Supply constraints on the Intel Pentium Pro mean that large vendors are announcing products with performance benchmarks that may never be delivered.
That will spell trouble for corporate users, which may end up waiting until February next year, when Intel will introduce Deschutes technology, which supersedes the Pentium Pro.
Two days ago Compaq admitted that it would have to delay its eight-way symmetric multiprocessing server until the fourth quarter because it could not get the chips - the Pro in question is the version with 1Mbyte of layer two cache. Now it appears the chips are only available for test purposes.
Today Unisys announced servers based on the 1Mbyte chip but also admitted it was hard to deliver the machines because of lack of Pros.
An Intel representative admitted there were problems in supplying the 1Mbyte Pro. He said: ?Availability of the Pentium Pro is not a big issue but the processor with 1Mbyte of cache is subject to temperature and humidity restraints.?
Andy Carter, server product manager at Unisys in the UK, said: ?Pentium Pros with 1Mbyte of level two memory are not readily available. Whatever you buy, it?s almost out of date by the time pen comes to paper.?
He admitted that benchtest results for the new models, published on the Unisys Web site, reflected an ideal position where its six-way Quanta server was fitted with Pentium Pros with 1Mbyte of cache. But it seems that configuration is not currently deliverable. The larger cache made it outperform a six-way server from Unisys' own OEM partner, ALR, which was benchmarked using the Pro with half a megabyte of level two cache Ram. ALR makes SMP machines for Unisys and other large vendors.
Carter said that customers were driven by many factors and that, when Unisys released its 10-way SMP server, it would include fibre channel capabilities to further improve throughput. Yet he was unable to say how any company relying on the Pentium Pro would be able to deliver to its customers.
He admitted that Deschutes, slated to arrive in the first quarter of 1998, could solve the problem but argued that processors were far less of a problem in performance terms than the software. ?The biggest problem is that Windows NT does not scale properly,? he said.
Other companies, including Hyundai, Fujitsu and IBM, are also likely to face the same issues with scaling higher than four Pentium Pro processors. Companies like Dell, which follow the Intel roadmap closely, have not ventured to make machines with more than four Pentium Pros.
A distributor of SMP machines for a large vendor, who did not wish to be named, said: ?Everyone is marketing vapourware and virtual machines that won?t work. The Pentium II chipset for more than two processors is delayed and my customers are getting very frustrated with these delays.?
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