Up-to-the-minute news on Sun's rivals
The WorkStation 400, offered in both single- and dual-Pentium II processor models, is targeted to meet the requirements of financial, graphics, and software development applications, according to Dell officials.
The thrust of Dell's pitch is that the leadership position in the Wintel workstation arena is up for grabs as growth in the market shifts from the traditional Unix/RISC world.
Customers will also be able to get SCO Unix and Sun Solaris operating systems with the Dell workstations, though they will be priced slightly higher, according to Linda Hargrove, vice president of workstation sales for Dell.
"What Dell does best is enter a market and take leadership in performance per dollar," said Kevin Rollins, president of Dell Americas. As evidence, Rollins pointed to Dell's ramping-up in the server business, where today its revenue run-rate is about $1 billion per year.
The company is working with third-party application developers to ensure that the new workstations run the leading applications in these areas, according to Rollins.
This is the key aspect of today's announcement, said analysts. "The workstation market is driven by applications," said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with market researcher Dataquest in San Jose, California.
While Dell's price/performance product model can give it an edge in the workstation area, it is the integration with third-party applications that the company needs to work on, agreed other analysts.
"Workstation users tend to go for particular applications, so I don't see how ... it's a commodity market," said Roger Kay, an analyst with market researcher International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Dell's alliance partners will be demonstrating their applications running on Dell workstations, said Hargrove.
Alliance partners, which are testing their applications on the new Dell machines include, in the computer-aided design area: Autodesk Inc., Dassault Systemes SA, EDS Unigraphics; Intergraph Software Solutions; Parametric Technology Corp.; SolidWorks Corp.; and Structural Dynamics Research Corp. In the financial services area partners include: The Math Works Inc.; Reuters/TIBCO Inc.; and Neovision Hypersytems Inc.
The Dell WorkStation 400 is priced from US$3,705 for a single 266-MHz Pentium II processor system with 64M bytes of RAM, a Matrox Millenium video adapter, a 2G-byte hard drive, 17-inch monitor, and one year of Windows NT support. Pricing ranges to $8,078 for a dual 300-MHz Pentium II system with 128M bytes of RAM, an ELSA GlintMX-based GLoria graphics adaptor, a 4G-byte hard drive, 20-inch monitor, and one year of NT support.
The product will be available starting today in North America and Europe. Localized versions will be available in Europe and areas of the Asia-Pacific region starting in mid-September. A localized version for Japan will be announced in the third quarter, though the English version of the product will be available in mid-September.
Dell is also staffing support centers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia with 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week product support specialists, though officials declined to say how big this staff would be.
"Dell has its eyes on the big prize ... it's entering the higher-end market and this is part of their strategy to address the enterprise," said IDC's Kay. Though Dell has its work cut out to grab leadership in the workstation market, the company has a successful track record in entering markets outside its base of direct-to-order desktop machines, Kay said.
One issue that Kay and other analysts highlighted, however, was that Unix/RISC machines are here to stay for a long time, and Wintel workstations are likely, at least initially, to serve the lower and mid-range segments of the market.
--Marc Feranti, IDG News Service, New York Bureau
The move comes in the wake of an agreement announced at CA World last week, where HP said it would bundle CA's forthcoming Unicenter TNG Framework systems management platform with all HP/UX-based machines. TNG Framework comes with a proprietary CA database.
But the deal with Oracle will co-exist with the CA bundling deal. At last week's announcement, HP vice president of computer systems Dick Watts said the HP sales force worldwide will "aggressively sell" both CA's and HP's system management products.
Up until now, OpenView ran on both Ingres and Oracle. Current Ingres users will be able to run OpenView on Ingres, but future version of OpenView will be written to run only on Oracle, according to HP.
"Oracle is the recognized market leader in relational databases and HP is recognizing that," said Robert Craig, a senior analyst with Hurwitz Consulting. "Ingres just isn't competitive in the marketplace, though it may be functionally competitive."
Beginning Aug. 1, HP OpenView customers using CA's Ingres database products can migrate to Oracle for OpenView free of charge, HP said. This migration program is available to HP OpenView customers that have purchased, prior to Aug. 1, Ingres database products for use with HP OpenView IT/Operations, IT/Administration, Network Node Manager, AdminCenter or OperationsCenter. These products require a database to be installed for managing HP OpenView's operational data.
In addition, Oracle7 on Windows NT will be supported by HP OpenView IT/Operations for Windows NT when it is released in early 1998, HP said. HP OpenView Network Node Manager for Unix systems continues to support the Oracle7 Server.
