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  1. Technology
July 21, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

The UK’s McDonnell Information Systems Plc, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire has at last admitted to itself that it is not in the hardware manufacturing business and has signed strategic partnership agreements with Sun Microsystems Inc, Eagan, Minnesota-based Cray Research Inc and Tadpole Technology Plc of Cambridge, England. In fact, McDonnell Information, the management buyout that emerged from McDonnell Douglas Information Systems last year and floated in the spring, has not produced its own hardware since the late 1980s and has relied since then on OEM deals with Encore Computer Systems, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Motorola Inc for its re-badged Series-X mid-range systems. Those agreements are still in place, but McDonnell Information says it has been under pressure from its customers to provide a wider choice of hardware and more powerful systems at the high end. It chose the Sparc architecture because Sparc has been widely licensed beyond its originator – a factor that disqualified Digital Equipment Corp’s Alpha – and because SunSoft Inc has begun licensing the Solaris operating system in the same way. It also hopes to take advantage of the Solaris applications catalogue. The agreement with Sun began ramping up earlier this year and McDonnell Information says it achieved ?1m worth of business in June, all new customers. The range will be topped off by Sparc-based Cray 32- and 64-way SuperServers and supplemented by Tadpole portables running Solaris at the low end. The systems will not be re-badged. Sun chief executive Scott McNealy, over in the UK recently to seal the deal, described McDonnell Information as a systems integrator with lots of applications. These are primarily written in the Pro-IV proprietary language and are aimed at the commercial and public sectors, particularly banks, health care, emergency services and libraries. The company is also making a gradual transition from its Pick-under-Unix Reality-X database system over to relational databases, primarily Oracle, but also Ingres, Informix and DB/2: it has put in place interfaces that enables Reality-X to call data in from Oracle via subroutines. Reality-X and Pro-IV already run under Solaris. McDonnell Information says it has its eye on future deals with other hardware vendors and hints that it will follow any new developments from its old partner Motorola Computer Systems with interest – presumably it is thinking of future PowerPC-based systems from that company.

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