Apollo Computer has launched its Network Computing System in the UK and announced general availability in July (CI No 623). The Chelmsford, Massachusetts company claims that this is the first commercially available set of distributed computing products for developing and running applications across networks of incompatible computers from multiple vendors. It can distribute modules or parts, of an application program to the specialised computers on the network that will best fulfil the needs of that part of the application – artificial intelligence machines; graphics workstations; database engines; supercomputers. The system is based on industry standard networking protocols such as the UDP protocol in TCP/IP, level 3 of the Open Systems protocols, and the Xerox XNS protocol – and it sits on top of Sun Microsystems’ Network File System. The company acknowledges that without industry support, particularly that of software houses and system builders, the product will go nowhere and to prevent this Apollo instigated the formation of the Network Computing Forum which includes hardware manufacturers such as Alliant, Celerity, Concurrent, Convex, Texas Instruments; users – Boeing, Caterpillar, Westinghouse; software houses like Oracle, Mentor Graphics, Software Productivity Consortium; and academic institutions incorporating MIT Project Athena, University of Iowa and University of Michigan. Apollo says that all of the 30 or so members of the Forum are experimenting with NCS and Racal Redac in this country is a beta test site for the product. Apollo is also trying to get more software houses and research establishments interested in the product in the UK. Initially the product will be available under VMS and Unix but Apollo plans to port it to other environments. Apollo anticipates that the first users will come from the electrical and mechanical engineering worlds as these are usually the first to adopt new technologies – witness time sharing and workstations.
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