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New servers get Pentium Pro

Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and NEC to introduce high-end servers based on the improved Pentium Pro processor.

Top-tier PC manufacturers will unveil new servers today that use a revamped Pentium Pro processor from Intel (INTC), boosting the capabilities of powerful server computers which use up to four processors.

Compaq (CPQ), Hewlett-Packard (HWP), and NEC Computer Systems will announce new high-end servers with the revamped Pentium Pro, said sources close to the respective companies.

HP, for instance, will announce the NetServer LX Pro and NetServer LXr Pro. The servers will contain up to four Pentium Pro processors running at 200 MHz, said sources close to the company.

The new Pentium Pro processors, also being announced today by Intel (see "Pentium Pro's last gasp"), come with twice as much cache memory as current Pentium Pros, for a total of one megabyte, offering higher performance for multiprocessor servers. Since processors run much faster than standard DRAM memory can feed them data, high-speed cache memory is used to make sure the processor is fed and not "starving" for data.

The new HP servers are targeted for compute-intensive tasks such as running database applications or handling traffic on Web sites. In addition, HP will issue an upgrade card containing two of the new Pentium Pro processors for customers with current LX servers. The card will allow customers to upgrade four-processor servers. All products will become available in the fall.

Compaq is unveiling a new line of servers based on the new Pentium Pro chip, said sources close to Compaq. These will be new models in its Proliant line of high-end servers. The servers will use "PCI Hot Plug" technology. This allows users to swap out components, such as a faulty hard disk drive, while the server is still running, adding to the reliability, or "fault tolerance" of the system. Ordinarily, a server has to be shut down to replace a component like this.

Already today, Data General and Advanced Logic Research announced new servers based on the Pentium Pro processor. Data General will include the chip in its AV 20000 server family as well as its group of symmetric multiprocessing servers, ranging from lower-cost units to the six-processor AV 6600. Advanced Logic, now wholly owned by Gateway 2000, will manufacture its top-of-the-line Revolution 6X6 and Revolution Quad6 servers with the Pentium Pro. Neither company announced pricing.

The new Pentium Pro with the 1MB cache is the last go-around for this Intel chip, introduced back in 1995. In its last iteration, the Pentium Pro mostly appeals to the highest of high-end server users. Ultimately, it is slated to be replaced by the equally capable but cheaper Pentium II processor in 1998.