Big Q launches big Alpha super computer
Is Intel's Tower of Babel starting to topple?
Compaq yesterday launched a supercomputer based on its Alpha technology, and in passing, decided to kick rival Silicon Graphics in the chops. The announcement, made rather quietly, is another prelude to the release of its Wildfire technology next February. As it announced its AlphaServer SC Series, Compaq also introduced its space saving AlphaServer DS20E and a dual CPU AlphaStation. According to the Big Q, the AlphaServer SC puts the company in a position where it is a contender to sell high end systems costing over a million bucks. Compaq claimed that the Alpha chip now powers five out of the 10 most powerful machines in the known universe, and has displaced SGI from its position as market share leader in this sector. The supercomputer, said Compaq, uses 128 SMP Alpha building blocks connected together using Tru64. Terry Shannon, editor of newsletter Shannon knows Compaq, said that Compaq has been selling the CS through its custom services division since August. He commented: "A 128-node DS20 cluster has been up and running at Los Alamos National Labs for the past year, I believe they are upgrading to an ES40 cluster. "The Q is number one in midrange HPTC, not in high-end HPTC. I believe SGI (with its Alpha-based Cray T3D and T3E boxes) is top dog at the high end. "On a CPU architecture basis, Alpha is number one across the board in HPTC (thanks in part to the Cray parallel processors). "The Q in CY2000 hopes to assemble 128 32-way EV67 GS320 WildFire servers to achieve a six TeraFLOPS performance target. In 2001 or 2002 they'll cobble together a bunch of EV7 WildFires in an effort to achieve 30 TFLOPS. This effort is part of the ASCI PathForward program." Although the Big Q remains publicly committed to the Intel Merced-Itanium platform, Alpha technology is now clearly its flagship platform. That poses the question of where that leaves Compaq on the IA-64 platform. Part of the intriguing answer is that there is, as far as we know, no conceivable reason why people should not run HP/UX, Solaris and other OS on Compaq IA-64 boxes. One analyst (not our buddy Terry Shannon this time) said: "These vendors cannot put something in their operating systems to only run on their own IA-64 hardware. If they did so, it would defeat the whole purpose of the industry standard platform. Compaq will typically beat the hell out of the other vendors on pricing." ® See also Compaq Wildfire to debut February 2000