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July 16, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

Still matching Sun Microsystems Inc pace for pace, Sparc systems builder Solbourne Computer Inc this week weighs in with its answer to the SparcServer 4/90, launching its top-end Series5E/900 multi-processor, built around up to eight 40MHz Sparcs from Cypress Semiconductor. But the Longmont, Colorado outfit – controlled by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, has also gone one step further and introduced a symmetric multi-processing version of its SunOS-compatible Unix operating system for the new machines. A uniprocessor 5E/900 is rated at 31 MIPS and 4.1 MFLOPS, carries a SPECmark of 19.1 and costs UKP79,000. The dual-processor version comes in at UKP87,000, and rated at 62 MIPS, is claimed to match the SparcServer 4/90 measure for measure. In a top-end, eight-processor configuration, the 5E/900 is claimed to perform at 248 MIPS unofficially reckoned to come in at 120 on SPEC’s multi-processing throughput scale – and costs UKP150,000. Each comes with from 16Mb to 1Gb memory, up to 27Gb disk, an 11-slot Kbus space – Solbourne’s own 64-bit, 128Mb per second data bus seven VME slots, four SCSI ports, two serial ports, Ethernet, SunView, X11, X Window, a C compiler and Solbourne’s own SWM X Window manager. They are out in September. The new symmetric multi-processing operating system – OS/SMP release 4.0D – is binary-compatible with previous versions, as well as with SunOS, and is claimed by the company to boost applications performance by an average of 20% over previous implementations. However, like Sun, Solbourne remains coy about its plans for a Unix System V.4-compatible operating system, and Barrie Murray-Upton, vice-president of European operations says that at best it is a year or two away. He claims a worldwide installed base of some 1,600 Solbourne systems in the 15 months products have been shipping – 130 of which are in Europe. The 5/900 is likely to be the last in the Series 5, they will be followed by the Series 6 next year, again using the CMOS Cypress Sparc, but with a clock rate that will reach towards 100MHz, he said. In the background Solbourne is quietly putting together the final pieces of its plan for entering the low-end, volume workstation business, where it hopes to compete with the likes of Sun, DEC and Hewlett-Packard. As yet unnamed, the workstations will use the 64-bit Sparc being jointly developed with Matsushita – parts will be out before the year end, with systems set for early 1991. Like boards for Solbourne’s existing line, the workstations will be manufactured by Matsushita in Chicago – the plant is currently being fitted out to meet the demands of high-volume production.

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