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Compaq, Corollary to build eight-way server design

The result could move the Windows-Intel architecture further into the "backrooms," where large-scale Unix-based servers are currently the corporate standard.

Compaq and upcoming Intel acquisition Corollary will work together to develop licensable designs for multiprocessor Pentium II servers, the companies announced today.

Their goal, a standard eight-processor design, would likely be instrumental in moving the Windows-Intel architecture further into the "backrooms," where large-scale Unix-based servers are currently the corporate standard.

At the moment, Intel server designs typically utilize only two Pentium II or four Pentium Pro processors, a ceiling which limits performance, especially in comparison to high-end Unix systems. Proprietary server designs can accommodate six, eight, and ten Intel processors; being proprietary, though, these systems remain expensive. A standard eight-way design would open that bottleneck.

The alliance could also be pivotal in establishing the Corollary's Profusion architecture as an industry fiat. "The one that Intel's engineering drives is the one that is going to be the long-term winner," predicted Mike Perez, vice president of Compaq's server product group. Speaking candidly, he asserted that other symmetric multiprocessor designs are "dead."

Under the terms of the alliance, Compaq will adopt Corollary's Profusion symmetric multiprocessing architecture and the Deschutes processor, the next iteration of the Pentium II processor due out in the first half of 1998. Deschutes server chips will use the upcoming "Slot 2" design.

Similarly, Corollary has taken out a license on Compaq's PCI hot plug technology, which allows users to swap out drives and other parts while the server is live, and also the company's I/O technology. Corollary, of course, will adapt its technology to Deschutes. Corollary and Intel will then license this Corollary-Compaq-Intel technology to other server manufacturers.

Perez said that Compaq would release an eight-way server in the second half of 1998 that will be based on Compaq's ProLiant 7000 server. The four-way ProLiant, introduced in August, was actually designed to hold eight processors, along with the fans and memory that would go along with such an upgrade.

A typical configuration for an eight-way ProLiant might cost $40,000 to $50,000, Perez said.

If successful, the alliance will result in the development of building blocks that other server manufacturers can adapt for their own equipment, said Jerry Sheridan, director and principal analyst at Dataquest. In fact, because of the economies of scale involved, server manufacturers will find the design licenses from this effort tough to resist.

"Given that Intel will buy Corollary, it will be interesting to see how people react," he said. Nearly every server manufacturer working on the Intel platform has said it plans to come out with an eight-way server.

Intel recently signed an agreement to purchase Corollary.

Intel is an investor in C/NET: The Computer Network