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January 18, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

Coinciding with the transfer of Intergraph Corp’s Palo Alto, California-based Advanced Processor Division to its partner in the NT-on-Sparc effort, Sun Microsystems Inc, the Huntsville, Alabama company has decided that instead of putting Microsoft Corp Windows NT on its Clipper RISC, which it pledged to its customers it would do by the third quarter, it has come up with the Phoenix alternative. The Phoenix Project, also referred to by Intergraph as simply the Clipper upgrade, will be a field-upgradable 60MHz Intel Corp Pentium-based module that existing customers can take in exchange for their Clipper units and run NT, reports our sister paper ClieNT Server News. Intergraph reckons that it will have to do the device drivers anyway so the equity investment is the same and the Intel alternative avoids the hassle of iAPX-86 emulation on Clipper. Intergraph, whose first priority is moving its Unix applications to NT, says there is no urgency to the project. It will be ready in the third or fourth quarter this year. Intergraph has been selling NT on its new Intel line and is happy with the results, estimating that it currently accounts for 15% of sales: the remainder is still Unix-based. It arranged last year with Sun to top off its hardware with NT-on-Sparc systems, which are due in 1995 and is doing the NT-on-Sparc implementation. The old Intergraph contingent, under former general manager Howard Sachs, now vice-president of engineering at the Sun Technology Business unit, will continue the work it started three months ago making the Sparc bi-endian and a suitable chip on which to run NT.

Not the only bi-endian project

The deal Sachs cut with Sun over the summer will still have Intergraph doing the NT-to-Sparc conversion, building a SuperSparc II-based reference system and moving all its software over to Sparc-on-NT, the engine Intergraph intends to use to supplant its own Clipper-based machines – although its experience with NT so far is teaching it that the underlying system is immaterial. Apparently Sachs’ work is not the only bi-endian project that Sun has going. It seems there is at least one other Sun-internal project aimed at producing a bi-endian Sparc that will tape out soon. Like his own project, it too can be construed as a SuperSparc, Sachs told ClieNT Server News, adding that all future Sparc chips will be bi-endian. (Others at Sun described Sachs’ project as a next-generation SuperSparc II). Sachs is hopeful that his project, which is not due to produce a system until 1995, will offer more performance at a lower cost. It is possible that the other project could produce systems this year that would be used by software developers to convert their software while Sachs’ project is used in the systems that Sun puts on the open market. It is also possible that the two teams will vie with one another for that honour. Sachs believes that Sun’s acquisition of the Intergraph team, some 70 people, will heighten the company’s ability to compete effectively against the likes of Digital Equipment Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co, which have consistently had larger architectural design contingents in-house.

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