Sequent plans Unix-NT interoperability with NumaCenter

Company "working with Microsoft" to make NT scale to 32 processors.

By David Pendery and Ephraim Schwartz

March  1998
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San Mateo (March 2, 1998) -- Sequent Computer Systems will lay out its road map through 1999 later this week, highlighting the next phases of its Numa-Q architecture, including its IA-64 incarnation; the forthcoming NumaCenter control console, which allows simultaneous use and dynamic allocation of Unix and NT applications; and Sequent and Digital's development of their next-generation 64-bit Unix, code-name Bravo.

Leading the way to what Sequent calls the "path to NT in the data center" will be the company's new NumaCenter control console. It will allow Unix and NT functions to be partitioned, with system resources allocated to each OS. The project was previously known as the MetaServer. The technology, combined with Sequent's ongoing efforts to capitalize on Fibre Channel connected storage area networks, and Sequent's well-established high end enterprise servers, are "a response to the trend of re-centralization of computing resources" in the data center, said John Eldridge, Sequent director of investor relations.

NumaCenter "is designed to [enable] managers to put NT in the data center in a manageable setting," Eldridge said.

Answering those who question NT's capability to scale to Numa-Q's current levels of 16 and 32 processors, Eldridge said, "we are working with Microsoft on that very problem."

One analyst however, was more skeptical about Sequent's NT-Unix initiatives.

"I would say its an ambitious game plan. There is an enormous amount of interoperability [between Unix and NT] that has to be overcome," said the analyst, who had been briefed by Sequent but requested anonymity.

"If it works, it would be good, but my feeling is that it seems [Sequent is] relying on a lot of `what-ifs,'" the analyst continued.

Another analyst commended Sequent's move but also remained skeptical about NT's place in the glass house.

"Sequent is trying to position itself in the Unix-NT interoperability market a little before anyone else," said the analyst, who wished to remain anonymous. But, he ventured, "how soon will NT have the RAS [reliability, availability, scalability] features of high-end operating systems to cause it to have a big impact on the high-end server market?"

The first NumaCenter will be available on Sequent's Deschutes-powered Numa-Q systems, code-named Scorpion, by the middle of the year. The first incarnation of NumaCenter will allow static resource partitioning (reboot required after system allocations are set) and a new Fibre Channel-attached storage schema and storage management tools, developed in conjunction with EMC.

Following on from Scorpion will be Sting III, Sequent's Numa-Q architecture running on Merced, by the end of 1999. NumaCenter will by then have dynamic partitioning, with re-partitioning allowed while the system is running. Eldridge even described long-range plans for "lights-out partitioning," whereby applications running on the operating systems will "grab" needed resources on the fly from available processors and other system components.

In addition to NT, the Sting III servers will run on the 64-bit Unix being developed by Sequent and Digital, which will, by then, be completed, Eldridge said.

For the time being, "we've got the green light from Compaq," to work with the Houston-based giant's imminent new subsidiary, Digital, Eldridge said. He added that Sequent's plans to migrate from its own Dynix/ptx flavor of Unix led the company to Digital Unix because it was "a system designed to run both NT and Unix," which supports Sequent's development of the NumaCenter.

--David Pendery and Ephraim Schwartz write for InfoWorld, a SunWorld affiliate


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