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April 26, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

Jacques Stern’s Stern Computing Systems SA is now reselling Digital Equipment Corp’s Alpha AXP 7000 and 2100 series optimised for technical and scientific markets, and plans to have a prototype of its own Alpha-based Shared Sustained Performance/Enterprise parallel processing machine out by the autumn. The Shared Sustained Performance/Enterprise System has been developed by Stern’s Advanced Computer Research International SA unit with the help of Esprit European reserach funding. The Alpha systems, or Shared Sustained Performance/Application nodes, run a parallel version of OSF/1, enhanced for batch management, accounting, and checkpoint/restart. They also come with Fortran 90 Cray-compatible compilers and Cray and DEC scientific libraries for numeric processing and parallelism. This software comes under the generic name of SSP/Soft. SSP/Enterprise, meanwhile, has taken three years to develop and is based on the so-called SSP/RISC architecture, a processing unit with seven chips, one of which is the Alpha control unit that deals with the operating system and the management of resources. The rest are custom Gallium Arsenide chips developed by Stern, but manufactured by Vitesse Semiconductor Corp, which deal with everything else, including compilation. SSP/RISC is based on control and address decoupling technology as well as hardware loop-pipelined units that are able to operate simultaneously on multiple parts of any loop. This means that, because each functional unit is kept busy all the time, instructions can be issued and executed quickly. Each SSP/Enterprise will incorporate six CPUs, which each perform at 330 MFLOPS, and the machine is due out in the middle of 1995. Stern claims it will cost approximately a quarter of the price of an equivalent Cray Research Inc T90, but is targeted at the same technical and scientific market. In the future, the Paris, France-based firm also plans to offer shared memory clustering technology to link multiple SSP/Enterprises together. Memory will be shared by means of a cross-bar interconnect bus, and input-output bandwidth through this memory is estimated to be in excess of 5Gb per second. Meanwhile, Stern has already interested several software vendors in developing parallel applications for the mechanical, analysis, and petroleum markets, and adds that Cray applications can easily be converted for its machines as they have the same Cray Fortran 90 front-end.

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