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ALR debuts chip-savvy server

Advanced Logic says its 2XL server can be upgraded from Pentium Pro to Pentium II processors, which normally isn't possible.

    Advanced Logic Research (AALR) introduced a server that will ease the transition to new processor technologies by providing for easier upgrades from 200-MHz Pentium Pros to Pentium II chips running at up to 300 MHz.

    Advanced Logic (ALR) says that it has designed the 2XL server to be upgradable from a Pentium Pro processor to newer Pentium II processors. The Pentium Pro and Pentium II processors normally aren't interchangeable because of different socket designs used by Intel. ALR solved this problem by putting the Pentium Pro on a special card which fits into a slot designed for the Pentium II, so customers can swap out the old processor and plug in the newer processor.

    "They are targeting this toward people who are familiar with the Pentium Pro and have systems set up, and support set up [that] may want to stay with that, but have plans to upgrade. This is just kind of investment protection for those who want to stay with Pentium Pro for a short period of time," said Jerry Sheridan, an analyst with market research firm Dataquest.

    To date, most servers sold have used the Pentium Pro processor instead of the newer Pentium II. This is because the Pentium II lacked some of the features that the Pentium Pro had. For instance, until recently, the Pentium II did not offer support for high-quality Error Checking and Correcting (ECC) memory, an important check-off item for servers.

    As Intel improves the Pentium II by adding more features and increasing the clock speed, and as it begins to phase out the Pentium Pro next year, many corporations will choose servers with the new processor.

    "With the Pentium II, there are some advantages, like faster clock speeds...Having a growth path all the way up to 300 MHz gives a lot of flexibility to our customers," said Kevin Roberts, a product manager for ALR.

    Roberts notes that the 2XL also has many features found on the company's more expensive products, such as the ability to swap out hard drives without turning the system off, and redundant power supplies. The new server also features a processor monitoring system; in a dual-processor configuration, the system can take a faulty processor offline and restart itself as a single-processor system.

    ALR is offering 200-MHz Pentium Pro-based systems starting at $3,495. The server will also be offered with 233-, 266-, and 300-MHz Pentium II processors as standard. A 233-MHz Pentium II system will be priced starting at $3,595, while a 300-MHz Pentium II system will be priced starting at $4,995. All systems have 13 drive bays, which allow for a total of up to 100GB of storage space.

    The new systems will be available in August, but the 300-MHz Pentium II systems won't be available until later in the third quarter, according to the company.

    The server is the company's first new product since being acquired by Gateway 2000.

    ALR will sell the new products through VARs, or value-added resellers. The two companies are planning to eventually mix and match their products to serve both the direct and VAR sales channels, though. ALR will sell Gateway products under its own brand name while Gateway says it expects to start selling servers directly to customers by the fourth quarter.

    "I'm sure Gateway would start with low-end [servers]. As they move into six-way systems and systems with Wolfpack clustering, that will definitely require advice and consulting from the channel to support those sales," said Dataquest's Sheridan. "As the complexity of systems increases, the channel will be more important to those sales. On the low end, four-way systems and below can easily be sold into the direct channel," he noted.