December 20, 1996 2:30 p.m.

Bull unveils Unix cluster, middleware
By Stephanie LaPolla

  Bull HN Information Systems Inc., the U.S. division of Groupe Bull, this week announced a Unix cluster that brings the stability of the mainframe to open systems. The company is also preparing new software that will facilitate information sharing between big iron and client/server computing.

Bull's Escala Powercluster, based on eight-way PowerPC 604e servers running AIX, can connect up to eight machines for a 64-processor configuration. The Powercluster offers high availability for corporate intranets and data warehouses, according to company officials.

For customers looking to turn a Unix cluster into an affordable mainframelike environment, Bull announced Sagister middleware for the Escala Powercluster. Sagister adds availability, serviceability and access rights similar to mainframe systems.

In addition, Bull has slashed the price of a Sagister-enhanced Powercluster, now available in Europe, by about half--to $250,000 for 64-processor scalability--by unbundling certain software options and making the system modular, said Bull officials in Paris.

"[Sagister] is positioned as a mainframe coming with a ton of middleware and software," said Frank Cairns, marketing consultant for Bull's Open Enterprise Services business unit. "But not everyone wants all of the software at the same time. They might have their own systems management or their own save/restore software."

Pricing for Sagister may fall even more if the middleware is ported to Windows NT. With Bull, IBM and Motorola Inc. stepping away from future development of NT on the PowerPC, Bull is investigating rolling out an Intel-based NT server for use with Sagister, they said.

The Escala Powercluster, starting at $140,000, and the Sagister Powercluster are available immediately from Bull's U.S. arm in Billerica, Mass.

Next year, the company will make its BlueSage software available. Currently in beta, it will enable file transfers, data access and cooperative transaction processing between Unix machines and data on an IBM or Bull mainframe, said officials.

"The customer doesn't have to scrap their MVS machine. It is a controlled evolution that can open up the system to Unix and interchange with that world," said Bull's Cairns.

IS managers entrenched in mixed computing environments said the interoperability concept is important.

"You want to share information, period," said Paul Sadowski, network computing manager at Ontario Hydro, a Canadian utility company. "There is need for this stuff. ... Needs are changing and growing, and the Internet adds a whole new dimension."

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