Eye on the Competition

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

December  1997
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NCR buys U of Wisconsin database technology

London (December 10, 1997) -- NCR Corp. has purchased multimedia and parallel database technology developed at the University of Wisconsin for use in future versions of its Teradata relational database management software, the company announced today.

The new technology will be used to enhance the multimedia capabilities of Teradata for use in decision support data warehouses, officials said. It will allow Teradata's object relational database structure to be used for data warehousing of complex data types, such as geographic maps and videos, according to NCR.

Further terms of the agreement between NCR and the University of Wisconsin were not disclosed. However, NCR said it will donate $500,000 to the University in order to fund two graduate fellowships and to open a database research lab in Madison, Wisconsin, near the University. The lab will be used by NCR to do research into new database technologies, officials said.

Currently, Teradata can be used to capture, store and manipulate multimedia data types including images, video, audio and animation. The data can then be linked to traditional alphanumeric relational information. NCR plans to upgrade Teradata in the future to enable users to analyze objects by doing "deep-content analysis" of the data in their systems, according to NCR. Users can deploy this capability in order to do strategic planning, analysis of customer trends and streamlining of operations, officials said.

--Kristi Essick, IDG News Service



Fujitsu to launch UltraSPARC server in U.S. next week

Tokyo (December 4, 1997) -- Fujitsu Ltd. next week will announce its first Unix-based server in the U.S., a single CPU unit based on the UltraSPARC RISC processor running at 300 MHz, a company official said today.

The unit was developed by HAL Computer Systems Inc., a wholly-owned Fujitsu subsidiary based in Campbell, CA, which develops systems based on Sun Microsystems Inc.'s SPARC processors. The new server will likely be marketed under the HAL brand name and will be called the GP 7000/200, the official said.

The server will come with 64 megabytes of main memory, upgradable to four gigabytes and will have two megabytes of cache, according to the official.

The unit will be available with up to 32.5 gigabytes of disk space, but will come standard with 2.4 gigabytes of storage, he said, adding that the server will support up to 6.7 terabytes of external RAID.

The official would not disclose the price of the new server.

A long time manufacturer of SPARC chips and seller of SPARC-based servers and workstations in Japan, Fujitsu is gradually expanding both its PC and server presence in the U.S. market.

In the middle of last year, the company began selling notebook PCs in the United States through a newly-established subsidiary, and in addition to the SPARC server, the company is currently considering whether to embark on Windows NT-based PC server sales in the U.S., officials said.

Fujitsu is already testing the waters in Asia outside of Japan where this week the company rolled out a server series in its Teamserver lineup that supports up to six 200-MHz Pentium Pro CPUs.

In addition, last week Fujitsu launched the Teamserver C260i and C270i which are powered by a single 233-MHz Pentium II processor and a 266-MHz Pentium II processor, respectively, each shipping with a 4.3-gigabyte drive.

The company is also offering the units with two dual processors. They are priced from $2,767.

The official could not say when Fujitsu will begin selling PC servers in the United States.

--Rob Guth, IDG News Service


SGI latest target of class action lawsuit

San Francisco (December 2, 1997) -- A class action lawsuit has been filed against Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) accusing the company of making false and misleading statements that inflated the stock price for insider trading.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of anyone who purchased SGI common stock between July 24 and Oct. 6.

The complaint alleges that unnamed defendants made false and misleading statements about SGI's business and financial results in order to artificially inflate the price of SGI stock. Meanwhile, defendants sold 286,584 shares of their SGI stock for a $7.4 million gain, the lawsuit alleges.

After the company completed the exchange of convertible debt and after the stock was sold, SGI revealed that it had fired CEO and Chairman Edward McCracken and would restructure its organization. At the time SGI also said that its strong fourth-quarter results were generated from pulling orders in from future quarters. Consequently, SGI expected a revenue shortfall in the first quarter of fiscal 1998 and beyond, according to the lawsuit.

In the wake of SGI's statements, the company's stock price dropped to less than $14 per share from a high of $30 5/16, the lawsuit claims.

A spokesman for SGI said the company believes the lawsuit has no merit and will "vigorously defend" its position. He said he could not comment further.

--Elinor Mills, IDG News Service

HP launches Changengine, with Netscape's seconding

London (December 2, 1997) -- Hewlett-Packard Co. has launched new software intended to let corporations quickly adapt business processes associated with enterprise applications and workflow systems and has announced that Netscape Communications Corp. will be one of the first vendors to embed the software into its products.

Called HP Changengine, the new offering sits on top of large-scale enterprise and workflow applications to enable corporations to change underlying business processes without having to reengineer the entire code base of the applications, according to Rob Biggin, European marketing director for HP Europe's Software Services and Support division. It works by enabling the process logic to reside outside the business application so that processes can be changed without rewriting code. With most business applications, the process logic is embedded in the software code itself, requiring the code base to be rewritten every time a business process needs to be updated, HP officials said.

