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November 30, 1987

EVIDENCE GROWS THAT INMOS TRANSPUTER IS CLOSE TO MARKET BREAKTHROUGH

By CBR Staff Writer

Proof of market acceptance of the Inmos T800 Transputer is coming thick and fast now that it has entered volume production at Inmos International’s Newport, South Wales fabrication plant. And despite a few grumbles about availability, Inmos’ Phill Rutter, general manager at Newport, declares that we are seeing good yields, despite the complexity of the part. Manufacturing the T414 Transputer has helped us up the learning path for the T800. Director of microsystems Peter Cavill says that over 2,000 customers have bought Transputers – out of those 500 had active development or evaluation products, with half classed as committed design wins. Around 50 products have now hit the market. Visitors to a rather lacklustre Compec show at London’s Olympia the other day had the chance to see Inmos highlight some of its more advanced customers. Consultant Topexpress Ltd of Cambridge says that it has implemented an application simulating fluid flow through a turbine blade using cheap Transputer technology, but offering up to one fifth of the performance of a UKP12m Cray – that’s a hundred-fold improvement in price-performance, according to Andy Holman from Topexpress. Savory MillnWhite Cross Systems Ltd from South London was more specific about where its systems are going: it has recently installed a 26- Transputer database search engine at the City stockbroker SBCI Savory Milln’s London Bridge offices. Staff will be able to scan over a million records in less than one fifth of a second via 20 IBM PS/2 terminals – more Transputers and up to 200 terminals could eventually be added. And three-month-old Niche Technology Ltd of Bristol, which has a sister company in Houston, Texas, demonstrated its first product – the NT1000 Advanced Computing Platform, a processor Transputer board that fits into a host Sun 3 or Sun 4 workstation. Director Ian Pearson claims that the boards, which support up to 32 simultaneous and different tasks, has performance ratings of 320 MIPS and 4 MFLOPS. Up to eight of the plug-in modules can be added to a workstation, and will run under Sun’s SunOS operating system and networking facilities. A Sun 3/160 with 4 Advanced Computing Platforms would result in a price per MFLOPS of around UKP1,000, said Pearson, who also revealed the company’s plans to produce a version for the DEC MicroVAX in 1988. Niche says it will begin porting third party software with a view to becoming a Sun value added-reseller, looking especially at the financial arena. With Atari Corp now a committed fan, and with strong hints that Steve Jobs’ Next Inc may be planning to use the part in its Scholar’s Workstation, the Inmos part can be said to be on the brink of breakthrough. But all the Transputer developers at Compec agreed that the advent of widespread parallelism in computers would necessitate a new awareness of how to exploit it from programmers. Less than 20% of a particular existing program might be in compute-limited sections, said Pearson. We’re talking a couple of man-months to alter that for some performance improvement. But after that it would be time to stand back and re-write for a more natural solution.

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