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October 4, 1998

IBM BACK IN THE BLACK WITH POWER3 WORKSTATIONS

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp this week debuts a new CAD Collaboration workstation strategy based on the belief that customers will want to use a mix of Unix and Windows NT workstations to run MCAD, EDA and other design tasks. Shops that have ditched Unix internally for NT like Chrysler and Motorola are anomalies, it believes. There’s a new AIX workstation using the latest Power3 RISC which for a short time puts IBM ahead of the Unix pack on floating point performance and a new NT box, plus collaboration software and plan to deliver new graphics cards and other subsystem components that can be used on either of the PCI bus lines. As expected, one of the new AIX workstations uses Power3, IBM’s first purpose- built 64-bit processor designed to run Unix. The other uses a PowerPC 604e running at 375MHz. The two new AIX boxes come in all-black livery, like the NT-based IntelliStations and run a new 4.3.2 cut of AIX. IBM claims Power3 gives it the industry’s highest-performing workstations – at least until Compaq Computer Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co debut products using their latest RISCs that is. Power3 (formerly known as PowerPC 630), debuts at 200MHz in 0.25 microns and performs 30.1 SPECfp95 but a less than inspiring 13.2 SPECint95. Power3 inherits the compute-intensive Power CPU family’s superscalar design and is binary compatible with the commercially-oriented PowerPC family. There are eight execution units compared with the 32-bit Power2SC’s seven; the two floating-point units deliver 800 MFLOPS performance. It will be done in IBM’s CMOS7 copper process next year. IBM says it’s got at least five years worth of future Power designs on the table. With Power3 IBM may be able to boost workstation shipments and revenues despite its own aggressive moves into NT. All of the RS/6000 workstations will move to Power3 over time – the servers are using RS64-II a version of the AS/400 division’s 64-bit Northstar PowerPC design. The Model 43P 260 with one or two Power3 chips comes with up to 4Mb L2 cache, 4Gb RAM, five PCI slots, AIX 4.3.2 and costs from $19,000. SP parallel nodes using Power3 will be introduced within 90 days. The Model 43P 150 gets a new 375MHz PowerPC 604e chip and a new I/O subsystem and is priced from $10,000. AIX 4.3.2 can address 32Gb memory, supports 64-bit SMP addressing, 512Mb kernel data space. A new GXT3000P graphics accelerator board for both workstatioons costs from $6,500. The new IntelliStation Z Pro has one or two 450MHz Intel Xeon CPUs, 512Kb cache, up to 2Gb RAM and costs from $4,150. The WorkGroup conferencing software supports Unix and Windows desktop conferencing including Microsoft NetMeeting and is available free of charge running on an RS/6000. A video conferencing solution starts at $10,000. The most important development as far as collaboration is concerned however will be the introduction of version 5.0 of Dassault Systemes SA’s Catia 3D CAD/CAM package (or more importantly a new version of the Ace application software) this year – also on NT. Most RS/6000 customers have made huge investments in Catia and will now be able to share designs between AIX and NT teams. IBM sold some 145,000 AIX workstations in 1997. The workstation business now accounts for around a quarter of RS/6000 revenues, which were 7% of total revenue in 1997, or in the region of $5.5bn. Workstations once accounted for the great majority of RS/6000 sales. IBM shipped 10,496 AIX workstations worth around $125m in the second quarter of this year according to Dataquest, around 6.5% of total Unix workstation shipments. Total workstation sales for IBM in the period, including NT ships, were $305m. While WinTel workstations are becoming important at the low-end of the market IBM observes the irony is they still can’t be used to create the next Intel CPU.

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