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foreword - Volume 6 Number 3

CURRENT ISSUE - Volume 6 Number 3 Steve Holmes,
Engineering Group Manager,
Server Platform Development,
Director, Office Server Product Line

The engineering developments described in this issue represent the second of many planned generations of products that will be designed to fulfill Digital's Alpha vision. That vision is (a) to make Alpha systems open, and (b) to deliver a rich set of Alpha system products that lead the market both in performance and price/performance. It is heartening to see the vision being realized. It is yet more heartening to see it unfolding simultaneously with appreciable improvements in Digital's business practices. These combined events have already resulted in substantial market acceptance of Digital's AlphaServer products.

The particular set of papers in this issue is fortuitous in that it demonstrates the large number of individuals and range of engineering skills required to bring about an industry phenomenon such as Alpha. Included are papers focused on the AlphaServer multiprocessing systems, on the symmetric multiprocessing implementation of the DEC OSF/1 operating system, on the optimization of mathematical subroutine libraries for the Alpha architecture, and on the KAP preprocessor. If one can imagine these technical efforts multiplied many fold, the scope of the Alpha undertaking will emerge.

The first generation of products based on the Alpha architecture was introduced in 1992. The AlphaServer 2100 system and DEC OSF/1 SMP operating system, introduced in mid-1994, together represent the beginning of the second-generation Alpha server products. The overarching development goal was to give our present and future customers a compelling reason to buy. The resultant direction was to provide very low cost multiprocessing system capability with industry standard open I/O buses, in this case PCI and EISA. To capitalize on these attributes and to ensure that a complete solution was delivered, the engineering teams maintained a customer-focused perspective. It is this perspective that has enabled the AlphaServer 2100 to achieve rapid market acceptance.

Truly, though, the most significant achievement for the present round of Alpha server products is this: a whole new standard of price/performance for the industry has been reached. Computing that in the past could have been performed only with very expensive high-end machines or extensive distributed networks is now performed by affordable AlphaServer systems.

This price/performance breakthrough augments Digital's strong capabilities.

  • A truly open environment that supports UNIX and Windows NT operating systems on Alpha systems
  • The ongoing strength of the world's best full-featured commercial operating system, the OpenVMS system
  • A world-class and world-wide service and delivery organization
  • An extensive and growing network of channels
  • Overall, Digital's renewed and meaningful commitment to be responsive to the demands and needs of the markets

This is a very exciting and productive time in Digital's history.

If this were the end of the story, there would be much of which to be proud. In fact, there is more to come across the range of AlphaGeneration products, including workstations, PCs, clustering, operating systems, and networking. In the server area specifically, the recently announced AlphaServer 2000 increases the price/performance lead of the 2100 system. Processor and cache upgrades have increased the absolute performance of the family. Just around the corner are similar advances for other members of Digital's server products. A little further away are significant enhancements in our clustering capabilities and in our server management tools.

All these developments are of direct and measurable benefit to our customers. All are guided by what the markets are telling us they want. The trend and pace of these enhancements will allow Digital to continue to deliver on the promise of the Alpha vision.

Performance measurements, for example, SPECmark data and transaction-per-second tests and competitive comparisons support the statements above. However, the case is made most convincingly by the early acceptance and rapid rampup of AlphaServer 2100 system purchases by our customers. In the highly competitive server arena, success is being demonstrated daily.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer a very enthusiastic thank-you to all whose work is represented in the accompanying technical papers, most especially to the AlphaServer 2100 development team whose work I have had the privilege to observe since the team's formation. The hard work and dedication of everyone is recognized, appreciated, and needed for the future.

This foreword will conclude in favor of the substantive papers that detail the technical contributions made by the authors and their colleagues. It is my expectation that readers of this issue of the Digital Technical Journal will gain useful technical insights. It is my hope that they will also see, as I do, that the future of Digital computing is bright.

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