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Eye on the Competition

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

August  1999
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Belluzzo might head up Microsoft's Net business

Hong Kong (August 24, 1999) -- When he resigned as chairman and chief executive officer of Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) yesterday, Rick Belluzzo's next career destination was unclear. However, a report today suggests he may join Microsoft Corp. as the software giant's head of Internet operations -- a position that has effectively been vacant since November of last year.

Belluzzo is likely to become Microsoft's vice president of interactive operations, with one of his responsibilities being to manage the company's MSN (Microsoft Network) Web portal business, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal. He would join Microsoft around Sept. 1, the report added.

His departure from SGI announced yesterday came as something of a surprise, since earlier this month the hardware and graphics company had announced a major business restructuring effort designed to turn around its financial fortunes. ("SGI reorganizes, cuts staff, launches Cray unit," below). Belluzzo's replacement at SGI is Robert Bishop, a member of the vendor's board of directors and a former company director of global sales.

All that was said yesterday about Belluzzo's move by his former employers was that he would be joining a business that wasn't in competition with SGI.

Belluzzo joined SGI from Hewlett-Packard Co. in January 1998 replacing Ed McCracken. The announcement of McCracken's resignation as SGI head came in October of 1997 as the company embarked on a restructuring operation, although he remained in the job until Belluzzo's appointment.

Microsoft conducted a company reorganization in March of this year, putting Jon DeVaan and Brad Chase in joint charge of its Internet businesses which the vendor rechristened its consumer and commerce group.

Prior to that, the unit was known as the interactive media group and had been run by Microsoft President Steve Ballmer since the resignation of Group Vice President Pete Higgins in November of last year.

As vice presidents of Microsoft's consumer and commerce group, Chase and DeVaan are responsible for MSN, WebTV, commerce platforms and services, consumer devices and vertical commerce platforms, according to information on Microsoft's Web site.

--Clare Haney, IDG News Service


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Compaq debuts two new ProLiant 8-way servers

Boston (August 17, 1999) - Compaq Computer Corp. today debuted two new eight-way ProLiant servers aimed at Internet service providers (ISPs) and application service providers (ASPs).

The servers were announced as part of a marketing push outlined at a press conference in New York. Compaq calls the initiative "NonStop eBusiness," which includes the new ProLiant 8000 and 8500 servers, both of which use eight-way profusion symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) architecture co-developed with Intel Corp.

Microsoft Corp., also at the press conference, announced today packaging for its Windows 2000 operating system, including a package called Windows 2000 Advanced Server, which supports servers of up to eight processors.

Prices for the servers range in price from US$20,000 to $80,000, which Compaq officials described today as "competitive." Additional details regarding the configurations and technology were not provided.

The servers are targeted at companies that rely on the Web and that will "buy our servers at tremendous volumes," said Mary McDowell, vice president and general manager of Compaq's Industry Standard Server Division.

In addition to the hardware, customers also can buy CarePaq service modules from Compaq, McDowell said.

When Compaq decided to pursue the market for servers aimed at companies that need highly scalable hardware designed for Web-based businesses, "people thought we were somewhat crazy," she said, adding that back then the market amounted to thousands of units, but now has grown to millions.

The combined market for ISP and ASP servers will grow from $7.85 billion now to $27.2 billion by 2001, according to figures from Forrester Research Inc. provided by Compaq, whose officials said today that the company has a goal of being first in that market during that same time frame.

--Nancy Weil, IDG News Service


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IBM readies 1-GHz chip for AS/400, RS/6000

Palo Alto, CA (August 16, 1999) -- IBM Corp. today offered the first glimpse of a new processor under development for its AS/400 and RS/6000 servers called the Power4, a test version of which has been cranked up to 1 GHz in IBM's laboratories, company officials said.

The disclosure was made at the closely watched Hot Chips conference, taking place here this week at Stanford University. Sun Microsystems Inc., Hitachi Ltd. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) are among the other companies expected to describe advanced processors at the conference. (See "Sun details MAJC appliance chip.")

Since clock speed is only one determinant of server performance, IBM has also developed a complementary technology called "synchronous wave pipeline interface," which will enable bus speeds for the Power4 in excess of 500 MHz, said Frank Ferraiolo, a senior IBM engineer. Bus speeds determine how fast a processor can exchange data with other parts of a system.

"The goal of the Power4 isn't just creating a high-performance processor; it's to create a high-performance server," Ferraiolo said.

IBM hopes its Power4 will be used in powerful Web servers and for running electronic commerce applications, as well as complex technical and engineering applications used by the scientific community, said Joel Tendler, a senior technical analyst with IBM's server group. IBM aims to start selling the new processor in the second half of 2001 in its AS/400 and RS/6000 servers, he said.

The Power4 incorporates two processors and a Level 2 cache on a single chip. Like the test version, the Power4 will be manufactured using copper wires, rather than the aluminum wiring used in the current Power3 chip. The Power4 will be manufactured using an advanced silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology on a 0.18-micron process, IBM's Ferraiolo said.

