing (CI No 2,272), software integration frameworks will include the architecture, methodologies, facilities and development tools for solving the basic problems of open client-server computing, said DEC. They will address customer needs for data integration, workgruop computing, enterprise messaging, production system computing, technical computing and system and network management. First out is LinkWorks, an object-oriented
groupware product developed by Austrian software house FABA GmbH. Aimed at departmental or line of business managers, LinkWorks enables managers to create a framework that integrates existing desktop and business applications for efficient work sharing. Any application or document incorporated within the framework can be manipulated as an active object via icons. Group sharing, routing, electronic signature approval, shared filing, administration and management, event tracking and notification and ad-hoc document management can be used in conjunction with existing applications. It works with Macintosh, Windows or Motif clients, Santa Cruz Unix, DEC OSF/1 or Ultrix servers, with NT and OpenVMS versions planned. Shipments start December; no prices were given. DEC also has new PathWorks networking software releases, and is offering new multi-vendor services, consultancy and support programmes.
New OSF/1 Unix release, 1,500 applications, Rdb for Unix
Following the Spec 1170 merging of the Unix specification last month, DEC claims its Unified Unix already delivers 97% of that set of APIs - twice as many as its nearest competitor. That's because DEC has already put in place thin layers of API interfaces to shield its users from the OSF/1 core. Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA, for instance, uses DEC's E-Type Unix personality to offer System V.4-conformant Alpha systems. This week DEC announced version 2.0 of the OSF/1 AXP operating system, with C2 security, XPG/4 branding and Motif V1.2. There are now 1,500 OSF/1 on Alpha applications out, it claims. It is now shipping prototype symmetric multiprocessing kits to major developers with general availability set for second quarter 1994. Other DEC additions include PolyCenter advanced file system, DECsafe Available Server Environment for automatic and transparent fallover and recovery, and part of its Workstation Farms Unix clustering software product set. Farms enables large numbers of systems to act a single computer, with load balancing and resource allocation. A high-end Fortran compiler adapted to single system, multiprocessing and multi-system computing paradigms, will arrive in first half 1994. On the networking side, Alpha systems can now interoperate with IBM mainframe and mid-range systems through DEC's SNA Peer Service software, and DEC plans to put its Rdb database up under OSF/1, and will also offer a version of its proprietary ACMSxp transaction processing monitor to OSF/1 users, alongside Tuxedo or VIS/TP from VI Systems for CICS applications. DEC has counted 1,500 OpenVMS applications now shipping. OpenVMS supports X/Open's XPG3 branding, Posix, Motif, TCP/IP, SNA and FIP 151-2 standards says DEC, and there is a commitment to reach XPG4. DEC says this rate of applications deployment is on a par with Unix and far ahead of IBM's ES/9000 and AS/400 systems. Pricing of OpenVMS servers and software now matches open systems prices, said DEC. Within 18 months, OpenVMS will support 64-bit files and databases, and include a new file system that can store 10Tb of data on-line, update 10Gb per day and recover 1Tb in eight hours. Up to 70 new or enhanced OpenVMS products were added; further new generations of VAXes are in the plan.
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