As reported (CI No 1,928), Dolphin SCI Technology A/S, the six-month-old subsidiary of Oslo, Norway-based Dolphin Server Technology A/S, has pulled in Convex Computer Corp as its first notable endorsement for its Scalable Coherent Interface system interconnect technology for multi-processing. The non-exclusive licensing deal, worth several hundred thousand dollars, grants Convex design rights to Dolphin’s […]
As reported (CI No 1,928), Dolphin SCI Technology A/S, the six-month-old subsidiary of Oslo, Norway-based Dolphin Server Technology A/S, has pulled in Convex Computer Corp as its first notable endorsement for its Scalable Coherent Interface system interconnect technology for multi-processing. The non-exclusive licensing deal, worth several hundred thousand dollars, grants Convex design rights to Dolphin’s three-year-old chip- and bus-independent IEEE standard interface, similar in principle to the Futurebus+ standard, though considerably less well known. Since Futurebus+ has been delayed in coming to market, Dolphin feels sure that Scalable Coherent Interface is in with a serious chance, though the company notes that the two technologies are not definitively comparable – that said, the firm doesn’t mind noting that the Coherent Interface transports data five times faster than its IEEE counterpart. The Scalable Coherent Interface chips – made by Vitesse Semiconductor Corp in GaAs and due to prototype this autumn – are claimed to deliver a sustained 1Gbps bandwidth between component nodes; Dolphin highlights its ability to be used both for tightly coupling processors (up to 1,000 RISCs) to memory (up to 100Mb) and input-output, and for loosely coupling distributed workstations and other subsystems, at backplane bandwidth. In the latter case, the technology is intended as a cheap and powerful alternative to expensive HIPPI, midrange but still pricey FDDI and low-capacity Ethernet. Initially the Dolphin SCI chip, implemented by the Norwegian firm for use with the Motorola 88000 RISC processor, comes in an 18-bit parallel copper version, but the company says several new SCI signalling schemes are currently being defined, such as a serialised fibre optical version, and a low signal swing, narrow version. It is the interconnect’s design, however, that Convex has licensed; the Richardson, Texas firm will not be buying in its chips from Dolphin, according to Convex European vice-president John Hughes. This is because Convex wants to be able to implement the technology in future generations of its proprietary C Series moderately parallel systems as well as its Hewlett-Packard Precision Architecture RISC-based massively parallel products. Convex reckons its machines will contain some form of SCI technology by 1994, the same year pencilled in by Dolphin for having its Scalable Coherent Interface Motorola 88000 RISC-based servers ready (with cash not readily available, Dolphin has had to put some of its own SCI product developments on hold for the immediate future, until, it says, it sees more cash rolling in running at a loss for the year of 1991, Dolphin SCI says, it expects to break even this year on about UKP10m). Dolphin did not give much away as to whether it is in advanced discussions with other hardware vendors, but Data General Corp emerged as a potential taker of the SCI interconnect technology. Apple Computer Inc and, interestingly, Hewlett-Packard have also played a part in defining the SCI standard. The latter’s participation could present interesting possibilities, given that Hewlett-Packard and Convex have recently shacked up in a technology-exchange agreement, which resulted in Hewlett taking a 5% bite into the Texas supercomputer firm. Hughes, however, didn’t seem too aware of how far Convex and Hewlett might want to deepen their relationship, but he seemed excited about the possibilities anyway, especially since Hewlett appears to be giving its partner a fair amount of say on future development of the Precision Architecture RISC.