PC servers sporting eight Pentium Pro processors will make their debuts early in 1997, paving the way for a low-cost, standardised system design that Intel is expected to deliver in time for volume shipments in 1998.
According to a number of system vendors familiar with Intel's plans, the company plans to develop an eight-processor motherboard using the Deschutes architecture, the code name for Intel's next-generation Pentium Pro architecture that uses a processor card designed specifically for servers.
"It will open the way to a standard eight-processor solution just like Intel's Standard High Volume motherboard did for four-processor systems," one vendor says.
Deschutes is expected to make its debut in mid-1997, sources say, although the eight-processor boards won't be available in volume until 1998.
In the meantime, some vendors are developing or evaluating alternate eight-way processor designs that could ship by mid-1997.
Hitachi and Samsung have licensed an eight-processor Pentium Pro design from Corollary that uses a proprietary logic chip to link the memory cache of two four-processor subsystems. By linking two Pentium Pro four-processor boards, Corollary's Profusion chip allows an OS to view the system as a single integrated unit, officials say.
IBM is also evaluating using the Corollary technology, says William Colton, vice-president and general manager of the PC server division. In addition, sources say that Data General and Compaq are also considering licensing the technology, which is expected to be available in products by mid-1997.
Before then, Data General expects to introduce an eight-processor system based on the cache coherent nonuniform memory-access (ccNUMA) technology developed by Data General and Intel. The system will use a second iteration of Intel's Standard High Volume four-processor motherboard that includes a connector for a high-speed ccNUMA interconnect.
The drawback to using nonuniform memory-access technology to link two four-processor boards together into a virtual eight-way system is that the OS must be altered to get better performance, some vendors say. Currently, Microsoft is not committed to adding support for ccNUMA to Windows NT.