HP will sell and support Oracle for OpenView, a version of the Oracle7 Server product. Oracle for OpenView includes the Oracle7 Server and SQL ReportWriter.
--Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service, New York Bureau
Though already making a significant impact on file server, print server and basic Internet applications, Windows NT will not be all things to all people, according to Susan Frankle, director of servers research at Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC.
"What will be the dominant server environment in the year 2000?" Frankle rhetorically asked the audience at IDC's Directions briefing session here. "The answer is, there will be no dominant operating environment." Nevertheless, she said, "Unix is the largest operating environment and still will be in the year 2000."
IDC expects Unix to hold its ground in part because of the tremendous expense required to switch server environments and retrain staff to support the environment. In addition, Unix vendors continue to invest in the platform. In short, users are "still getting some mileage out of their current environments, so there isn't a compelling reason to switch," Frankle said.
Several myths surround the fast-growing operating system, Frankle said, including include the perception that NT will compete aggressively for all server workloads; that NT Server is the current platform of choice for Internet applications; and that most applications are fully optimized for NT.
"We're not seeing NT in strategic Internet applications," Frankle said. "Unix will be the environment within transaction-oriented applications [on the Web]."
While software vendors have been porting products to NT, many applications have yet to be fully optimized for the operating environment, she said. Oracle Corp. in particular is "not really going after big business with NT," she said.
Windows NT remains immature and not up to all the challenges it faces, Frankle said. "It takes 10 years to make a fully functional operating environment. NT is only five years in the making." NT will likely develop at an accelerated pace but still will need several more years before it has the scalability and management functions already available in Unix.
In addition, the Windows software lacks wide acceptance away from the Intel Corp. platform, and Microsoft lacks value-added service and support for installations on an enterprise scale.
"Microsoft is very good at providing productivity applications support," Frankle added. "But it does not really know how to support enterprise-wide networks and the applications that run on them."
--Rob Guth, IDG News Service, Tokyo Bureau
HP's vice president of computer systems, Dick Watts, took the stage with CA chairman and CEO Charles Wang at CA's user conference which opened here today to outline HP's plans for Framework.
Next quarter HP plans to bundle Framework with all of its HP-UX Unix workstations and servers, "from the smallest desktop machine up to our T600 servers and even our new V class servers," said Watts.
Framework is essentially CA's Unicenter TNG stripped of its major remote-control management applications. The Framework offers distributed event-detection services and a few supplemental management functions, such as virus detection, and basic event control functions. It also offers the Real World three-dimensional interface.
HP and CA haven't yet signed a final agreement to bundle Framework with Intel-based HP machines running Windows NT, but the companies intend to do so soon, Watts said. "It's a little more complicated with NT since we don't own the operating system," Watts noted.
The move "strongly reinforces our commitment to be a leader in not just Unix and not just NT but in Unix and NT interoperability," said Watts.
In addition, HP will be selling the full Unicenter TNG enterprise systems management system, complete with its full range of management applications, Watts said.
Data General has also announced that it plans to ship TNG Framework with its Aviion server line.
Watts said the HP sales force worldwide will "aggressively sell" both HP's own OpenView system management product as well as Unicenter TNG.
However, in the face of numerous questions from assembled reporters and analysts, Watts declined to specify how HP will differentiate the products for its customers, and which types of customers would be offered which product.
"I wish the world were a simple place and we could apply one size to fit all," Watts said.
The decision to push one product rather than another for a particular customer will be based on a range of factors, including the customer's installed base of machines, the operating system it uses, and what management functions they want to stress, Watts said.
Wang was asked whether he feared that giving away the TNG Framework would undercut CA's sales of the full product. "We do run the risk that some IS shops will think it [Framework] is enough," he said. "We've studied it and think its worth the risk."
Users will be able to get Unicenter TNG Framework only through third-party bundles, CA officials said. CA will not give it away or sell it directly to individual users.
Analysts here at the announcement said that the deal seemed to be more of a win for CA than HP. "It's unclear how the Framework is going to affect HP or OpenView -- but it does help CA's effort to make Unicenter the de facto standard," said one analyst who asked not to be quoted by name.
Other analysts didn't believe the giveaway of Framework would hurt the full-scale TNG product. "It's not going to affect the large corporate accounts, which is where they get most of their Unicenter revenues from anyway," said Tim Dolan, an analyst at Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. in Baltimore.
Using CA's object model, which defines how software must describe events and devices in order to interface with them, third-party developers and users can write their own applications to run on the Framework.
"We believe it's in our customers' best interests to offer them a choice of world class systems management products," said Watts.
