On the MMXpress - IBM races to market with Klamath PCs

IBM will demonstrate its deepening commitment to the Intel architecture by delivering what it hopes will be the first desktop and personal workstations using the Klamath Pentium Pro processor starting in April, followed by its first Klamath servers in September.

IBM will demonstrate its deepening commitment to the Intel architecture by delivering what it hopes will be the first desktop and personal workstations using the Klamath Pentium Pro processor starting in April, followed by its first Klamath servers in September.

Intel is expected to make its initial delivery of Klamath processors, which are Pentium Pro chips with multimedia extensions built in, to hardware makers in early April. IBM plans to ship its first systems just a week or two later, according to IBM insiders.

By being so aggressive in its support of both Intel-based desktop and server systems, IBM is showing no fear as the price-performance ratio of these systems begins eating away at the lower end of its own PowerPC-based RS/6000 and AS/400 servers.

"This follows [the IBM] mandate of, `If we are going to play in this game, let's be serious about it,'" says John Dunkle, president of Workgroup Strategic Services, a consultancy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "Over the last nine months IBM has been under a great deal of pressure from [management] to execute. That means first to market with a broad spectrum of products when competitors are just beginning to think about that."

IBM's current plan is for its PC Co. to ship desktop systems centered on the 200-MHz chip by the end of April. IBM's newly formed Personal Workstation division will deliver its first workstations using the same chip in the "June or July time frame," according to another source close to the company.

More memory and faster graphics cards and accelerators will allow the personal workstations to better handle complex CAD/CAM applications and will differentiate them from the desktop systems. IBM is expected to strongly push Microsoft's Windows NT on both lines.

IBM hopes to deliver Klamath-based servers based on both 233-MHz and 266-MHz versions of the chip no later than September and possibly earlier. These single-processor systems will accommodate a second chip.

Although Intel is scheduled to deliver Deschutes (the code name for the chip that will anchor symmetric multiprocessing systems using at least four chips) by midyear, it remains unclear when IBM will deliver servers using that chip.

Sources said, however, that IBM plans to be just as aggressive with these systems and to deliver servers with as many as six Deschutes processors by the end of this year.

"A six-way Intel machine can be a real barn burner even when compared to the existing RS/6000s," says Frank Dzubeck, president of Network Communication Architects, a consultancy in Washington.

Also giving IBM an incentive to be quick to market with Klamath-based systems is the anticipation of an appreciable price-performance gain over existing Pentium Pro systems.

"Given the performance you can get, we are going to make a very heavy investment in MMX-based technologies and gravitate it up as quickly as possible to the commercial desktop space," says one IBM source.

IBM, in Armonk, New York, can be reached at http://www.ibm.com.

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