IBM's 64-bit offering will compete with chips from Sun, Hewlett-Packard Co., and Compaq Computer Corp., all of whom are refining their own 64-bit server processors. Intel Corp. is also due to enter the fray next year with its first 64-bit processor known as Merced.

The product version of the Power4 -- as opposed to the test version described today -- will be detailed October 5 at another semiconductor conference, the Microprocessor Forum, to be held in San Jose, California.

Now in its eleventh year, Hot Chips is a highly technical conference where some of the world's leading semiconductor engineers present papers on the latest advances in state-of-the-art silicon technology.

"The technology that underlies e-commerce, the Web, all the exciting things happening out there -- it all starts right here," Michael Blasgen, general chair of the conference, said in his introductory remarks.

Hot Chips is on the Web at

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service

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IBM targets Linux with free motherboard design

San Francisco (August 13, 1099) -- IBM Corp.'s Microelectronics division is offering for free the design for a PowerPC motherboard that runs Linux as a way to seed the market for PowerPC systems that run the open source operating system, an IBM engineer said today.

"It's a very Linux approach to the marketplace in that the platform is open and freely available for use by any customer," said Steve Faure, an advisory engineer in the PowerPC Applications group at IBM Microelectronics in Austin, Texas. "What we've done is created this reference design that uses industry standard components" to enable original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to fit the motherboards in the standard ATX motherboard case.

IBM will not charge license fees or royalties, nor is the company going to manufacture its own motherboards based on the design, he said.

"IBM is not making a product; no IBM division will make these motherboards," Faure said. "We just created prototypes."

The company will provide interested OEMs with the schematics, bill of materials or component list, and artwork of the circuit boards, according to Faure, adding that the systems should be easy to make.

"It uses much of the technology in x86 motherboards, but with the PowerPC chip," Faure said. "We've concentrated specifically in using standard off-the-shelf components that are readily available. The only time-to-market issues for any potential OEM would be if they wanted to modify the design and put their own spin on it."

Faure said he could not reveal the names of any OEMs the company is talking to about the motherboards or say when one might be announced. However, products based on the motherboards could conceivably be available in early 2000, he said.

The architecture harkens from IBM's efforts in the mid-90s to create reference designs for Mac clones, Faure said. IBM took that work and updated it by adding things like higher bus speeds and support for accelerated graphics port (AGP) signals, he said.

IBM generated a lot of interest in the motherboards when it demonstrated the prototype at LinuxWorld Expo this week in San Jose, California, Faure said. The company will show them off next week at HP World in San Francisco.

"The thinking here is that there are all these manufacturers building x86 boxes to run Linux, and if we can get makers to build PowerPC boxes for Linux they will be able to offer an alternative to their customers," he said.

Currently, Apple Computer Inc. is the only major computer manufacturer to use PowerPC chips on its motherboard.

"A lot of people out there right now are running Linux on PowerPC but they're using Macs, so they're basically paying for a box to run both Mac software and Linux," said Faure.

Faure and a representative from LinuxPPC Inc., which makes the primary distribution of Linux for PowerPC computers, said that enabling OEMs other than Apple to make PowerPC motherboards for Linux will benefit people who want to use Linux for performance and power consumption reasons but don't want to pay high prices for a Macintosh system.

"It's going to reduce the cost of getting Linux on PowerPC," said Jason Haas, marketing director for LinuxPPC, based in Hales Corner, Wisconsin. "For what you pay for a low-end PowerMac you can buy a relatively high-end Intel-based computer."

Targeted users of the system would include developers, Internet service providers and scientific users, Haas said.

Faure said he didn't think the motherboard offer would offend Apple, one of its PowerPC partners.

"I would be surprised if they had any objection," he said. "I just don't think their customers are, by and large, Linux customers. This reference design addresses a different market from Apple."

Apple officials did not return a call seeking comment.

--Elinor Mills Abreu, IDG News Service


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LinuxWorld: Grove links Linux with IA-64

San Jose, CA (August 10, 1999) -- Intel Corp. Chairman Andy Grove today made a surprise appearance at the LinuxWorld Conference and Exposition, announcing that the kernel of Intel's IA-64 architecture for its Merced processor will be released to the open source community early next year.

Grove said that Merced, scheduled to be released in the middle of next year, is up and running on Linux, as well as seven other operating systems, in Intel's testing lab. He helped demonstrate Linux running on the IA-64 architecture hosting Apache, a publicly available Web server.

Walking out on stage during the keynote address by Sean Maloney, an Intel senior vice president, Grove said that both Linux and Intel's new architecture will drive e-commerce on the Internet. "We are seeing major changes in the business environment, changes that are moving toward electronic transactions," Grove said.

Grove said Intel will provide servers based on Merced, Intel's first IA-64 processor, to key Linux companies for Internet-based software development by the open source community. Separately, Merced-based servers will be available via Intel's Web site to support commercial developers of applications and operating systems including, but not limited to, Linux.

One attendee, unimpressed by the demonstration of Linux running on an IA-64 simulator, said the Intel executives' pronouncements here amounted to little more than a marketing opportunity.

