Computer Business Review


CBR Staff Writer

18:30, July 11 1989

DEC chooses to highlight new MicroVAX, VAX 6000 models over MIPStations in UK launch The major focus of yesterday's announcements from DEC was surprisingly the extensions to its VAX line - as if it was making sure that the new additions to its RISC-based line, so crucial if DEC is to succeed in derailing the threat from Sun Microsystems, would not upstage the traditional products. DEC boasted that it has entirely replaced its MicroVAX line with new systems over the last 10 months, and now offers systems ranging in price from a new low-end system costing UKP5,000 up to the top-end MicroVAX 3900 costing UKP145,000 and supporting up to 150 users. The new low-end machine is the MicroVAX 3100, which replaces the MicroVAX 2000 launched back in April 1987. It is the first VAX system to have been designed and built in the UK, and the first major system to have been developed outside the US. Using the CVAX processor first used in the MicroVAX 3300 and 3400 systems, the machine boost the performance of the MicroVAX 2000 by 2.5 times, includes 4Mb to 32Mb memory, up to 1.5Gb storage, and costs UKP4,930 with a 104Mb hard disk for the Model 10 or UKP6,000 for the Model 20 with a large enclosure for system expansion; it's out in 30 days.

8000s dead: all VAXes are now 6000s And DEC has also expanded its mid-range VAXes with new VAX 6000 models - going for the new nomenclature we suggested yesterday (CI No 1,216). The Model 400 sits above the Model 310 (re-named from the VAX 6310), offering 85% more performance for a 30% increase in price. Using a CMOS CPU, the 400 family replaces the VAX 8800 Series, giving 16% more performance for a 60% reduction in cost - though example prices were not given. DEC also added a new entry-level VAX with the 6000 Model 210, which replaces the VAX 8250 and 8350 by giving a 2.5 times performance increase at a similar price. The VAX range, which now consists only of 6000 models - the 210, 310, 410 and 420 dual processor for VMS and Ultrix systems, and 430, 440, 450 and 460 multi-processors running VMS, is now claimed to span the performance of the IBM AS/400, 9370, 4381 and 3090 families at a better price performance than IBM offers, in a single architecture.

Low-end DESstation 2100 costs UKP6,000 DEC is pushing on with new extensions to its new RISC-based line with the addition of a new entry-level workstation, the DECstation 2100, and two mid-range systems, the DECsystem 5400 and 5800. The DECstation 2100, using a 12.5MHz MIPS R2000 chip, delivers 10 MIPS performance and comes in below the DECstation 3100, launched back in January. For UKP6,265 DEC offers a monochrome unit with 8Mb memory and 15 monitor, and UKP9,000 buys an eight-plane colour system, both expandable to 24Mb and with up to two 104Mb internal disk drives - available this month. The DECsystem 5400 and 5800 use the newer MIPS Computer Systems R3000 processor and R30010 floating point unit running at 20MHz, and are intended as full multi-user or server systems: the 5400 is rated at 16 MIPS and has a 64Mb maximum memory capacity, from 400Mb to 2.4Gb disk storage (or 9.7Gb in a cabinet enclosure), is built around the Q-Bus, and starts at UKP42,000 with a four-user Ultrix licence - available in September. Whereas the 5400 systems are the RISC equivalents to the MicroVAX 3800 and 3900, the 5800 series are alternatives to the XMI-based VAX 6000 line and are rated at 18.7 MIPS or 36 MIPS for single or dual processor models, using 25MHz versions of the R3000 chip set. The single processor 5810 includes 32Mb memory and costs from UKP85,000 including a 16-user Ultrix licence, while the 5820 costs UKP149,000. The systems support up to 2.2Gb of disk capacity today, expandable to 115Gb with the next version of Ultrix, and are available within 90 days of order. DEC claimed the systems outperform comparable machines from Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard.

Promises, promises on vectors, MP Unix DEC programme announcements are generally taken to mean that the product will be available within a year, so don't be too keen to get hold of at least th

ree of the items launched under that provision yesterday. First was the long-awaited symmetrical multi-processing version of Ultrix: the current version can be supported only on the 6000 series up to the dual processor 6000 Model 420, with further processor additions adding little to performance. The second programme announcement was for vector extensions to the VAX architecture. With 63 new instructions added, VAX 6000 Model 400 systems will be extended with up to two single-board vector processors that can be plugged into the system backplane. A Fortran compiler with automatic vectorisation, and a vector emulator and computer-aided software engineering tools will complete the environment, allowing DEC to gain access to numeric intensive scientific and technical applications. Finally in the official vapourware announcements was a new DECwindows intelligent terminal, expected out before the end of the year. It will have a high resolution screen, processor and memory to support the graphics portion of DECwindows applications based on the underlying X Server software.

Network Application Support for 1990s Although not classed as a programme announcement, DEC's trumpet blowing of its Network Application Support as a heterogeneous network environment for distributed computing seems more than a little premature. Network Application Support, said DEC, would form the basis of its computing strategy for the 1990s as it moves away from timesharing to the client-server model. Admittedly DEC now has the first elements in place, namely DECwindows on VAX, RISC, MS-DOS and Macintosh hardware, Compound Document Services for sharing text and graphics between VMS and Ultrix, and Dictionary Services, DECforms and GKS and PHIGS for VMS and Ultrix, but it has yet to complete the basic Remote Procedure Call work it is currently developing with the combined Hewlett-Packard and Apollo, using Apollo's Network Computing System as a basis. Yesterday, DEC added three more elements: VAX/SQL Services for SQL database access from VMS, Ultrix or MS DOS - including access to IBM's DB2, DECprint Services for printer interfaces, and CDA Data Conversion Services on VMS and Ultrix. DEC plans that application programming interfaces will be a superset of those chosen by the Open Software Foundation, which however are a long way from being decided, with the Foundation having only recently issued its Interoperability Request for Technology, to which DEC will be only one of those submitting technology. - John Abbott


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