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November 3, 1993

CRAY RESEARCH AIMS FOR THE COMMERCIAL MARKET BEYOND ITS OWN BASE WITH ITS NEW SUPERSPARC-BASED SUPERSERVERS

By CBR Staff Writer

Cray Research Inc, as reported briefly (CI No 2,283) has unveiled its new line of superservers, based on Sun Microsystems Inc’s SuperSparc RISC microprocessors, and claims they combine the price-performance of a high-end server with the benefits of a mainframe. Such benefits include security, the ability to hot-swap boards, and reliability. The CS6400s come with from four to 64 60MHz SuperSparcs, 256Mb to 16Gb of central memory, 1.3Gb per second peak memory bandwidth and more than 2Tb of on-line disk storage. Furthermore, when Sun releases the 64-bit UltraSparc late next year, users will not only be able to upgrade to the chip, but also use a combination of SuperSparcs and UltraSparcs, should they so desire. Although Cray has not yet decided to migrate its new massively parallel processing supercomputer from the 150MHz Alpha chip to the UltraSparc, it did say this was a possibility. The CS6400 is being marketed as an enterprise server and is aimed at the downsizing market, especially commercial and technical data centres concerned about the high cost of upgrading and running mainframe systems. For example, customers can use Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Brixton Systems Inc’s suite of about 20 network products to connect their superservers to SNA architectures. This means a superserver can act as a peer to IBM Corp mainframes or mid-range systems, and users can run their Unix applications on IBM kit and vice versa. Cray expects to sell the machines to a significant number of new-name customers, predominantly in the commercial arena, wanting more power at the top end of Sun’s existing product range – Sun says its intends to stay firmly in the desktop and deskside market and will not develop machines that go above the two- to 20-processor range. The CS6400s also run Solaris 2.3 with added bits and bobs taken from Cray’s own Unix operating system, Unicos, such as support for 64-way parallelism – the group has no intention of putting Unicos up on the superservers, however.

Four main channels

It wouldn’t make sense, it declared. Furthermore, because the machines offer binary compatibility with Sun’s existing boxes, customers can run any existing Solaris application and use any Sparc-compliant interface on the desktop, such as Microsoft Corp Windows NT. Cray has also signed support agreements with various third party vendors, such as Oracle Corp for Oracle7 and the Information Managment Co Inc with its implementation of the Tuxedo transaction processing monitor – and is in discussion with others. The CS6400s will be sold via four main channels: by a direct sales team at the Cray Research Superservers division in Portland, Oregon, which co-developed the machines with Sun; by the Cray Research Inc parent to its existing customer base; through systems integrators and value-added resellers, one being SunIntegration Services; and with Sun on a case-by-case basis. The group said that Sican GmbH, a German microelectronics consortium, has already ordered a 48-processor system, which it will receive by the middle of next year, and Electricite de France will buy a 16-processor system with 2Gb of memory. This will be delivered next month, and upgraded to 32 CPUs in 1994. Initial shipments of the CS6400s start next month, with volume sales beginning in the first quarter of 1994. Prices go from $400,000 for a four-processor system to $2.5m for a 64-processor one. Cray says that this will not be the end of its relationship with Sun, however – the two are already working on a successor product, although this won’t be arriving next month – or next year.

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