Companies will still have to undertake business process re-engineering when they need to update the way business applications are implemented, but Changengine will speed up the process significantly, Biggin said.

Initially, HP will embed Changengine into its own line of workflow and business process management software, starting with AdminFlow, a suite of forms that allow companies to automate administrative tasks such as filing expense reports and booking travel arrangements. Following AdminFlow, HP will embed Changengine into OpenMail for messaging, OpenView for network management and Praesidium for firewall security.

HP also will work directly with corporations to integrate the technology into and across existing legacy applications, officials said. The company plans to make Changengine available for several flavors of Unix and Windows NT.

But embedding Changengine into its own products and helping customers deploy it across existing legacy applications is not the only strategy that HP envisions for the product. The company also plans to make the technology available to software vendors that want to embed it into their applications.

While HP's business-process, groupware and messaging products compete directly with products from the likes of SAP AG and PeopleSoft Inc., HP also sees these vendors as potential partners in integrating Changengine, Biggin said. Because it sits on top of the application and allows users to reengineer processes more easily and painlessly, HP expects software vendors will be keen to offer the technology with their own applications, he said.

The first partner to announce formal plans to integrate Changengine into its workflow product is Netscape. HP and Netscape said today that they intend to jointly develop process-management and workflow solutions based on Changengine and on Netscape Directory Server and SuiteSpot groupware software, officials said. Netscape and HP will work to integrate AdminFlow (with Changengine technology) into Netscape Directory Server, allowing SuiteSpot users to accomplish administrative tasks, such as filing expense reports and vacation requests, and enterprise tasks such as budget approvals, via a Web browser interface, Biggin said.

The integration of HP AdminFlow into SuiteSpot should take place in the next couple of months, Biggin said. A definitive release date for the new groupware-enabled SuiteSpot was not announced.

Other software vendors may not be far behind Netscape in adopting Changengine. SAP already has plans to integrate Changengine technology into its R/3 suite of business applications, Biggin said. In addition, HP is talking to several other large software vendors about embedding the technology into their products, he said.

HP also announced today the formation of a new business unit, dubbed the Electronic Business Software Organization, which will focus on providing business and process-management applications such as Changengine and AdminFlow.

--Kristi Essick, IDG News Service


HP unveils eight-way NT server

London(December 2, 1997) -- Aiming to get a jump on its rivals, Hewlett-Packard Co. has adopted a short-term technical solution to build an eight-way server running Windows NT.

The company says the strategy will provide it with a lead of up to a year over its two main rivals in the Intel-based server market, IBM and Compaq Computer Corp., both of which are likely to wait for the Deschutes processor and associated technology which Intel is preparing to support multiprocessor servers.

HP's new LXr Pro8 system uses the new Adaptive Memory Crossbar switch from Axil Computer Inc., owned by the Korean Hyundai Group. The system itself runs between two and eight Pentium Pro 200-MHz processors, and comes in a rack formation which will hold four eight-way servers in a single cabinet.

First shipments will start before the end of the month, and volume shipments begin in January. HP said an average configuration with two processors will cost around $30,000.

"We have a real lead on our main competitors," said Duncan Campbell, general manager of HP's Commercial Netserver Operation, "They are waiting for Deschutes, and we have such a share of the Axil mindset that they [Axil] won't have the resources to deal with other companies."

Crucial to the success of the eight-way server will be Windows NT's ability to manage multiple processors efficiently.

Campbell said early benchmarks show that SAP R/3 runs 40 percent faster on an eight-way system than a four-way, while Microsoft Exchange runs 60 percent faster. "With our performance tuning tools we are confident those figures can be increased greatly," he said.

Once Intel launches the Deschutes processor some time next year, HP customers will be able to upgrade by replacing the motherboard in the LXr Pro8 server, Campbell said. He defended the decision to go for a stopgap solution with Axil, saying that customers need the power now, and the Deschutes launch date is still not certain, and may slip.

Although the new server is a global product, HP chose to announce the product in Europe ahead of the U.S. to demonstrate Europe's importance to the company, Campbell said.

To support marketing in Europe, HP has also joined with Oracle Corp. in planning a one-year pan-European roadshow, aimed at medium-sized companies across the continent. Called the NT Solutions Tour '98, it will involve taking a truck and trailer measuring 16 meters long around the countries of Europe, visiting 5,000 customers or prospects along the way.

The truck will hold a range of HP servers, preloaded with Oracle database software and a range of application software from Oracle, Baan and PeopleSoft. Local resellers will also be able to load their own software to demonstrate the power of the system, said Sergio Giacoletto, vice president in charge of alliances for Oracle EMEA.

The two companies will share the cost of the year-long program, but were only prepared to say it was "a significant investment."

--Ron Condon, IDG News Service


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