Unisys will revamp its NT hardware products twice within one year as it transitions to a new, unified Intel/mainframe architecture.
This week the company revealed its server roadmap for its cellular multiprocessing architecture (CMP), a single platform mixing its existing proprietary mainframe technology and Intel components and processors.
CMP based servers will begin shipping at the end of 1999. They will replace the company's NT server range for machines above two processors and its Clearpath systems, a mainframe range that connects two separate mainframe and Intel computers inside one box.
However, getting to CMP could mean a complex upgrade path for customers. Neither existing servers nor an intermediate iteration of the NT range will be hardware upgradeable to the CMP architecture.
Unisys' current Aquanta server lines, running NT and Unixware, will be discontinued from early next year, including its XS-R/6 12 processor NT servers. In place will be the NP range, Intel servers with additional Unisys software that will, according to the vendor, improve NT's current weaknesses at running enterprise software.
"We strongly believe that NT will win the operating system battle. It is certainly not as good as Unix systems today but the direction is unstoppable," said Fred Ruessli, vice president of the business systems group.
The NP range will run up to eight Intel Xeon processors and be supplied to Unisys from OEMs, probably Hewlett Packard or Intel. Unisys claims it will be possible to rackmount two eight-way boxes and link them via Microsoft's cluster server.
These products will only be a fill in for 1999. While the software used on the NP series is compatible with CMP systems, customers will have to change hardware again to get the benefits of the new architecture.
The CMP servers will be available up to 16 processors initially and then up to 32 by mid 2000. The company claims the architecture will allow users to mix proprietary Cmos mainframe processors and Intel processors, in groups of four, on a single system bus, sharing all system memory.
Users buying systems running Xeon processors in 1999 and 2000 will be able to retrofit Intel's Merced processor, the only system capable of doing so according to Unisys.
Both the mainframe software and NT will be able to run on the same server, sharing resources. The company claims it can make the NT software as stable as the mainframe operating system within the architecture.
"For example we will add code on top of Windows NT to make it dynamically partition, a capability that will not even be in NT 5.0. Microsoft may buy what we develop for future versions," said Ruessli.
However, analyst company Gartner Group recently warned users to be wary of buying into these proprietary NT offerings until they are mature.
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