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April 21, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

Annecy-le-Vieux, France-based Archipel SA has unveiled Volvix, a parallel Unix operating system based on Chorus Systemes SA’s Chorus/Mix microkernel. Volvix currently runs on machines based on Inmos International Ltd’s T425 and T805 Transputers and Intel Corp’s 80860, where the 80860 shares its memory with the Transputer residing on its node. The Chorus microkernel executes on each node and accesses Unix System V.3.2-based services layered on top via a multiple instruction, multiple data, location-transparent Inter-Process Communication mechanism. Unix services are placed where they are most needed and controlled by a dynamic configuration system. The Transputer provides Unix services, the 80860 does the heavy sums. The Inter-Process Communication also provides users with a global view of the machine, and enables processes to be killed from any node. Archipel says it used Unix System V.3.2 system calls and utilities rather than System V.4 because Transputers don’t use the virtual memory on which System V.4 relies so heavily, and the operating system’s extra functionality isn’t justified by its added complexity. Sitting on top of the Unix interfaces are X Window System X11 libraries and a Power Virtual Machines programming environment and message-passing interface. Archipel has also added Berkeley Fast File System and Network File System extensions the further to ease application portability to Volvix. This means that most applications simply need to be recompiled, the exception being parallel applications that don’t support TCP/IP or sockets. The first iteration of Volvix resides in 2Mb of memory, but this will drop to 1.4Mb next month when a new version comes out with an improved memory buffer. A subsequent release, due in the autumn, will support Inmos’s overdue T9000 Transputer, which is sampling now – Archipel is evaluating Alpha and PowerPC implementations too. Volvix is targeted at parallel and embedded markets, and will cost around UKP1,870 for the next couple of months, rising to UKP2,570 thereafter. Meanwhile, the firm claims it is currently in discussions with five potential original equipment manufacturer partners, both hardware and software vendors, and is also planning a joint marketing programme with Inmos. Archipel was funded by the European Community Esprit-based Open Microprocessor Initiative’s Harmony project and the Eureka Eurotops initiative. Customers include CERN, the Centre for European Research into Nucleonics on the Swiss-French border, which is developing a dial-in video server, and the University of Lausanne, which is developing applications to reconstruct images from positron emission demographics for medical purposes.

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