DEC’s new range of DECtp transaction processing products for the VAX family, announced earlier this week (CI No 975), has provoked a fair share of comment. Broadly speaking, analysts greeted DEC’s decision to move into the $20m-a-year marketplace with enthusiasm, convinced that current leader and main target, IBM, will have some stiff competiton on its hands, but seemed to feel that performance levels still fell short of the large, fault tolerant systems offered by Tandem. Morgan Stanley analyst Carol Muratore, for example, was disappointed that DEC’s transaction speed wasn’t closer to Tandem’s, but concluded that, in price performance terms, DEC’s new offering certainly oustripped the best IBM can currently do. Others were quick to challenge DEC’s lowest – cost – per – transaction claims, arguing that benchmarks that cannot be tested against each other are meaningless, and predicted that DEC should not – and could not – look for overnight success. We’ll have to see if they can steal away accounts that were already with IBM, said George Elling at Merill Lynch. Scott McCready, associate director of the CAP International research house – no relation to Semacap Plc – was willing to concede that the products represented the DEC announcement of the year, but argued that questions relating to independent system vendors and VMS upgrades had been left unanswered. Whilst not denying that the performance results claimed by the company were staggering, he too challenged DEC’s decision to use the Debit/Credit transaction processing benchmarks, particularly when IBM’s is using its own proprietary benchmark methodology. As far as marketing strategy goes, McCready believes DEC’s best bet lies in selling the front-end to customers already moving towards a distributed processing environment, rather than attempting to lure traditional IBM customers to a back-end environment. He also sounded the standard cautionary note by arguing that it remained to be seen just how many customers will move to a distributed environment; IBM customers will, he predicted, continue to evaluate the concept for some time.
Front-end intelligence, Common Data Dictionary, links to IMS Meanwhile DEC itself continues to flesh out a number of DECtp bones, and has announced the signing of Arthur Andersen and Bankers Trust as its first US customers. Essentially, the DEC announcement boils down to two different application environments – DECintact and ACMS Version 3 – two upgraded versions of DBMS, two bridges to the IBM world, and, as the analysts confirm, a surprising degree of front-end intelligence designed to woo the less well-heeled user over to the distributed environment. Of particular front-end note is Version 1.8 of the VAX TDMS, which enables users to separate forms data from applica-tion code, and Version 4 of the VAX/CDD Common Data Dictionari, which allows data sharing between DECtp environments for appli-cations development and data administration purposes, and enables data collected across a network to be integrated into a single logical dictionary. Similarly, the integration of Version 2 of the VAX Data Distributor enables users to replicate relational databases by copying data subsets from different sources – including IBM ones – to create a single distributed database. As far as IBM bridges are concerned, users are offered IMS and VSAM links with DEC’s VAX Rdb/VMS via the VAXlink – allowing disenchanted IMS users to start building a database on a VAX – while VIDA with IDMS/R enables applications to read IBM databases. On the subject of databases, DEC claims that its transaction processing software can also be used with third party relational databases such as Oracle, but would clearly prefer users to opt for Rdb. Long-term, DEC believes that DECintact and ACMS will become fundamental, integrated parts of the VMS operating system. On the performance front, the company is clearly determined to stick by its central claim that, thanks to the product’s file management facility which speeds file updates and retrieval, the new DECintact tran
saction processing monitor can execute more than 100 transactions per second – the kind of speeds formerly associated with mainframes. DEC also claims a 30 tps twofold to-tenfold performance increase for the latest version of its VAX/Rdb/VMS relational database management system, which includes the VAX SQL database query language, and quotes a similar increased transaction speed for its enhanced VAX ACMS transaction processing monitor, when used with the VAX Rdb/VMS database management system. As far as the SA600 Storage Array disk storage system is concerned, DEC is offering the analogy of 116,000 floppy disks to illustrate the 38.8Gb storage capacity which is available when users combine the maximum four units. Benchmarks aside, DEC has also announced a range of services for DECtp users, including experts to help customers study and set specifications to meet their transaction processing requirements, and initial and continuing system monitoring and support. Unsurprisingly, the company continues to push home the advantages of a distributed environment, arguing that DECtp systems enjoy a three-to-one price-performance advantage over IBM systems offering a comparable degree of application data exchange. It is also stresses that as part of DEC’s single system architecture, DECtp can be integrated without the need to rewrite applications.