"My first thought was that this is an effort to buy the Linux community," said Ulrich Dziergwa, an official with Ferrari Electronic AG in Teltow, Germany, which designs and builds facsimile servers.

"I think another part of it is sending a signal to Microsoft that there is something else out there in the world -- that Microsoft is no longer at the center of everything," Dziergwa said. Grove's attendance here sends a message to Microsoft that Intel has other operating system vendors with which to partner, he added.

Dziergwa noted that Linux already runs on a 64-bit processor -- Digital Equipment Corp.'s Alpha chip, now owned by Compaq Computer Corp. Business customers looking for a powerful hardware platform on which to run Linux applications may well pressure Compaq into stepping up its efforts in developing Alpha for Linux, he said.

"The risk is much lower to write software for something that is already running," Dziergwa said, noting that Merced is not expected to ship until 2000.

(Additional reporting by James Niccolai.)

--Jack McCarthy, IDG News Service


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SGI reorganizes, cuts staff, launches Cray unit

Boston (August 10, 1999) -- Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) today outlined a corporate reorganization that will lead to some 1,500 global job cuts with the creation of several new units, including one for its Cray Research LLC supercomputer business, and partnerships with other vendors.

The restructuring is intended to put SGI on track financially and also to push into Internet-related markets, according to written statements today.

The Cray vector supercomputer business unit will have two home bases, with Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, serving as the main manufacturing and engineering site, and Eagan, Minnesota, as the engineering, sales and service location. SGI is in "active discussions," seeking another company to take over the Cray operation "through a partnership or other transaction," according to the statement detailing the Cray announcement.

Steve Oberlin, vice president of engineering for SGI's Servers and Supercomputers, will be in charge of the new Cray unit.

As for the rest of the reorganization, Cray announced:

--Nancy Weil, IDG News Service


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SGI releases Linux-based 1400L server

Boston (August 2, 1999) -- Continuing its drive into the Linux arena, Silicon Graphics Inc. today released its new Intel processor-based SGI 1400L server.

The server, preloaded with the SGI Linux Environment, offers customers a platform for database serving, file sharing, technical computing, and Web serving.

The SGI Linux Environment, a version of Red Hat Linux 6.0, improves network performance and prevents denial-of-service attacks, said Hank Shiffman, strategic technologist at SGI in Mountain View, CA. The server, which uses up to four Intel processors, is geared toward workgroups, he added.

The 1400L is designed for collaboration and messaging, network video streaming, proxy serving, security serving, and scientific analysis. It comes with one to four 500-MHz Pentium III Xeon processors, 512K, one or two megabytes of secondary cache, up to four gigabytes of memory, seven PCI slots, six Ultra2 SCSI hot-swappable drive bays and redundant power supplies.

The server also comes with Samba, an open source product that adds native Windows NT file and print services to Linux, and is available in rack-mount or deskside configurations. A base configuration that includes one processor, a 512-kilobyte cache, 256 megabytes of memory, and a nine-gigabyte disk starts at US$7,935.

SGI also plans to announce in the near future a two-way system in the SGI 1000 server family that will be geared toward Internet service providers.

SGI hinted at its Linux strategy at Spring Comdex this year, when CEO Richard Belluzzo said the company believes in the open source model. Recently, the company moved toward the open source community by offering it the key XFS piece of its Irix operating system, which can enhance a Linux-based system's ability to recover after a crash and to handle very large files.

The release of the SGI 1400L shows the company's commitment to providing Linux solutions, and SGI intends to add more value to the Linux system by providing it with more support, said Shiffman.

--Kelvin Goh, IDG News Service


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Project Monterey slated for launch in Q3 next year

Singapore (July 29, 1999) -- The unified Unix variant codenamed Project Monterey being jointly developed by IBM Corp., the Santa Cruz Operation Inc. (SCO) and Sequent Computer Systems Inc. will be launched in the third quarter of next year, SCO President for Asia-Pacific James Clark said here today.

The Monterey-64 operating system will run on 32-bit and forthcoming 64-bit Intel Corp. Merced processors and IBM's PowerPC RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processors, and will show the results of technology sharing between SCO and IBM and their respective UnixWare 7 and AIX Unix operating systems, Clark said at a technology seminar held here today.

"We've taken the best bits of AIX with the best bits of UnixWare 7 and added some new features," he said. "Monterey-64 will also include a lot of AIX middleware."

Greater scalability and capacity will mark future developments to 2001, according to Clark. These developments will include clusters of 32 nodes up from today's four to six nodes; the ability to handle 32-way SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) systems up from today's 16-way systems; and an increase in maximum individual file sizes from one terabyte to eight terabytes.

The Monterey-64 project was endorsed in April by Compaq Computer Corp. when the company said it would use the operating system on its future 64-bit ProLiant servers.

The advanced operating system will enable SCO to migrate its business towards higher-end enterprise markets, Clark said.

"The critical factors for volume markets are standard hardware, a standard operating system and volume applications," he said.

--David Legard, IDG News Service


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