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A rising tide lifts all ships

SPARC compatible makers froth at the mouth over UltraSPARC

By Barry D. Bowen

November  1995
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According to Goldberg, the differentiation comes from designing and fabricating its own version-9-compliant 64-bit SPARC chip, and then extending the Solaris 2.4 code base to a complete 64-bit environment -- kernel, system calls, libraries, compilers, etc.

Compatibility claims are backed with a money-back guarantee, says Goldberg.

"HAL will have the only true 64-bit operating environment for the next couple of years. I simply do not know how valuable a 64-bit hardware design can be without a 64-bit OS," Goldberg said.

SMCC, compatible makers, and analysts are answering that question -- the value is two to three times faster performance with no technology dislocation.

Axil Computer (Santa Clara, CA), Integrix (Newbury Park, CA), and Tatung Science and Technology Inc. (TSTI, Milpitas, CA) say they will have their own UltraSPARC desktop offerings within a couple of months of SMCC shipments. Without disclosing details, the machines should step in near the price-point of their top uniprocessor SPARCstation 20 compatibles.

"We have seen good growth in the SPARC market this year. UltraSPARC should put us back in the price-performance game by the end of the year," says president of TSTI, Kam Chan.

Axil will ship UltraSPARC desktops by January 1st, says vice president of marketing, Arun Taneja.

Taneja takes issue with the perspective of HAL's Goldberg on a couple of key points. Taneja expects to see a 64-bit Solaris within 12 to 18 months, rather than the 24-month (at least) time frame suggested by Goldberg. Taneja also thinks having a 32-bit enhanced OS will not be a problem because the end result will still be a tremendous performance boost.

In the opinion of Cray Research marketing programs manager, Shahin Kahn, UltraSPARC should redefine the workstation market and will soon be reflected in new server announcements.

A 64-bit OS is not essential for Cray to deliver what they want from UltraSPARC, says Kahn. The issues are support for very large files and large amounts of memory, which do not depend upon a 64-bit OS.

The ability to support large files and a large amount of memory covers what most applications need. Existing OSes can support more than 32 bits of addressing at the OS level, which is how Cray supports 16 GB of main memory, Kahn says.

Gene Lee, research manager in International Data Group's mid-range systems group (Framingham, MA), says UltraSPARC is of critical importance to both SMCC and SPARC-compatible vendors because Sun's performance has been lagging.

The issue for Lee is whether UltraSPARC's performance boost is a flash in the pan or keeps Sun's performance competitive over the long haul. If Sun can boost UltraSPARC clock speeds when other vendors respond with new offerings, then Lee expects Sun to stay near the head of the performance pack.

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About the author
About the author Barry D. Bowen ( is an industry analyst and writer with the Bowen Group Inc., based in Bellingham, WA.

Reach Barry at

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