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April 19, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

DEC accompanied the launch yesterday of the one-to-four processor 6200 mid-range VAXes and the long-awaited true multiprocessing release 5.0 of the VMS operating system with a new software programme aimed at finally rationalising pricing for multi-CPU sites, and a unification of hardware and software service contracts. The company also said that a symmetrical multiprocessing version of the Ultrix version of Unix, which will take advantage of the 8800 and 6200 multiprocessors, was a few months from announcement. The new VAX 6200 machines use a single board processor similar to that used in the MicroVAX 3000, rated at 2.8 times the old 11/780, but with modifications to support cache and shared memory. They replace the 8530 and in to some extent, the 8550. Performance of two, three and four processor versions is 5.5, 8.3 and 11 times VAX 11/780 performance respectively. The central bus speed is 100Mbytes per second, up from the 80Mbytes per second of the 8800s; otherwise the machines are said to be very similar in architecture to the 8800 range. A single CPU 6210 with 32Mb memory, operating system, two BI buses, Ethernet and disk channel is about UKP126,000 – some UKP40,000+ per MIPS. A dual CPU 6220 with 64Mb is UKP220,000 to UKP230,000; a 64Mb 6230 with three processors is about UKP310,00 and a four-CPU 6240 with 128Mb is about UKP400,000. VAXcluster building block configurations are some UKP20,000 more expensive. Maximum memory is 256Mb; upgrades between models are UKP85,000 to UKP130,000 and UK shipments start at the end of May. Key features of the impatiently-awaited 5.0 release of VMS, along with support for symmetrical multiprocessing, are the merging of VAXclusters and Local Area VAXclusters, the merging of VMS and MicroVMS, and new systems management and licence tracking facilities. DEC said the release was a foundation for forthcoming software to manage and use clusters as single domains instead of collections of single nodes; for instance, CI Computer Interconnect – VAXcluster disks can now be used to provide the operating system or database for Ethernetworked MicroVAXes in a Local Area VAXcluster as well as for nodes within the CI cluster. Sysman, a new systems management facility, allows central management of print and job queues. VAXCluster software is now a layered product, not bundled with VMS. With 5.0 – which is some 8Mb larger than previous releases, and is available on compact disk read-only memory – DEC has split the previously monolithic VMS into some 20 modules, which allows users to omit parts they don’t need but means that some device drivers and system-level user software may need modification. Other VMS 5.0 features include facilities for internationalisation; users can specify different character sets to be displayed on terminals and various date and time formats. The Licence Management Facility is linked with the new software licencing policy and so far, allows system managers to track use of software on multiple nodes in a cluster. The new software distribution policy is an admission of the fact that the previous per-CPU licencing was inadequate for clusters and distributed systems. System licencing – which does not apply to VMS or DECnet – is based on power rather than number of processors; DEC’s example is that if a VAXstation is thought of as providing 10 units of power and a VAX 8200 provides 100 units, 10 VAXstations incur the same system price as one 8200. DEC claims that as a result, Cluster users may see up to 65% reduction in price. User licensing applies to layered software that can be run anywhere in a distributed system, and users can convert to system licences with a rebate on the user licences if the system approach becomes cheaper. User licensing currently covers Datatrieve, VAX Notes and Teamdata. The Licence Management Facility will issue a warning if more than the licensed number of users attempt to use a piece of software, but will not prevent access; DEC is keen to point out that it is not policing customers’ software use, although what happens in future is another matter.

Further details on the licensing policy are promised later this week. Rounding off the product announcements was a version of Fortran that eases the process of parallelising applications software. The new service arrangements include the extension of software warranty to cover complete systems and is based on system size and usage. Warranty cover will provide 12 months’ system service, access to the customer support centre, automatic software updates and the right to copy new software versions. The combined maintenance package including remote diagnosis and Preventive and Remedial Services comes as a DEC System Support contract for critical applications or a lower-priced Basic System Support contract. DEC’s introduction of software distribution for VMS on Compact Disk will later be extended to other products: ultimately, all software updates will be distributed on the 600Mb optical disks, and users who are interested in software that is on the disk but for which they are not licensed will be able to obtain an access code from DEC allowing usage for a trial period.

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