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IBM Takes Lead in Workstation Race : Computers: Claims for RS/6000 speed place it ahead of rival products. But the edge could be lost quickly.

September 22, 1993|From Reuters

NEW YORK — International Business Machines Corp. jumped ahead of its three main rivals in the workstation wars Tuesday by introducing additions to its RS/6000 line, including one with supercomputing capability.

IBM also introduced a workstation designed around the long-awaited PowerPC processor, the first system based on the chip developed in IBM's alliance with Apple Computer Inc. and Motorola Inc.

Wall Street analysts said IBM's claims of supercomputing speeds on the RS/6000 put its systems ahead of its rivals' in performance but not yet in market share.

In the $10-billion workstation market, performance leads are fleeting as new computers rapidly come into competition.

"It's a game of leapfrog, and they (IBM) are at the top of the heap right now," said Curt Rohrman, analyst with First Boston.

Other vendors are likely to come out with models that will reach or surpass the speed of IBM's fastest RS/6000 model.

IBM said the performance of its new systems based on upgraded RS/6000 architecture, called the POWER2, outstrips that of competing products from Digital Equipment Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Big Blue said its new RISC System/6000 POWERserver 990, the highest-performance system in its IBM RISC product family, does 275.6 transactions a second.

IBM also introduced server models to enhance the new workstations. Servers are systems that store data, manage files and provide other services from one computer to another computer known as the client.

IBM made the product introductions during the first day of UNIX Expo, a trade show of UNIX systems and software vendors taking place here.

UNIX is a complex operating system used primarily in technical workstations, but it is gradually making inroads into commercial computing applications, such as distributed databases and on-line transaction processing in banking.

Also at the Expo, Sun Microsystems Inc. said it has made a pact with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Amdahl Corp. for an effort to improve its sales in the commercial market.

Sun Micro, a leader in workstations, also introduced SPARCcluster, a server that combines multiple network systems so they can act as one.

Sun Micro has a major presence in the technical market, where its workstations are used for number-crunching applications such as designing semiconductors and automobiles.

Sun hopes Amdahl's sales force, which sells mainframe systems to Fortune 500 corporations, will help enlarge its presence in the commercial world.

IBM is making great headway with its RS/6000 line in that sector, analysts noted.

"Our credibility will be higher with Amdahl," said Curt Wozniak, vice president for marketing at Sun Micro's Computer Corp.

Amdahl is also seeking new sources of revenue as its IBM-compatible mainframe business follows IBM into a slowdown.

Amdahl plans to produce a low-cost, next-generation mainframe computer based on Sun's SPARC microprocessors.

As part of its deal with Sun, Amdahl will also do further development work on Sun's Solaris operating system to ensure that it runs on equipment ranging from laptops to supercomputers. Separately, IBM and Emeryville, Calif.-based Sybase Inc. said they have formed a software company to promote multimedia solutions for IBM's RISC System/6000 workstations.

IBM's stock slipped 12.5 cents Tuesday, to $42.125 a share, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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