Eye on the Competition

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

April  1998
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IBM unveils RS/6000 successor to Deep Blue

New York (April 22,1998) -- The new version of IBM Corp.'s RS/6000 SP would give Russian chess master Gary Kasparov an even bigger headache than he probably had last year when he lost his famous match with the massively parallel processing machine dubbed Deep Blue.

That's because the new RS/6000 SP, due this week, is the upgrade to Deep Blue, and IBM has upped the computer's calculation-crunching potential, in chess terms, from 200 million moves per second to 1 billion.

The improvement is partly the result of the 332-MHz chips that now come installed in the system, according to IBM. Since probably no paying customers are going to install the Deep Blue program just to play chess with the computer -- which carries an average price tag of US$1 million -- targeted applications include electronic business, business intelligence, server consolidation, computer-aided design, and scientific analysis.

Users ordering the computer with a single chip pay only $150,000, but the machine's real advantage is its ability to do parallel processing, that is, to compute using multiple processors simultaneously.

In addition to the introduction of the new processor, IBM announced a series of new and enhanced hardware and software products, including an upgraded release of its AIX operating system.

IBM also announced plans to integrate the 64-bit Enterprise Server S70 with the RS/6000 SP by the end of the year. This externally attached S70 node will mark the introduction of 64-bit computing in SP environments and will let customers attach the S70 as a database node on the SP, IBM said.

But at the heart of the SP system is its ability to internally integrate independent servers, called nodes. With the upgrade, these now include two- and four-way 332-MHz nodes, which can act as independent servers for databases or applications, or be used to do parallel computing with other processors on the machine, a spokeswoman for IBM said.

In addition, a new RS/6000 SP Switch Router Model 16S lets users move large amounts of data between the RS/6000 SP and external networks, according to IBM.

Software enhancements include the following:

In addition, IBM is offering enhanced storage support for RS/6000 servers. The 133 Serial Disk Systems running RAID 5 data protection can now attach two servers to the same storage subsystem. Users of PCI and Micro Channel RS/6000s can now share data between up to eight servers attached to the same storage subsystem, IBM said.

The RS/6000 SP ranges in price from approximately $150,000 for a single-node system to several million dollars for large-scale systems of up to 512 nodes.

Products available in April include the 332-MHz chips, AIX 4.3.1, and AIX Version 4.3 Bonus Pack. GPFS for AIX is planned for availability in May. The Switch Router Model 16S is planned for availability in June.

--Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service


HP announces new middleware, development tools

San Francisco (April 21, 1998) -- Hewlett Packard today announced new software for Windows NT and its HP-UX operating system.

Looking to strengthen its operating system offerings interoperability story, the company announced plans to add CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) and LDAP services to its HP-UX operating system, as well as new NT and Unix development tools.

The centerpiece of Tuesday's announcement is a deal with Iona Technologies to integrate its Orbix CORBA object request into the standard distribution of HP-UX.

HP will brand this software under the name FoundationWare.

Also under the FoundationWare umbrella will be directory services built upon Netscape's LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) Directory Server for HP-UX.

Both the FoundationWare ORB and the FoundationWare Directory will be available at no extra charge with HP-UX sometime this fall.

HP also announced new development software, called Foundation Tools. The central piece of Foundation Tools is HP Open Studio, an add on to the Visual C++ development tool. Open Studio will allow NT developers to write HP-UX applications, with HP-UX compilers and debuggers running remotely on HP-UX servers. Foundation Tools also includes new software development kits, development templates, and the 2.0 version of Sun's Java Workshop for HP-UX.

Foundation Tools will ship in the fall. Pricing will start at $100.

--Robert McMillan

Hitachi moves to HP's Unix

Tokyo (April 14, 1998) -- Hitachi Ltd. will gradually unify its Unix strategy around Hewlett-Packard Co.'s flavor of the operating system in preparation for the release of Intel Corp.'s 64-bit Merced processor, a company official said today.

The decision by Hitachi to move to HP's HP-UX operating system (OS) follows a similar move by Fujitsu Ltd., announced last week, to consolidate its Unix machines around Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris OS.

In Japan, Hitachi currently sells HI-UX, its own version of Unix which is based on HP-UX. As with Fujitsu's agreement with Sun, HP will tap Hitachi's experience in large systems to add functionality to future versions of HP-UX, the Hitachi official said.

