To squeeze 100 half MIPS single-user micros into a box with some disk and pretend that you have a 50 MIPS mainframe – or anything more than a local area networked system with most of the network in the box is sheer wishful thinking, but that does not prevent companies from deluding themselves, and the […]
To squeeze 100 half MIPS single-user micros into a box with some disk and pretend that you have a 50 MIPS mainframe – or anything more than a local area networked system with most of the network in the box is sheer wishful thinking, but that does not prevent companies from deluding themselves, and the latest is Data Voice Solutions Corp of Newport Beach, California. The most striking feature of the CPU-per-user Centaur II Mainframe – the industry’s first mainframe computer that runs the MS-DOS and Novell NetWare operating systems while supporting up to 100 simultaneous terminal users or up to 500 occasionally switched terminal users – is perhaps the fact that it uses the NEC V40 micro-processor. The V40 is the Japanese company’s compatible answer to the Intel 80186. Data Voice reckons that Centaur II is a personal productivity mainframe combining the power and centralised security of a traditional mainframe with user-preferred MS-DOS applications support and superior connectivity capabilities – and if 101 V40 microprocessors is a bit daunting, you can start off with the Centaur II Mini, an entry level configuration supporting up to 14 concurrent terminal users or up to 50 occasional users, and you can grow into the full system. The company is not modest about its achievement – We believe that Centaur II is a major milestone in the evolution of computers, it says (but weren’t the likes of Molecular Computer and Tec Inc doing something very similar five and seven years ago?) – The industry started with large batch mainframes, then evolved to minicomputers, and finally to PCs. However, each new generation obsoleted its predecessor in terms of hardware and software compatibility. Centaur II completes the circle by bringing PC-type functionality up to the mainframe while retaining MS-DOS compatibility. By providing modular design allowing identical MS-DOS hardware and software to be used from small work groups through large personal productivity mainframes, we feel we’re providing the ideal approach to bringing PC functionality into corporate America’s MIS computer room, (do stop laughing at the back). The other pitch for the Centaur II is that it uses ASCII terminals that may already be in place, as well as existing wiring. Terminals can be wired directly to the processors on a one-to-one basis using standard telephone wiring, or a data switch or voice+data PABX can be used to increase the number of terminals supported. With a PABX or data switch, the terminals are connected to the switch, which controls access to the application processors on a dynamic port contention basis. ASCII terminals Centaur II supports most ASCII terminals, including DEC VT-100s and compatibles, as well as standard PC-type terminals such as those available from Data Voice itself, Link, Kimtron and Wyse. IBM Personals, PS/2s and compatibles can be tied into the Centaur II as on-line workstations by using Novell-compatible interface hardware such as Ethernet, ARCnet or IBM’s Token-Ring or ASCII terminal emulation software can be used. Each Centaur II system also includes a file processor (hence the 101 processors mentioned above), peripheral controller cards, up to six disk drives, hard or floppy in any mi, for maximum on-line storage of 1.8Gb and streaming tape back-up. The Centaur II Mini starts at $25,000 for five to 10 users, going to $185,000 for a fully-featured 100-user system.