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October 12, 1999

Compaq Unveils Zero Latency Transaction Engine

By CBR Staff Writer

By Phil Jones in Geneva

In a belated recognition of its established presence in the telco sector, Compaq Computer Corp yesterday formally created Compaq Telecommunications as a line of business at the Telecom 99 event in Geneva, and added some gloss to the event by unveiling a so-called zero latency engine.

The ZLE, a monster 128-processor confection of Compaq’s Non-Stop Himalaya and former Alpha architectures, with 250MB of memory and 111 TB of disk, was demonstrated by live link from the company’s Cupertino, California computing center. At peak load the machine processed 40,000 CDRs (the call data records that are the standard transaction units of public telephone networks) per second, giving it a daily capacity of 1.2 billion transactions.

Greg Battas, chief architect of Compaq’s ZLE project, said the massive load was equivalent to the combined daily CDR profile of the world’s four biggest telcos. Compaq, which thanks to its Tandem legacy systems already sells kit to virtually all the worlds major telcos, built the ZLE demonstrator to prove the concept of simultaneously driving a telcos operational databases, customer relationship management and online analytical processing data sets against single data hub in real-time.

The system, smaller versions of which are already in service with several US telecoms companies and a Dutch retail bank, is destined to be productized over the next six months, said Bill Heil, VP and general manager of Compaq’s business critical server division. It will be positioned as a key business tool for enabling real-time e-commerce applications for the largest carriers and .com retail business, as well as for smaller e-commerce organizations. According to Battas, the ZLE has been experimentally scaled down to a four processor Alpha version, offering an entry-level price of $100,000.

Heil said he expects today’s carriers to typically start with systems addressing between 150GB to 200GB of data, with a view to quickly ramping up to around 6TB as more complex customer facing applications are brought online. To realize the full potential of the ZLE as it was demonstrated from Cupertino, Heil estimated that a customer would be looking at an investment of somewhere in the mid $20m range.

However, even with this massive price tag, Heil claimed the ZLE could pay for itself in a matter of weeks. Telecoms fraud is a global problem running at $12bn per year, and costing large telcos millions of dollars a month, he said.

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