Sequent raises commercial unix stakes with symmetric multiprocessing series Sequent Computer Systems Inc this week introduced its new generation of symmetric multiprocessing Unix machines turning the heat up on rivals in the competitive high-end commercial sector like AT&T Global Information Solutions, Hewlett-Packard Co, IBM Corp, Pyramid Technology and Amdahl Corp – plus the crop of […]
Sequent raises commercial unix stakes with symmetric multiprocessing series
Sequent Computer Systems Inc this week introduced its new generation of symmetric multiprocessing Unix machines turning the heat up on rivals in the competitive high-end commercial sector like AT&T Global Information Solutions, Hewlett-Packard Co, IBM Corp, Pyramid Technology and Amdahl Corp – plus the crop of vendors currently that see massively parallel systems as the answer for transaction processing and decision support systems. The Symmetry 5000 series uses two to 30 60MHz Intel Corp Pentiums, runs a new System V Interface Definition 3-compatible version of the firm’s Dynix/ptx Unix, has an enhanced bus system and can be clustered in two, three or four-node configurations. With two CPUs, the entry-level Symmetry 5000 SE20 comes with 64Mb RAM, 8.4Gb disk, 25-user Dynix/ptx licence and costs $171,100. A high-end eight-way version with 768Mb RAM and 111Gb disk for up to 1,000 users is from $1.03m. An entry 5000 SE60 is $470,000 with two CPUs, 256Mb RAM and 31.5Gb disk for 100 users. A 24-way SE60 with 1.5Gb memory and 236Gb disk for up to 2,100 users is from $2.64m. Top of the range is a 30 CPU system, 2Gb RAM and 840Gb disk. An entry-level SE90 cluster has two dual-CPU, 100-user SE20s, each with 256Mb RAM and 2.1Gb disk, ptx/Clusters software and 8.4Gb shared disk for $475,800. An SE90 with two dual-CPU clustered SE60s is $923,000. The SE60s have 256Mb RAM, 2.1Gb disk, clustering software and 21Gb shared disk. By the end its second quarter in mid-year, the Beaverton, Oregon-based firm expects 90% of revenue to come from Series 5000 sales – they ship this month. Most Symmetry 2000 models are superseded, including the high-end 490s and 790s, though the low-end 220 is continued and parts for other 2000s will be available so users can still maximise their existing configurations. Upgrading from a 790 to a comparable SE60 will cost $300,000 to $500,000 – Sequent expects four or five such customers each quarter. 5000s and 2000s can co-exist in mixed cluster configurations.
Bad word and ugly
With the 5000, Sequent has cut cabinet numbers from the 16 it uses on the 2000 to four – two system and two expansion units. UK pricing is not yet set and will be available next week. Sequent has expanded its 80Mbps Highly Scalable Bus to 240Mbps for the 5000, and claims that on a 24-way system with 1.5Gb RAM it tested internally – one of 78 5000s built during development – the bus was only half full. Sequent’s Dynix/ptx 2.1.1 Unix System V.4 implementation, enhanced for high-availability, is upgraded to System V Interface Definition 3 with release 4.0 and is compatible with the previous release. Sequent has some 5,500 2000s installed, around 10% clustered. Like other commercial symmetric multiprocessing and parallel system vendors, Sequent has banks and financial institutions with disparate information systems as its first target. Its competitors, especially emerging parallel players, say symmetric multiprocessing approaches will never scale high enough, or be cost-effective enough to meet needs of really large users looking to move off proprietary systems. But with a decade of experience under its belt, Sequent believes its clustering techniques will enable all but largest users, perhaps the top 2%, to dismantle and migrate existing databases piece by piece. Massively parallel is a bad word and ugly programming environment, it says.
Leading the way in the quest for a commercial unix standard
Although there are maybe 18 months more development life left in its current Dynix/ptx kernel, what Sequent Computer Systems Inc really wants is a single, stable source of commercial, high-availability Unix; it does not want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on doing its own kernel engineering. Indeed Novell Inc’s desktop focus has many of the high-end Unix players worried, especially as the Enhanced Security/Multiprocessing Unix System V.4 ES/MP project begun at Unix System Laboratories Inc at the behest of the then Unix International is now indefinitely
on hold. Furthermore, Sequent sees no benefit to customers from the new-fangled Open Software Foundation. It sees little prospect that antagonistic vendors with a slew of incompatible Unix implementations, can do anything sensible in the way of achieving what it would like to see – a single implementation. Indeed, the Software Foundation’s raison d’etre runs to single specification, multiple implementations. What we shouldn’t be surprised to see, we are told, is some effort to define commercial Unix standards lead the Sequents, AT&Ts, Hewlett-Packards and Pyramids of this marketplace. Sequent dismisses other Unixes with commercial pretensions, such as SunSoft Inc Solaris, which it reckons has 18,000 bugs, won’t scale above 10 CPUs and doesn’t embody a real clustering offering: Sun’s hardware is OK though, it offers.
Keeping an eye on the competition as it updates its own strategy
Sequent Computer Systems Inc keeps tabs on the industry and maintains and updates its own strategy – and those it recommends to customers – by using a list of industry franchise holders and a plan of record to work against. At present it reckons that Intel Corp owns the desktop hardware architecture, Microsoft Corp the desktop operating system, Oracle Corp the enterprise database, Sybase Inc the workgroup database and Novell Inc the networking environment. Its plan of record examines and plots the direction of all technologies, who is active in them, where its competitors stand in relation to them and whether Sequent should work with or against them and so on. Sequent is implementing Sybase Inc’s Replication Server on its Symmetrys. It says its installed around 70 of its Windows NT-based WinServers, some of them six-way machines, though none running mission-critical applications. The firm is also looking for technology partners in a range of areas – not just commercial Unix – it does not want to be doing stuff like disk packaging, as has to now. Sequent Computer Systems Inc has new numbers from InfoCorp which show that in revenue terms it had 30% of the $1,200m 1993 market for commercial Unix systems priced over $700,000. AT&T Global had 14%, Amdahl Corp 11%, Hitachi Ltd 10%, Pyramid Technology Corp 9%, IBM Corp 8% and Hewlett-Packard Co 7.5%. Units, rather than revenue, show Sequent with 40%, Hewlett-Packard 16%, Pyramid 15%, AT&T Global 9% and Digital Equipment Corp 5%.