Bull launches Itanium 2 and Fame-based servers

Bull SA has launched a new range of high-end servers, NovaScale, based on Intel's Itanium 2 processors and Bull's Fame (Flexible Architecture for Multiple Environments) multiprocessor architecture, it announced Friday.

The launch of the servers marks a return to Bull's roots, after the sale of its smart-card unit CP8, its Indian software division PSI, and its service activities outside France and Italy over the last two years. It also opens the way for the company, based in Louveciennes, France, to move users of its proprietary GCOS operating system from mainframe hardware it can no longer afford to develop onto more modern systems based on Intel 64-bit processors.

"Everything at Bull will for a long time revolve around servers," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Pierre Bonelli said at a news conference in Paris to mark the launch. "This will help us increase our market penetration in all areas, and it will help us with our customers."

Bull announced three Novascale servers, all mountable in 19-inch racks and based on a standard building block of a four-way Itanium 2 multiprocessor unit using Intel's E8870 chipset. Bull plans to keep costs down through its use of the standard building blocks, but to boost performance by linking them together with some custom silicon, its Fame Scalability Switch (FFS).

The NovaScale 4040, supporting up to four Itanium 2 processors, is intended for small application servers or for clustering, and costs from €25,000 (US$26,500).

The NovaScale 5080 and 5160, supporting up to eight or 16 processors respectively, feature a redundant, fault-tolerant architecture and are intended for supporting large databases. They will cost from €85,000 and €95,000, respectively.

The 4040 is available now and the other two models will be available at the end of the month, Bull spokesman Terry Raynsford said.

In November, new 8- and 16-way models will appear with support for hardware partitioning, according to Bruno Pinna, general manager of the company's Intel server unit.

The servers will support Linux, Microsoft's Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition 1.2 and, when available, Windows Server 2003, Bull said.

Later, Bull will also introduce a version of its proprietary mainframe operating system, GCOS 8, for the new servers, in the form of a virtual machine running on top of the Linux operating system. This software, called Helios, will require the extra power promised by a future generation of the Itanium 2, known today by Intel's code name Madison, and so will not be available before the end of the year, Bonelli said.

Bull has already released Diane, a version of its GCOS 7 operating system, to run on top of Windows on servers built with 32-bit Intel processors, and has about 100 systems in operation, Pinna said. This was possible because GCOS 7 is much less demanding than GCOS 8, not least because the latter runs on a 36-bit machine "which is much harder to emulate in 32 bits," he said.

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