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64 Pentium IIs to go into server

Data General's Audubon will incorporate 64 advanced Deschutes chips in a bid to offer mainframe performance using commodity PC parts.

In a bid to offer mainframe performance using commodity PC building blocks, Data General (DGN) will offer a powerful server computer with 64 advanced Intel "Deschutes" Pentium II processors by the end of the year.

Data General says that companies are increasingly using its Intel-based systems for mainframe-class computing applications such as online transaction processing and data warehousing. As more and more data needs to be stored and processed, the company believes adding more Intel processors to the mix will make mainframe class computing power more affordable for such applications.

Initially, the multiprocessor server--code-named Audubon 2--will use a forthcoming version of the Pentium II, also known as "Deschutes." Later it will produce systems that use Intel's upcoming 64-bit Merced processor, due sometime in 1999. The first versions of the Deschutes chips appeared in January.

The Deschutes processors are expected to come in 400- and 450-MHz versions when introduced and will come with up to four times the amount of built-in memory compared to current Pentium II processors. (See related story) Large amounts of built-in "cache" memory are needed by servers to ensure a steady stream of information is fed to ever-faster processors.

The Pentium II will be designed so that up to four processors can be strung together on one circuit board. Data General will then take 16 circuit boards and hook them together to form a larger, "virtual" computer with 64 processors.

For increased system reliability, up to four of the Audubon 2 servers can be "clustered" together. All told, these features in the Audubon systems will allow users to perform complex operations once reserved for mainframes, company officials claim.

"In a lot of cases we see a 'recentralization' of data, and the need to manage information more cost effectively," says Steve Aucoin, director of product marketing for Data General.

Data, in this case, might be sales information from individual retail stores that is now being collected and analyzed by the corporate headquarters so that managers can better predict what items to offer for sale, Aucoin hypothesizes. Mainframes traditionally perform this kind of function. "You might say Unix systems are performing some [mainframe-like] functions at lower cost," he says.

Data General's systems will use the Unix operating system instead of Windows NT. This is because Windows NT is not currently designed to run on a large number of processors, while Unix-based systems already have the capability to use dozens of processors in one system with corresponding gains in performance.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.