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November 16, 1993

FUJITSU’s ROSS FINDS A WAY TO MAKE MONEY OUT OF THE SPARCSTATION-COMPATIBLE BUSINESS WITH UPGRADE MODULES

By CBR Staff Writer

With 25 incoming calls a day and a claimed 50 installations already under its belt, Fujitsu Ltd’s Ross Technology Inc subsidiary says it has got all the business it needs for its HyperSparc RISC upgrade system coming in without having to go and bang on doors at the moment. With Hyundai Electronics America Inc’s Axil workstations Inc already beating Ross’ drum in the systems business with its line of HyperSparc-based workstations, the Fujitsu unit is now focused on gobbling up as much upgrade business as it can get from Sun Microsystems Inc users. Ross is pushing its superscalar HyperSparc into this OEM upgrade space by offering Sun’s Galaxy server and Sparcstation 10 users new MBus modules to replace their existing processing units. The Ross chip set runs at 55MHz, is rated at 75 SPECfp92 and 55 SPECint92, and is available in two or four processor configurations at $6,000 and $10,000 respectively. There are estimated to be around 13,000 Galaxy servers in use – Sun’s two year-old Sparcserver 600MP range – which were designed around the 40MHz Sparc that Ross supplied to Sun back when Ross was owned by Cypress Semiconductor Corp. Ross estimates most Sparcserver 690MP owners have spent well over $150,000 each on their hardware, some $400,000 on software, and claims HyperSparc upgrade modules offer them a 2.5 to 3.5 time performance boost for only $10,000. Sun’s Sparcstation 10 – of which some 75,000 have been delivered – uses the 45MHz Texas Instruments Inc SuperSparc. Ross is hoping to woo over some of these users too, especially for its quad CPU option, as Sun’s own four-CPU desktop isn’t yet – according to Ross – being shipped in any volume. Ross hasn’t yet been able to cut a deal with Sun for HyperSparc – if Sun were to carry the processor in its catalogue, that could probably increase Ross’ business several fold overnight, but the likelihood of such a deal now ever making it to the table seems to recede further every day. Ross’ reasoning is that Sun is necessarily more interested in selling new and larger systems to customers rather than low margin upgrades that extend the life of its existing systems. Ross’ next slew of HyperSparcs – formerly known as Gemini and Viper and now dubbed Colorado – will be moved to its new parent’s manufacturing process and produced in 0.5 micron, three-layer metal technology at 90MHz. An interim 66MHz iteration of the existing part could be offered in the first quarter of next year, but that will depend on how the upgrade programme goes between now and then, Ross says. The Austin, Texas chip designer also says it is preparing a new set of announcements featuring tie-ups with Sun software partners to try and broaden the appeal of HyperSparc.

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