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November 6, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

Parsys Ltd, London says it is now shipping Version V of its Idris Unix-like Transputer-based operating system for the SuperNode massively parallel supercomputer. Idris is a Unix rewrite which originated 12 years ago under Whitesmiths Ltd, a spin-off of Unix Bell Laboratories (CI Nos 1,130, 1,377). The operating system was in the first instance developed to run on Digital Equipment Corp hardware; Parsys has tweaked it to run as on the Inmos Ltd Transputer. Idris version V is Posix-compliant and is based on a scalable kernel architecture and features distributed scheduling, system call servicing and file system support, implementing a model based on a local network of workstations. Each Transputer has a full operating system kernel and communicates across a network of processors using BSD sockets and a lightweight version of the Network File System. This communication structure also provides access to peripherals – disks and tape drives – and to other networks. External net working currently is achieved using Ethernet running TCP/IP protocols; full Network File System networking will follow by the end of the year. Having a full operating kernel on each processor, Parsys says, enables the developer to express a parallel application within a familiar network model. The company was proud also to announce that the Oracle relational database management system has been put up under Idris V to run on the parallel SuperNode, and is now in beta test. The company claims to be firmly directed towards the commercial market for massively parallel supercomputing, and another application that it has converted for Idris V is a finite element analysis system from FEGS Ltd of Cambridge. Idris V contains a communication layer that emulates the message-routing capabilities of the forthcoming next-generation Inmos T9000 Transputer. When the T9000, due in first half 1992, eventually is released, the software emulation will be removed. Parsys, one of the partners in the Esprit general purpose GP-MIMD project, typically ships 16- to 64-Transputer-based machines, but has the capability to scale up to 1,024 processors. Its entry-level SuperNode system costs UKP30,000 for 200 MIPS, scalable to 10,000 MIPS. (Parsys charges UKP100 per MIPS; it expects this to drop to UKP25 per MIPS in two to three years, when the price of the T9000 has stablised). The SN9000 system, which will retain the basic architecture of the SN1000 but reimplement it with the new T9000 Transputer, will make possible a performance increase to 160,000 MIPS.

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