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Penguin unveils powerful Linux server

Penguin Computing's high-end machine will use eight Pentium III Xeon chips, run the rival operating system, and is based on technology from NEC.

Penguin Computing, one of a new wave of Linux computer manufacturers, has started selling an eight-processor Linux server.

The server, which contains eight Intel Pentium III Xeon processors running Red Hat Linux, is based on technology from NEC, said Sam Ockman, Penguin's president and founder. The base price is $100,530.

Penguin is aiming for both the high end and the low end of the Linux computer market. The company's least expensive model is an AMD K6-2-based model costing $990. The company's "bread and butter" is from high-end servers, said Vice President Allison Heynh, but Penguin expects the desktop market to take off as more office software arrives.

Penguin Computing, a 30-person operation based in San Francisco, has Linux computer sales "approaching" $2 million per month, said Heynh.

Eight-processor Intel servers will become more widespread as the year progresses. The company is currently in the process of finalizing its Profusion chipset based around the Corollary architecture that will allow companies to build eight processor servers cheaply, relatively speaking, because they will be made of common components.

The Penguin box uses a different hardware: NEC's Aqua chipset, and Ockman said Penguin had to write some modifications to Linux. That software will be released to the public, he added.

Penguin, founded in May 1998, will show its eight-way system at the Internet World trade show in Los Angeles next week, Ockman said. The company plans an initial public offering later this year.

A Penguin competitor, VA Research, plans to begin selling its own eight-way server later this month, a server the company designed on its own, said VA chief executive Larry Augustin.

"I would be extremely surprised if anyone other than us" has an eight-way server using Linux, he said earlier. In order to make Linux work well on the server, a company must update the core Linux software with information on the chipset--the all-important chips that tie together CPUs with the rest of the machine, he said. VA's own programmers have done that work and will release the code publicly by the time its servers actually go on sale, he said.

VA's eight-way system is based on Corollary architecture, but Augustin would not state whether it actually used the Profusion chips themselves. Other vendors are expected to release their eight-ways toward the third quarter.