Eye on the Competition

Up-to the-minute news on Sun's rivals

February  1998
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Check Point gunning for the VPN

San Francisco (February 20, 1998) -- On Monday, Check Point s Software will clarify its plans to become a player in the nascent virtual private network (VPN) market. Check Point will announce OEM agreements with Entrust Technologies and Chrysalis-ITS as well as a number of planned enhancements to its FireWall-1 and FloodGate-1 products.

Check Point Director of Communications Emily Cohen says that her company will integrate its FloodGate-1 IP traffic management software into its FireWall-1 security suite.

The goal is to eventually provide a single rule base and a single management console for all aspects of the VPN, says Cohen.

In April, Check Point will begin selling two Chrysalis-ITS encryption accelerator boards that will be tuned to the Firewall-1 kernel APIs. Chrysalis-ITS Director of Product Management David Madden says that as networks start to surpass the 384-kilobit-per-second bandwidth of 3BRI ISDN, VPN servers begin to take a significant performance hit as they encrypt and decrypt network traffic.

"Many of our customers have said they could see server performance degredations between 60 and 90 percent when they really start to use high performance bandwidth," says Madden.

Check Point will join Bay Networks and Cisco Systems, who are both expected to be OEMing encryption boards by that time. Cisco plans to integrate RedCreek Communications' Ravlin hardware into its PIX firewall, while Bay Networks is expected to use technology from its recent acquisition, New Oak Communications.

The PCI-based accelerator boards will come in 10- and 100-Mb/s configurations and will do ISAKMP (Internet Security Association Key Management Protocol) and Oakley encryption. The 10-Mb/s board will be priced around $1,000, according to Cohen. Pricing for the 100-Mb/s board is not yet available.

Madden says that right now there are no plans to an S-Bus board. And though Firewall-1 supports SKIP (simple key management for Internet protocols) encryption, Chrysalis has no plans to implement it on these products.

Also on the Check Point product roadmap is LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) support in FireWall-1, planned for the second quarter of 1998. And FireWall-1 is expected to interoperate with products from Entrust, VeriSign, and Security Dynamics around the same time.

Cohen says that Entrust will also OEM Check Point's VPN products.

--Robert McMillan, SunWorld



New Data General servers to support 64 CPUs

San Francisco (February 9, 1998) -- Data General Corp. today unveiled details of the newest additions to its Aviion line of servers, which are scheduled for release before the end of the year and will support up to 64 Deschutes processors, the forthcoming CPUs from Intel Corp.

The high-end NUMA (non-uniform memory access) server line, code named Audobon 2, will be built from quad-processor scalable building blocks. Single systems will support up to 64 megabytes of memory and up to 400 terabytes of fiber storage channel, Data General, in Westboro, MA, said in a statement.

In clusters of four Audobon 2 servers, up to 256 processors can be used to drive applications such as Oracle Corp.'s Parallel Server, the company said.

Customers using the current AV 20000 Numa server will be able to upgrade their system to Audobon 2, protecting their hardware and software investments, the company said.

Data General also has enhanced DG/UX, its Unix operating system, to support expanded capabilities of the servers. Enhanced features include extended scalability and clustering, new workload optimization tools, and improved security, Data General said.

The company also announced it has aligned with Sun Microsystems Inc. to support Sun's Java technology in DG/UX. Java's much-touted "write once, run anywhere" capabilities will provide developers with a standard, portable application development environment, according to Data General.

DG/UX Managing software will include the Class Scheduling Facility, a tool that allows systems administrators to selectively assign applications, jobs, or users to specific processors or groups of processors. This is intended to enhance performance by assigning workloads to specific parts of a system, and by grouping similar processes together, the company said.

Pricing and availability for the servers has yet to be announced.

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service


IBM readies storage options aimed at Internet use

San Francisco (February 9, 1998) -- IBM Corp. is strengthening its Seascape Storage Enterprise Architecture with the announcement today of a new server to speed Internet access.

The company also brought out software for Unix and Windows NT storage and for data transfer between those environments and S/390 systems.

The IBM Web Cache Manager is an Internet storage server designed to reduce long-distance transmission costs, improve response time for users and decrease network bottlenecks. It uses both disk and high-speed tape to store local copies of popular home pages and pictures for users to access, rather than transmitting the data over the Internet each time those pages are accessed.

The IBM Cross Platform Extension allows Unix and Windows NT servers to store data on Ramac Array high-end storage devices.

Meanwhile, IBM InfoSpeed is a high-speed, non-proprietary connection that speeds data transfer between Unix and Windows NT servers and any S/390 disk or tape storage subsystem attached to the servers. It allows businesses to use Ramac Virtual Array and SnapShot software to duplicate S/390 data and move it to warehouses on Unix and NT servers for data mining.

