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January 19, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

Born as the team of all the talents, Encore Computer Corp, now in Marlboro, Massachusetts, had one of the rockiest childhoods of any major start-up, and after some $50m of venture capital still had very little to show for either the cash or the big names it attracted when it prematurely went public in 1985. Shorn now of most of its talents, chastened and a whole lot more modest in its ambitions, the company is now hoping that the new monster it has created from – as expected (CI No 600) – the National Semiconductor 32332 second generation 32-bit microprocessor, will finally put its finances onto a firm footing. The new Multimax 320, announced last Thursday, is a major upgrade of the original Multimax parallel processing Unix machine, and makes a nod or two more to industry standards by supporting the Sun Microsystems Network File System. Claimed to support several hundred users and to offer three times the performance of the VAX 8800 at a lower price, the new machine runs both a new Umax 3 multiprocessor implementation of Unix System V.3 as well as the existing Umax 4.2 version of Berkeley Unix 4.2. The building block of the Multimax 320 series is the Advanced Processor Card, consisting of NS32332 plus 32382 memory management unit claimed to deliver 4 MIPS. An optional floating point accelerator is offered, and up to 10 of the Advanced Processing Cards are supported in a single system, which when fitted with maths processors as well is claimed to perform 40 megaWhetstones. Up to 128Mb of shared main memory connected to processors by a 100Mbyte-per-second bus is available, and a new mass storage card supports a total of 12Mbytes-per-second of input-output traffic over three independent channels, and up to five of these can be installed for an aggregate peak input-output data rate of 60Mbytes-per second. Disk support extends to 100Gb, and existing Multimax 120s can be field-upgraded to 320s by swapping processor boards. Prices go from $131,000 to over $500,000 and an 8Mb four MIPS entry system with 408Mb disk, a 6,250 bpi tape drive, console and system software licence is $131,000. Additional Advanced Processor Cards are $29,000 each and the Floating Point Accelerators are $10,000 a throw, the Mass Storage Card is $15,000; the processor card is set for April, the Mass Storage Card will follow in July.

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