Compaq is planning a number of new Alpha-based servers in an attempt to cash in the 64bit hardware market left open due to the delay of Intel?s Merced processor, but has also confirmed that the Alpha chip will live beyond 2004.
Although questions had been raised as to Alpha?s future following Compaq?s acquisition of Digital Equipment earlier this year, John Rose, Compaq?s vice president of enterprise systems confirmed for the first time that the chip had a future beyond version EV8.
He said that EV9 and EV10 versions of the processor were currently on the drawing board, which means that the development of new Alpha chips is likely to continue at least until 2004.
However in an attempt to capitalise on current opportunities in the 64bit hardware space, Compaq will announce a replacement for its low end departmental Alpha 1000 series servers on 19 October.
This will be renamed the Departmental Server (DS) range and the boxes, which will ship by the end of November, will be based on one or two EV6 processors running at clock speeds of up to 600MHz.
A four way model will follow next February to replace the 4000 series, now known as the Enterprise Server (ES) family, while the Global Server (GS) line will replace the 8000 series next year.
"We expect Alpha to be the top performing architecture for the next decade and beyond," Eckhard Pfeiffer, Compaq?s chief executive, told attendees at the Decus Digital user conference in Los Angeles this week.
Rose was even more upbeat: "I believe there will only be two surviving 64 bit processor architectures out there: IA-64 and Alpha," he said.
Terry Shannon, independent DEC watcher, also said he expected the market for Alpha to be boosted by a drop in Alpha chip prices - not least because Compaq no longer has to support a fabrication plant. The Alpha plant lost Digital an estimated $200 million a year and was sold to Intel at the start of this year.
The next iteration of Alpha, the EV67, will ship by March next year with clock speeds of more than 800MHz. It will appear in products from June.
But at the Microprocessor Forum next week, Compaq is also expected to announce details of its EV7 Alpha, which will be targeted at high end symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) and Non Uniform Memory Architecture (Numa) machines. The chip will have Level two cache and high memory bandwidth of around 10Gbps.
By 2001, Compaq claims, new Alphas will have clock speeds of 1200MHz, but will be half the size and cost half as much to manufacture as Intel?s IA-64 architecture.
They will form the basis of 32 and 64 way servers, which will be announced over the next 18 months, and will include a variant of the NUMA bus interconnect technology.
Next on the list is the EV8 chip, code named Arana, and here the processor?s architecture will be completely rewritten to try and double application processing speed.
Samsung already manufactures the Alpha chip from Compaq, but Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is expected to start licensing the Alpha EV6 system bus in future to include in its own K7 processor. Shannon also added that IBM is still evaluating whether to manufacture the chip and may even integrate its copper technology into it.
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