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  1. Technology
February 15, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

IBM’s new RISC System/6000 Powersystems arrive in six workstation and server models…IBM has finally steeled itself to unveil its new Unix workstaion and servers – the RISC System/6000 family – aimed at cracking the lucrative engineering and scientific workstation market as well at commercial Unix systems. As widely previewed, the family consists of five workstations and five servers using IBM’s second generation ROMP RISC processor as the basis of its new computer architecture, dubbed Power – that’s Performance Optimisation with Enhanced RISC. The machines run AIX Version 3, which IBM claims is an easy to use and robust Unix System V.3 implementation incorporating features such as C2 level security and support for real-time operation. The performance range is from 27 VAX MIPS and 7.4 MFLOPS to 41 MIPS and 13 MFLOPS – all models are uniprocessors. Workstation models are the entry-level Powerstation 320 and 520 (both using the same engine), followed by the 34.5 MIPS, 10.9 MFLOPS Model 530 and the 41 MIPS, 13 MFLOPS Model 540. The Model 730 workstation is aimed at high performance graphics, incorporating technology licensed from Silicon Graphics Inc, and uses the Model 530 engine. The Powerserver range has the same numbering as the four basic workstations, with an additional rack-mounted system using the 530 engine as the Model 930. The enhanced Micro Channel bus has an input-output throughput of up to 40Mbytes-per-second, and IBM has also included new high-speed SCSI adaptors and disk drives. UK prices start at UKP6,300 for the low-end workstation, rising to UKP78,500 for the Model 540 in single user configurations, or from UKP22,000 for 16 user Powerserver Model 320 up to UKP151,200 for 128 user Model 930 with 96Mb memory. IBM also introduced an Xstation 120 X terminal, and according to IBM in the UK, based on technology bought in from Network Computing Devices Inc, Mountain View, California, and costing from UKP1,700. The 120, 320, 520 and 530 models ship in June, the 540 and 930 in September, the 730 graphics workstation in the fourth quarter.

comes with resilient, secure AIX…

The introduction of the version 3.0 of the AIX operating system for the Powersystems proved to be the least surprising feature of the whole shebang – not really surprising as it was probably the only part of the announcement that was set in concrete beforehand. However we now know that with two million lines of code more than AT&T’s System V Unix, AIX 3.0 is big. New features include C2 level security branding, automatic disk mirroring, a memory mapped file system for remote access, some enhanced multi-processing features, an on-line manual called InfoExplorer, X25, TCP/IP, Network File System and Network Computing System, as well as a full range of IBM communications protocols. Although it is Posix-compliant, AIX 3.0 – hailed by IBM as an open system – doesn’t conform to other open or industry standards such as X/Open’s XPG portability guide 3, AT&T Unix V.2 or BSD 4.3 – although it stressed that future versions will.

has three interfaces with IXI’s…

There are no fewer than three interfaces offered on the operating system licensed separately. First is Steve Jobs’ NeXTStep – dubbed the AIX Graphic User Environment/6000. Second and third are IXI Ltd’s X.desktop manager and Silicon Graphics GL interface which are bundled together in the AIXwindows Environment/6000, which also includes OSF/Motif, X-Windows, Stepstone Corp’s Objective-C compiler, Display Postscript and a graphics library which is compatible with the GL interface. Languages included directly are C, Fortran and Cobol. As far as Systems Application Architecture interoperability is concerned IBM says Open Systems Interconnection communications protocols will be offered as they emerge – though no timescale was offered – and it will allow AIX and SAA users to share distributed relational database information. In addition it is to put Network File System into the OS/2 and OS/400 environments, and will introduce X Window as an interoperability option on SAA systems. AIX 3.0 will b

e able to exchange mail with the OfficeVision via SAA, but there are no plans to bring the OfficeVision ioffice system over to AIX wholesale.

will arrive with 380 applications…

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IBM expects there to be 380 applications ported for the new Power machines by the second quarter, 800 by the third quarter and a grand total of 1,500 by the end of the year. Software engineering packages include Systematica’s VSF and IDE’s Software thru Pictures. Saber C, Glockenspiel’s C++and Ada from Alsys are amongst the languages; electronic design applications include Workview from ViewLogic and Cimlinc, and Frame Technology’s publishing software will figure on it, as will Uniplex, Applix, Q-Office, Informix and Tetra’s Tetraplan. In the UK, two new porting centres in Chiswick and Warwick have been established enabling third party software vendors to port their applications to AIX systems.

gets a new remarkter network…

The high performance and low pricing of the Powersystem family puts it in the lead over offerings from Sun Microsystems and DEC currently available, leading IBM to hope that it will at last gain a significant share of sales in this market: the entry-level, 27 MIPS Model 320 with 19 colour monitor costs UKP14,700, around the same as a 12.5 MIPS SparcStation-1. But by the same token, the aggressive pricing makes some of IBM’s own tags look distinctly uncompetitive: who will now buy a PS/2 Model 70 486 running AIX and costing around UKP10,000? As well as being offered through the established IBM agent and dealer network, the whole Powersystem range will be available from a newly formed distribution channel composed of Value Added Remarketers – 47 have already been signed – each reckoned to have a background in supplying Unix.

but it will be no threat to AS/400

The nine-chip ROMP II processor set at the heart of the new machines is a highly pipelined CMOS design as described in full back in October of last year (CI No 1,291): it comes in 20MHz, 25MHz and 30MHz versions with more cache added to the top-end CPUs.And IBM’s new 4M-bit chip in the memory subsystem of the Powerserver 540 gives the machine up to 256Mb of real memory. According to IBM, there will be no pressure from AS/400 users looking to move over to the new machines, and the company said it had no plans to offer porting tools to help them do so: AS/400 is still the best system for business users wanting ease of use and highly integrated database facilities, said IBM’s director of AIX applications, Jerry Latta, who added that things might eventually change as ease-of-use features became available as AIX evolved. – John Abbott

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