posted by Anton Klotz on Thu 20th Jan 2005 19:07 UTC

"Workstations, Page 2/3"
2. Alpha with Tru64 UNIX from HP

Alpha has an interesting history, first it was designed by Digital, as a replacement for PDP series. This processor was quite succesfull, since WindowsNT was ported on it and with an emulator FX!32 it was possible to run Windows x86 binaries on it. Few will remember the advertisings in computer stores, of selling a 600 MHz workstation at the time when Pentiums just reached 100MHz wall. Alpha is a very clean architecture, even too clean, the first models did not even support a byte, because it seems to be unneeded in a 64 bit world (later the support was added though). The rest is history, Digital was bought by Compaq, Compaq was bought by HP and HP declared Alpha and Tru64 Unix as dead. There are still offerings for Alpha workstations on HP page, but I don't think that someone will start his business using Alpha, so they are mainly for business, which are still using Alpha and have not converted to another platform yet. Alphas were used mainly in finacial centers, and for number cranching, simulations.

- HP AlphaStation DS15
Single 1GHz prozessor, 2MB Cache, 4GB RAM, 2GB/s Memory peak, ATI Radeon Graphic card (up to 4 in one system)

- HP AlphaStation DS25
Up to two 1GHz processors, 16GB RAM, 8GB/s Memory peak

- HP AlphaStation ES47
Up to two 1GHz EV7 processors, 8 GB RAM, 12.8GB/s I/O bandwith, 1.75 on-chip cache/processor

Linux has been ported to Alphas but since it is not commercially supported it is, there is no commercial software available. Tru64 was famous for its clustering capabilities, once HP promised to port them to HP-UX, but now sold them to Veritas, which was bought by McAfee, so no one really knows, what will happen with the rest of this software and hardware.

3. PA-RISC with HP-UX from HP

The history here is quite similiar to Alpha. HP will abandon PA-RISC in favour of Itanium. But HP has stopped its Itanium workstation line, so the valid question is, how will I be able to use HP-UX on a workstation? HP-UX was widely used in all workstation-relevant areas, beside Solaris and AIX this was the third platform which ISVs could not ignore when they claimed their software is running on UNIX. PA-RISC was the champion in integrating caches on-chip. It was the first chip which had 8 MB on-chip cache and became a 100 Mio gates monster. These workstations are still available from HP:

- HP b2600
Single 500 MHz PA-8600 processor 4GB RAM, HP fx5 pro Graphic card

- HP c3700
Single 750 MHz PA-8700 processor with 2.25Mb on-chip cache, 8GB RAM, HP Fire GL-UX Graphic card

- HP c3750
Single 875 MHz PA-8700+ processor with 2.25Mb on-chip cache, 8GB RAM, HP Fire GL-UX Graphic card

-HP j6750
Up to two 875 MHz PA-8700+ processors with 2.25Mb on-chip cache, 16GB RAM, HP Fire GL-UX Graphic card

- HP c8000
Up to two 900-1000 MHz PA-8800 dual-core processors, ATI FireGL Graphic card, 32GB RAM, 8xAGP slot

4. MIPS with Irix from SGI

SGI is famous for its graphics workstation, like O2 and Octane. For lang time they were unbeaten when it came to vizualising of large data-sets, 3D-graphics and image processing. Irix was the most comfortable UNIX-system to use, far ahead CDE which is still standart at IBM and HP. SGIs were used by medicals, by film studios, by military and geologists. In recent time SGI decided to drop MIPS and continue with Itanium. They use an emulator which allows running IRIX software on Itanium Linux. There is still two workstations with MIPS-IRIX combination available:

- Silicon Graphics Fuel
Single MIPS R16000A 700-800 MHz processor with 4MB 2nd level cache, 4 GB RAM, V12 Graphic Card with 128 Video RAM (104 MB can be texture memory)

- Silicon Graphics Terzo
Up to 4 MIPS R16000A 800 MHz processors with 4MB 2nd level cache, 16GB RAM and two V12 Graphic Boards

There are rumors about an Itanium workstation, based on their technology used for the succesful Altrix server line, but we have to wait. With the emulation technolgy, they will be able to run all the software they used on MIPS, but we have to see how fast this emulation works

5. SPARC with Solaris from Sun

I think every student of computer sciences had experiences with Sun workstations (Ultra1-10). These workstations were very popular at universities until Linux came up, which was more affordable for small budgets of todays universities. Sun workstations are still very widely used in every area, they are famous for their stability and there is a famous joke which has a lot of truth in it: Sun workstation is slow, Sun workstation with ten users on it is still slow. In recent times Sun had tough competition from x86 market, so they had to introduce workstations with Opteron processors from AMD, which execute x86 code, but they also have 64-bit extension, so they can handle more then 4GB memery/process (all solutions with 32bit processors with extended memory could not provide that) and they can compute 64bit integers in one step. Solaris 10 will also be the first non-Open Source OS which supports these extensions. One very clever step is the Janus technology which allows to run Linux binaries with Solaris 10. So ISVs will not have to provide additional binaries for Solaris 10 x86. However the question remains if the ISVs will support with combination or just certify their software with RedHat Linux and maybe Novell as they are doing today. So here we have SPARC workstations:

- Sun Blade 150
Single 550-650 MHz UltraSPARC IIi, 512 KB 2nd level cache on-chip, 2 GB RAM

- Sun Blade 1500
Single 1 GHz UltraSPARC IIIi, 1 MB 2nd level cache on-chip, 4 GB RAM

- Sun Blade 2500
Up to two 1.28 GHz UltraSPARC IIIi each with 1 MB 2nd level cache on-chip, 8 GB RAM

here are the Opteron based ones:

- Sun Java Workstation W2100z
Two 200-series 1.8-2.4 GHz AMD Opteron, 16 GB RAM with 12.8GB/s bandwith

-Sun Java Workstation W1100z
Single 100-series 1.8-2.4 GHz AMD Opteron, 16 GB RAM with 12.8GB/s bandwith

It is interesting to see what happens with SPARC based workstations in the next future. My prediction is, that they will be upgraded with 2-way SPARCIV processor, but then all the processors on Sun roadmap like Niagara are server-oriented, so noone at Sun could tell me, what happens with workstations then, but probably they don't know it themselves. First they will see how the market accepts Opteron-based workstations and Solaris 10 for x86 and then further decissions will be taken, but with probably long transition time

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