Hitachi will have completed the shift to HP-UX by the time Intel ships its IA-64 microprocessor, code named Merced, which is expected some time next year, according to officials. Some time after Merced's debut, Hitachi will begin shipping a server based on the chip and HP-UX in the U.S., the Hitachi official said.

Hitachi, last year, was ranked the sixth largest Unix server vendor in Japan based on unit revenue, according to recent figures from IDC Japan Ltd.

--Rob Guth, IDG News Service


HP remains opposed to Java standards process

San Francisco (April 9, 1998) -- Hewlett-Packard officials this week restated their opposition to the standards process Sun Microsystems uses to develop its Java technology for embedded systems.

In addition, HP can offer no guarantee that the Java virtual machine (JVM) for embedded systems it began shipping recently, will be compatible with Sun's forthcoming EmbeddedJava version, said Byron Rono, director of marketing for Hewlett-Packard's embedded software division.

Sun developed the EmbeddedJava specification, which it licenses to manufacturers for use in their products, through a standards process endorsed by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

But last month HP began selling its own JVM, which it said contains no Sun technology at all. HP did so in part because it was unhappy with Sun's licensing fees, and also because it feels the standards process Sun uses gives Sun too much control over the development of the technology (see Resources below).

The disagreement between the companies is viewed as a significant one because if HP's JVM is not compatible with Sun's product, which is due later this year, it could disrupt Java's fabled "write once, run anywhere" capabilities.

Makers of embedded systems, a broad term encompassing everything from smart cards to medical instruments and printers, have specific requirements from a JVM, and the process Sun uses to define its technology is not satisfactory to meet those requirements, Rono said.

For example, a maker of smart cards will likely have different memory requirements from, say, a manufacturer of printers, which can generally accommodate a larger memory footprint, Rono said.

Sun should allow companies to make changes to the technology they license, in order to develop a JVM that suits their needs, Rono said. "We have to be able to subset for those embedded device categories that have special requirements," he said.

Sun is adamantly opposed to subsetting, and one of the key stipulations to Java licensees is that they implement the full specification laid out by Sun in order to ensure that all Java programs will run on all JVMs -- in other words, to guarantee the "write once, run anywhere" Java promise.

After a temporary impasse when HP released its JVM, the companies have resumed discussions over Sun's standards process. But contrary to press reports, HP is not backing away from its opposition to Sun's standards process, and has not agreed with Sun to make its JVM compatible, Rono said.

Speaking of the need to make HP's JVM compatible with Sun's, Rono was blunt: "If it doesn't make sense because it doesn't meet the market's needs, then it doesn't make sense for us," he said.

Sun officials declined to comment on the discussions, saying only that standards are one aspect of the talks.

However, a Sun spokeswoman acknowledged that there are "some issues to be addressed" with the Embedded JVM. A spokesman from the company's embedded systems group was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, HP has not altered its mission to market aggressively its JVM against Sun's. The company has so far announced only one licensee -- Microsoft Corp. -- but Rono suggested there are others in the wings. "Other companies in this space are interested in what we have to offer. There's no shortage of manufacturers of embedded devices," he said.

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service


HP drops workstation prices as much as 37 percent

Boston (April 1, 1998) -- Hewlett-Packard Co. today announced that it has cut prices by around one-third on its Visualize line of Unix-based technical workstations, effective immediately.

The company's decision resulted from a desire to set up a PC-like cost structure, and from industrywide price cuts on system memory and mass storage, according to HP.

HP cut J-class workstation prices by up to 37 percent. For example, a J2240 with an EG graphic subsystem, one gigabyte of RAM, four gigabytes of disk space, and a 19-inch monitor, originally priced at US$55,900, now costs $35,480.

Pricing for C-class workstations was reduced by up to 29 percent. A C240 with fx6 graphics, one gigabyte of RAM, four gigabytes of disk space, and a 19-inch monitor has been cut from $63,200 to $47,600.

Pricing for the entry-level B-class workstations dropped by up to 31 percent. A B180L with fx2 graphics, 128 megabytes of RAM, four gigabytes of disk space, and a 19-inch monitor, was reduced from $15,900 to $11,356.

--Kathleen Ohlson, IDG News Service


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