When Digital Equipment Corp announced the VAX 8800 series of true multiprocessors in the US last week – its most powerful incarnation yet of the VAX – the company slyly wheeled out its vice-president for mid-range systems, William Demmer to introduce the thing. No journalist worth his expenses was going to pass up a come-on like that, and the question was duly posed. Well naturally, these aren’t the only things we are working on, came the reply, sending the clear message to the competition that if it believes that the current machines – built using a fairly mature top-end processor – are all it has to match, well it ain’t seen nothing yet. We can expect a new uniprocessor delivering perhaps two and a half or three times the performance of the 8700 CPU that is the building block for the multi-processors, and that it may well be out before the end of the calendar year. DEC was more forthcoming on the other obvious question – when do we see multi-processor configurations of the smaller of the two current CPUs in the line? The answer to that one is in a few months. DEC UK explained that there are currently only two basic CPUs in the VAX 8000 line, the 8250 and all the variants up to but not including the 8550. The 8550 is a slugged version of the 8700 CPU. And having gone to the trouble and expense of finally cracking multiprocessing within the VMS operating system, DEC really wants people to use it: it accompanied the launch with what it describes as the most comprehensive support and service programme for the VAX 8800 series ever offered with any DEC system. As for those upgrades, putting your old 8700 or 8800 processors into a new cabinet, and adding the necessary extra CPUs is done on site and typically takes less than a day. Who does DEC reckon will be the most immediately attracted to the new machines? Heavy, mixed workloads The versatility and expandability of the new VAX 8800 Series is ideal for large computer resource centres, it asserts. The new VAX 8800 Series is most effective when serving the varying needs of a wide range of users and applications, providing consistent high performance and overall throughput in environments such as engineering departments, giving technical professionals access to files and databases, technical computations, documentation and electronic mail. Other areas include shop floor information systems, tracking critical shop floor status to be integrated with planning and control, and banks, for analysing and sharing data, electronic mail and data exchange with external services, the company suggested. DEC also confirmed that its Ultrix version of the Unix operating system and VAX ELN real-time software are supported on the VAX 8810 system today and that both will be available for the other configurations in the future. On the subject of that service and support programme, DEC says it includes installation, 24-hour, seven-day hardware support, and Performance Reporting Service for one year. The one-year warranty covers all DEC hardware, software and DEC-licensed software bought with the system. The company will also assign each customer an account manager at its Customer Support Center, and his or her job is to help promote high system efficiency by coordinating service and support and administering the Performance Reporting Service. Support service for the entry level VAX 8810 configuration includes a full one-year DECservice hardware warranty that provides hardware installation, 24-hour hardware telephone support, and on-site hardware support during business hours. The warranty programmes for the first year are included in the system price, and can be extended at time of purchase to a total of up to three years.