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Technology / AI and automation


Beaverton, Oregon based NCube Corp is to introduce a Unix front end to its concurrent processing hypercube systems by June, and is working on a database management system in order to push its high performance systems into the commercial transaction processing market. According to NCube’s John Palmer, the company will add the facility to front-end NCube systems either with a Sun workstation or DEC MicroVAX: we think Sun will represent the standard Unix, said Palmer. The NCube system is based on proprietary 32-bit VAX-style complex instruction set processors, which are linked together to form the hypercube. NCube’s maximum configuration, the NCube/10 is described as a 10 dimensional hypercube: each processor is directly connected to 10 of its neighbours, which results in a maximum of 1,024 processors in a tightly integrated topology. Each processor has its own local memory and direct memory addressing link to 10 other processors. The result is a stand-alone system running the Axis Unix-like operating system. Palmer claims the Ncube is more powerful than bus-based parallel processors from the likes of Sequent Computer and Concurrent Computer, with maximum configurations rated at 500 MFLOPS or 2,000 MIPS. The smallest NCube system is a four node board to fit inside an AT: up to four boards can be added at a cost of from $20,000 to $60,000. Then comes the NCube/7 with from 10 to 128 nodes, costing between $100,000 and $400,000, and the NCube/10, with from 64 to 1,024 nodes, costing from $200,000 to $2m. NCube employs 30 staff and was established back in June 1983: it says it has been profitable since it sold the first NCube system at the end of 1985. There are now around 100 systems installed, and the company is beginning to set up European distribut ors, including Arrow Computer Systems Ltd of Epsom, Surrey in the UK. Although most systems have so far been sold into the scientific and technical markets, Palmer says it is the company’s aim to have produced the highest performance database transaction processing system within a year.

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