IBM also made the following announcements:

--Elinor Mills, IDG News Service


IBM speeds ahead, demonstrates 1,000-MHz chip

Paris (February 4, 1998) -- Engineers in IBM Corp.'s research division today said they have demonstrated the world's first experimental Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) microprocessor operating at 1,000 MHz -- some three times as fast as today's fastest chip from Intel Corp.

The processor achieves clock speeds of up to 1,100 MHz, IBM said in a release today, and contains 1 million transistors. IBM developed it using its existing 0.25-micron CMOS 6X technology.

The microarchitecture, circuits and testing techniques resulting from this project eventually will be applied to microprocessors using IBM's recently introduced CMOS 7S "copper chip" technology, IBM said. IBM said the demonstration shows it will be possible to design 1,000-MHz products, but plans for commercial release of the chip were not immediately available.

The processor was designed at IBM's Austin Research Lab. IBM will present a paper detailing the achievement this Friday at the annual IEEE International Solid State Circuit Conference in San Francisco.

--Jeanette Borzo, IDG News Service


Digital unveils 1,000 MHz Alpha

Boston (February 2, 1998) -- Despite uncertainties about the future of Digital Equipment's Alpha microprocessor architecture in the wake of its planned acquisition by Compaq Computer Corp., Digital today introduced the Alpha 21264, a new family of 64-bit chips that it says will exceed 1,000MHz clock speed within two years.

Following last week's announcement that Digital would be acquired by Compaq, analysts speculated that Compaq would either give the Alpha family a new lease on life by throwing its support behind the microprocessors and using them in high-end servers, or it could phase out Alpha production and turn to Intel Corp.'s forthcoming 64-bit chip, code-named Merced.

But for the time being, Digital's stance is unambiguous: It is "fully committed to developing future generations of the Alpha architecture and extending its performance leadership," said Harry Copperman, senior vice president and group executive, Digital Products Division, in a statement released this morning. Later, in a press briefing, he cited Compaq CEO and Chairman Eckhard Pfeiffer's remarks last week that one of the primary attractions of Digital, besides its service organization, was its leadership in 64-bit computing, specifically Alpha.

The first member of the Alpha 21264 family is scheduled to ship in systems mid-1998; the chips are sampling now and will enter volume production in the first half of this year, Digital said. Pricing was not announced today. The 15.2 million-transistor chip is fabricated using a 0.35-micron, six-layer-metal CMOS process, features a 2.0-volt core and will run at about 600MHz, according to Digital. In the next few years the chips will be fabricated using 0.25 micron and 0.18 micron process technology.

Digital does not have its own plans to make a low-cost chip in the Alpha 21264 family, but will count on it partners to do so, Copperman said. "Samsung has shown a strong desire to get into the volume space with Alpha technology," he added.

Like the current Alpha microprocessors, the Alpha 21264 family will run Digital Unix, OpenVMS and Windows NT operating systems.

The company maintained that the Alpha 21264 will deliver online transaction processing (OLTP) performance two to four times the current level.

Digital expects to see a tremendous appetite for the new Alpha family on the Internet, according to Copperman, who said that nine out of 10 of the largest Internet service providers use Alpha products. "The 21264 will significantly increase scalability and performance" on the World Wide Web, he said.

Other features of the new microprocessor family include out-of-order instruction execution, 64K-byte on-chip data and instruction caches, improved branch prediction through intuitive execution and increased bandwidth for high-speed access to level 2 cache and system memory, according to Digital.

While Digital has established a partnership with Intel for processing and manufacturing of Alpha microprocessors, Copperman expects Alpha to maintain a performance advantage of at least two times over Intel's forthcoming Merced architecture, he said today. Merced will also "carry the burden of maintaining backwards compatibility with 32-bit computing" and also with Hewlett-Packard Co.'s PA RISC microprocessors, he said.

--Elizabeth Heichler, IDG News Service

Digital/Hitachi answer Sun's storage campaign

San Francisco (January 29, 1998) -- The storage market is heating up with a partnership announcement next week between Digital Equipment Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems Inc. that was publicly scheduled one day after Sun Microsystems Inc. announced an aggressive campaign to be the leader in disk arrays.

Yesterday, Sun announced the creation of a dedicated storage sales force and new software and hardware that is part of its Intelligent Storage Network architecture which allows customers to build storage networks that interoperate with existing networks, as well as with storage devices and operating systems from vendors other than Sun. (See "Sun launches major storage push.")

