Digital Equipment Corp is set to turn its 64-bit AlphaServer Unix systems into massively parallel supercomputers through a deal with Quadrics Supercomputing World Ltd, a joint venture between Meiko Ltd and Italy’s Alenia Spazio SpA. Digital and Quadrics have signed a memorandum of understanding, under which the two companies will jointly develop a family of massively parallel products using Digital’s AlphaServer hardware and software, and Quadrics’ hardware high speed bus interconnect and its massively parallel operating software environment, which effectively enables multiple iterations of the Unix operating system to appear as a single system image. Quadrics was formed in April last year to further the supercomputing ambitions of parent Alenia Spazio, which owns 70% of the new company. Alenia, the space systems arm of Italian industrial conglomerate Finmeccanica, had already developed some SIMD single instruction multiple data stream supercomputer architecture for embedded supercomputers and digital signal processing applications, and teamed up with Meiko, the 30% partner in Quadrics, to develop MIMD multiple instruction multiple data architecture. To date, Quadrics systems have been built on Sun Microsystems Inc SPARC processors, but the agreement with Digital will see new systems being based on the Alpha chip. The company says it will of course continue to support SPARC users, but it believes the Digital relationship will enable it to build faster cheaper systems optimized for massively parallel processing. Both companies will market and sell the new massively parallel systems to the energy, defense, science and manufacturing fields initially. Quadrics executive John Taylor says the company’s market to date has been in the traditional ‘supercomputing’ high performance technical computing sector, but admits it may have its sights on the commercial sector in the future. Taylor re-enforces Digital’s view of its recent deal with Intel Corp, saying that it will bring forward the timetable for new Alpha chips considerably (CI No 3,310). Final terms of the deal are still under negotiation, but Quadrics, which has its research and development base in Bristol, UK and a sales and marketing arm in Rome, says it has customers identified and waiting to buy the new systems.
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