French computer maker Compagnie des Machines Bull made its first serious entry into the Windows NT server market yesterday, shipping its new range of Express 5800 and 8000 series NT servers in conjunction with its mainframe partner NEC Corp (CI No 3,118). The new systems include the 5800 RM4100 rack mounted system, with up to four 200MHz Pentium Pro processors, and an entry-level 5800 ES1200 server using a 233MHz or 266MHz Pentium II chip. In between are the 5800 MT2000, aimed at database and server intensive applications with up to two 200MHz Pentium Pros, and the MH4000 high availability system with up to four Pentium Pros. The machines are basically identical with NEC’s own, but Bull has exclusive distribution rights in Europe, while both companies are expected to market the boxes in the US. UK prices start at 1,600 pounds for the entry level system, rising to 8,000 pounds for the rack-mounted systems. As promised, Bull is bundling its ISM/OpenMaster systems management software in with the new machines, and says it will be providing middleware for integration with Unix, IBM mainframes and its proprietary GCOS mainframe systems. It will also be backing the hardware up with services and systems integration offerings. Once further performance optimization work has been carried out, eight way systems should be ready to ship to key customers by the end of the year, with general availability at the beginning of next year, the company said. Further down the line, and with some input at least from NEC, Bull says it is planning clusters of up to eight, eight way systems, totaling 64 processors, through high-speed switching technology currently under development. Those are due onto the market at the end of 1998, or early in 1999. In the past, Bull has sold on low-end Intel-based NT boxes from Zenith Data Systems Inc. Before that, of course, it was considering using the PowerPC chip for higher-end NT systems, until Motorola Inc and IBM Corp pulled the plug on developing NT for the PowerPC chip last year (CI No 3,065). Aside from its pact with NEC, Bull says it is also working direct with Intel on 64- bit Merced systems, which of course, are unlikely to see the light of day until 1999 at the earliest. Bull says its PowerPC Unix systems are aimed at different markets than the NT boxes, specifically the large data center and database server markets. Announcements on its 64-bit Unix systems are expected to follow over the next few weeks.