Analysts praised Sun's efforts in the storage arena, boosted by its recent acquisition of Encore Computer Corp.'s storage products. Sun competitors "have been chasing after Sun's storage market" for years, Rick Westerman, Meta Group's program director for Europe, said at Sun's press conference yesterday.

With the announcement, Hitachi and Digital -- the latter of which revealed plans on Monday to be acquired by Compaq Computer Corp. -- will attempt to stave off Sun's progress. The companies said they will announce a worldwide agreement on Tuesday to provide the industry's "strongest enterprise-class data storage lineup." A spokeswoman said the announcement will involve technology sharing, but would provide no further details.

Speaking during the teleconference announcement will be Harry Copperman, senior vice president of Digital's products division, and Doug Young, Hitachi's vice president of the indirect sales business unit.

--Elinor Mills, IDG News Service


Digital launches new servers

Boston (January 28, 1998) -- Digital Equipment Corp. has organized its Intel- and Alpha-based Windows NT servers into a single product line, creating what it says is the broadest server line in the market.

All products unified in the Digital Server line, from 32-bit Intel-based entry-level servers to a 64-bit Alpha-based enterprise solution, will be distributed through a PC channel, said Jeff Aubin at Digital Corp. Digital expects simplifying the distribution will help customers of all levels gain access to the systems more easily, Aubin said.

Digital said it currently has about 15,000 NT server customers with both Intel-based servers and more powerful and expensive Alpha-based servers, which are popular among multimedia, publishing, and telephony applications users. Balancing the markets for both servers is "a smart move" for Compaq Computer Corp., which announced Monday that it plans to acquire Digital, said Greg Garry, a server analyst market researcher at Dataquest Inc.

The reorganized product line has nine new NT server systems with reduced prices, including four Alpha-based systems featuring common options, middleware, packaging, terms, and conditions consistent with the Intel-based PC server market, according to the company. The Alpha-based Digital Server 3300, 5300, and 7300 are priced to be 43 percent less expensive on average compared to the products they replace.

The Digital Server series include the following:

Digital is also introducing two Digital Servers and a Digital StorageWorks RAID array mounted in a single industry-standard rack and delivered as a complete self-contained system. All cluster packages are available with either of two software configurations: Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Enterprise Edition (including Microsoft Cluster Server), or Digital Clusters for Windows NT with Windows NT 4.0.

The Digital Server 3100 HA cluster package includes two Digital Server 3100R systems, RAIDarray subsystem and selected services. This is available in March with prices starting at $28,400.

The Digital Server 3300 HA cluster package includes two Digital Server 3300R systems, RAIDarray subsystem and selected services, and will ship in March with prices starting at $30,800.

Available in February is the Digital Server 7100 HA cluster package which includes two Digital Server 7100R systems, RAIDarray subsystem and selected services, it is priced starting at $80,761. Also available in February is the Digital Server 7305 HA cluster package including two Digital Server 7300R systems, RAIDarray subsystem and selected services; prices start at $88,368.

--Hiroko Sato, IDG News Service


Digital, Microsoft expand Windows NT alliance

Boston (January 28, 1998) -- Digital Equipment Corp. and Microsoft Corp. today bolstered their long-standing joint effort to promote Windows NT in the enterprise.

The two companies are expanding their Alliance for Enterprise Computing (AEC), and Digital has been named the first prime integrator for the Windows NT operating system. As a prime integrator, Digital will be a single point of contact for large customers buying, designing, implementing and supporting BackOffice-based systems, according to a statement the companies released today.

At a press conference in San Francisco today, the companies' chairmen and CEOs -- Microsoft's Bill Gates and Digital's Robert Palmer -- are slated to detail new initiatives in three areas:

The expanded alliance between Microsoft and Digital also will involve joint work on a new generation of high-performance servers for Windows NT Server, the companies said. They are working on a new Windows NT-based hardware architecture that they claim will drive symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) scalability and application performance to "unprecedented levels."

Initial Digital systems resulting from this work will use 32, 64, or more, Alpha processors. They are expected to debut in early 1999, according to the statement.

The companies will also work together on optimizing performance of Windows NT Server and SQL Server for very large memory on 64-bit systems such as Alpha, and develop resource-sharing models to operate on top of Microsoft Cluster Server, according to the companies' statement.

Further, it was announced that Windows NT 5.0 will provide an emulation and translation environment on Alpha allowing the execution of x86 (Intel architecture) binaries, to expand the range of software available for Alpha. In addition, source-code compatibility between Intel- and Alpha-based systems will be provided through a future single programming model and single application programming interface (API) for 64-bit Windows NT running on Alpha or Intel.

A range of new services will also be provided by Digital.

--Elizabeth Heichler, IDG News Service


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