HP also said it will be integrating several of its own management tools into the Framework, including:
--Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service, New York Bureau
The move to offer a stripped-down version of TNG was expected, but Wang took advantage of the user conference keynote address to emphasize Unicenter's importance to the company's growth and its broad user appeal.
Speaking before thousands of users, analysts and journalists -- about 25,000 attendees and 300 vendor exhibitors are expected altogether this week -- Wang made only passing mention of products such as the recently launched OpenIngres 2.0 database.
He did devote some time to Jasmine, the company's forthcoming object-oriented database and applications development software, saying that its release is due within 90 days. This means that Jasmine, whose release had been rescheduled from January to this month, has slipped again.
The impending TNG Framework breaks off most of the software's various management applications, giving corporations a basic systems management platform. Users can deploy a variety of management applications on the framework, including ones of their own creation, Wang said.
CA will be announcing the bundling of Framework with a number of operating systems from different vendors. The approach is an about-face from the earlier Unicenter strategy, which stressed an all-in-one management system approach.
"There is an undeniable attraction to having the flexibility to incorporate an enterprise management system with existing tools, applications network and systems. Particularly if it is under the Unicenter TNG enterprise management umbrella," said Wang.
"The framework is CA's open framework product, that, for the first time, provides businesses a common way to develop applications across heterogenous platforms, including Unix and Windows NT," he said.
Unicenter is CA's answer to "solutions from individual platform providers that do not acknowledge this real, heterogenous world that we are in," Wang said. "Platform providers have one goal -- domination of their platform -- despite all the puffery of `open'."
Wang also made a point of Unicenter's Real World virtual reality interface.
"CA has staked a lot of time, money and effort in the development of our Real World interface. And we did it because we are convinced that 3-D object rendering and animation is a key to unlocking the next generation of business software -- the closer to real life an interface can be, the more easily nontechnical business users will be able to intuit their way through the IT environment," Wang said.
CA will be giving all attendees copies of TNG Framework for Windows NT as well as the beta version of Jasmine, Wang said. As part of its Unicenter push, CA is also planning Unicenter software achievement awards, with a total of $1 million in prizes to be given out early next year, Wang said.
The heavy emphasis on Unicenter comes as no surprise, given that the entirely revamped version of the product, TNG, now accounts for one-quarter of CA's $4 billion in annual revenue though it started shipping only at the end of January, according to Yogesh Gupta, senior vice president of product strategy at CA. "Of course we're talking about Unicenter," Gupta said. "When you've got a $100 million-a-month product, it's natural."
Gupta downplayed the slip in Jasmine's release schedule. Users want to get get a robust test version today, and investors hadn't been counting on immediate revenue from the product anyway, he said.
Bundling a basic Unicenter platform is a good way to give potential users a taste of the system, said several corporate users attending the keynote.
One user sees the appeal of using TNG Framework as a platform on which to base specialized software management applications developed in house.
"We now write our own agents to control events from one system to another, but they aren't really standard across all our systems," said Jeremy Haugen, an information systems and services specialist at medical equipment maker Guidant Corp., in St. Paul, MN. Haugen is an OpenIngres database administrator, but is also here to check out Unicenter and is responsible for testing how Unicenter links to OpenIngres. Guidant is starting to test Unicenter.
"With Unicenter, we'd have a standard platform and a standard interface that runs across all our systems," Haugen said.
Real World, meanwhile, has great appeal as a standard, easy-to-use interface, agreed Allan Baf, a consultant with Lyngso Information Industry A/S of Copenhagen. "We want to become Unicenter resellers, and the reason is the Real World interface -- we think it has great potential for the future."
But the interface does have one hitch, Baf said. "It takes up too much RAM. We found that you need 192 megabytes of RAM for it to run at a proper speed."
If CA puts as much effort into shrinking Real World's RAM requirement as it did into tonight's keynote presentation -- literally filled with smoke and mirrors -- the company might pull it off.
In keeping with the CA World theme of "software magic," several disappearing tricks were interspersed throughout Wang's presentation. The final trick involved Wang's entering a large box, putting his hands through two holes cut into the front and letting his hands be shackled together outside the box once it was closed.
As the closed box was pulled 20 feet into the air by a crane, the audience saw the hands free themselves of the shackles, a puff of smoke billow, the bottom of the box drop open and two legs stick out. Another puff of smoke, and the legs disappeared. Seconds later, there was an explosion and more smoke on the side of the large presentation hall, where Wang reappeared on a small platform.
--Marc Ferranti, IDG News Service, New York Bureau
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