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AST uses Intel RISC chip

An Intel RISC processor and the server's I2O architecture provide the framework for speeding up data transfers in Web servers.

Next week AST Research (ASTA) will unveil a new Pentium II server that uses a separate RISC chip for input/output (I/O) functions.

The Premium HS server will be one of the first on the market to adopt the I2O-ready Ethernet and RAID (redundant array of independent disks) controller architecture promoted by Intel. Under the new design, each controller is managed by an independent Intel i960 RD embedded processor rather than the central microprocessor, such as an Intel Pentium II chip. Intel i960 I/O processors are based on a RISC architecture design.

A Web server needs to efficiently transfer data between the RAID hard disk subsystem and the Internet gateway (the server that connects to the Internet), since this operation is very frequently executed by users reading Web site pages. With a standard system, all data that is read from disk must first travel into system memory prior to being sent to the gateway, where it's sent to the Web browser, according to an explanation posted on the I2O Special Interest Group (SIG) site.

An Intel I/O processor and the I2O architecture provide the framework for allowing direct file transfers between the disk and the Internet gateway, providing a potentially significant increase in performance and scalability, according to the SIG. Shifting the work in this manner frees up the main processor and thereby increases performance, according to proponents.

The Premium HS server will be targeted at medium to large businesses. The machine will contain one or two 300-MHz Pentium II processors, 12 hot-swapable drive bays, 64MB of high-speed SDRAM memory, and a chassis design called FlexChassis that allows for easier upgrades. AST has also incorporated a number of fault-tolerant and redundancy features, including its own Percepta Pro server monitor agents, to prevent crashes.

Base configurations for the Premium HS will start at $7,349. AST will begin shipping the server in October.

Once a top computer vendor, AST has seen its growth stall in recent years. Samsung acquired the company earlier in 1997, but the merger has not had a dramatic effect on AST's market share.