Digital extends Alpha line

Digital Equipment Corp. last week shored up its Alpha-based workstation line up with new low-end and midrange offerings that could play a role on NASA's $1 billion workstation procurement and in other technical markets.

Digital also unveiled a new brand of 2-D and 3-D graphics adapters—including a high-end OpenGL adapter due later this year—and a new version of its Unix operating system.

The new workstations—the AlphaStation 255 and AlphaStation 500—fill a gap between Digital's low-end AlphaStation 200 and high-end AlphaStation 600. At the low-end, a Unix-based Model 255 offers about twice the performance of the Model 200. The Model 255 is priced at $8,495—the same starting price for the Model 200 when it was introduced. Both models run either Digital's Unix or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT.

The combination of powerful graphics and high-powered workstations "is very key in the compute-intensive market space like NASA, where Digital has lost some share in the past," said Elizabeth LaRosa, marketing program manager for Digital's Federal Government Region.

Digital is evaluating several workstation-oriented government programs, including NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II. The AlphaStation's more granular scalability gives Digital an edge in these procurements, LaRosa said.

The Model 255 comes with a 1M cache, a minimum of 32M of RAM and a 1G hard disk, and a 128-bit memory bus. The product also includes four slots: two PCI, one ISA and one PCI/ISA slot. For Unix-based systems, the Model 255 costs $8,495 at 233 MHz and $12,095 at 300 MHz.

The Model 500 comes with a 2M cache, a minimum 64M of RAM and a 2G hard disk, and a 256-bit memory bus. It also includes four slots: one 64-bit and three 32-bit PCI slots. The Model 500 runs at 266 MHz, 333 MHz or 400 MHz, with prices ranging between $20,811 and $30,063.

Pricing and configurations vary for Windows NT-based workstations for both models.

This announcement really repositions [Digital] very well at the [low-end and midrange] price points," said Peter Lowber, a senior analyst at Datapro, a Delran, N.J., market research firm. Digital now outperforms the competition at these price levels, except in the area of graphics, Lowber said.

Along with its workstations, Digital introduced four new PCI-based graphics adapters under the PowerStorm brand. The new adapters range in price from $399 to $2,495. This summer Digital plans to release a new high-end OpenGL graphics adapter that will cost less than $15,000.

Digital also released the 64-bit Digital Unix 4.0 operating system, which is fully compliant with the Single Unix Specification created by the X/Open industry consortium.

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