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June 24, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

It looks as if FPS Computing isn’t the only company big-timing it with the Sparc chip, (CI No 1,449) – now Star Technologies Inc of Sterling, Virginia, is also set to reveal a Sparc-based supercomputer on July 23 at Sun Expo in Washington DC. Star has recently undergone a recapitalisation plan to the tune of $15m, courtesy of GE Capital Corp and two other investors, which has wiped out its $11m subordinated debt and given it a nice little sum of working capital to develop its Sparc-based supercomputer. GE presumably agreed to the recapitalisation on the grounds that it couldn’t afford to lose the manufacturer of the array processors used in its medical imaging systems. Star’s high-performance computer network server has fully integrated vector capabilities, is reported to have the power of a Cray 1S, and, according to Star, is comparable to a Convex system. Its price tag is in the $200,000 range, which sources say will severely undercut the FPS machine. The Star supercomputer is intended to drop into Sun workstation environments, where a server and 20 or more workstations would already be in operation. Unlike FPS, which is using an ECL implementation of Sparc, Star has opted to go CMOS, and could have the first product to ship – probably in early autumn – using the 40MHz Cypress Sparc chip. Star, now a member of Sparc International, has licensed SunOS, high-level programming languages, as well as ONC and NFS from Sun’s systems software distributor Interactive Systems, and says it’s going the Sparc route because of all the applications available. This will be Star’s first foray into RISC and Unix. Star’s European headquarters in Paris is keen to get the product this side of the Atlantic as soon as possible, and a September introduction is planned over here. There has been a great deal of interest in the product from European companies, and two UK distributors are now being lined up to take it on. Until now, the Star has been in the DEC VAX graphics co-processor and array processor businesses, which are ailing markets that it is anxious to escape from. The two back-to-back supercomputer deals are seen as signs Sun has decided to steer clear of the high-end business itself, although it is to market the FPS machines.

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