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Unisys server end of the line?

The company unveils a 12-processor Windows NT-based server computer with the aging Pentium Pro chip, the first company to do so.

Unisys announced a 12-processor server computer based on Intel's Pentium Pro chip and the Windows NT operating system, becoming the first company to do so.

Ironically, Unisys's Aquanta XR/6 could possibly be one of the last server computers to use the venerable Pentium Pro chip. Introduced in October 1995, the Pentium Pro is expected to be phased out as Intel brings out new generations of Pentium II processors to take its place.

Server vendors are known to be readying systems based on the Pentium II Xeon "Slot 2" chips, set for release later this year.

With the forthcoming Xeon chips, vendors will be able to incorporate as many as eight processors into a server, four times as many as the current limit of two Pentium II chips in standard designs. Pentium Pro servers can use up to four processors in standard designs and eight or more using proprietary technology.

In addition to limitations imposed by current chip designs, users face limitations on performance if they choose to use Windows NT on servers that have more than four processors. Generally, performance increases with the use of additional processors, but Windows NT does not make efficient use of the extra processors compared to other operating systems such as Unix, according to analysts.

Most buyers of the Aquanta systems will run Unix, a representative said.

In addition to 200-MHz Pentium Pro chips, the Aquanta XR/6 uses proprietary technology to boost performance, including a 64-bit PCI (peripheral component interconnect) bus technology that will increase the speed at which data is moved from peripherals and hard disk drives to the processor--a critical factor for computers that process large amounts of data.

Most PC servers only have 32-bit PCI technology. Systems using Intel chipsets are not expected to receive this technology until later this year, at earliest.

The Unisys server will also have up to a whopping 20MB of "L3 cache," which helps performance by feeding the "secondary" cache memory on the processor with data. The system can support up to 52GB of storage capacity and 4GB of memory, Unisys said.

Prices for the new server start at $60,000. The systems are now available.