FYI: Linux on DEC Alphas

FYI: Linux on DEC Alphas

Post by Joachim Pauli » Wed, 29 Mar 1995 04:00:00

I read the following on , (in the "High Performance
Computing" part), the original source is stated to be 'Computerworld'.

Alpha systems targeted for Unix variant

Computerworld via NewsPage : A low-cost, low-end workstation is under
development that will run Linux a free variant of Unix on a 64-bit Digital
Equipment Corp. Alpha box.

Linus Torvalds, the Finnish graduate student who wrote Linux, confirmed
last week that he is in the early stages of porting Linux to Alpha, using a
DEC 2000/300 PC provided by the Maynard, Mass., company.

``I'm looking forward to seeing an Alpha port, and I would seriously consider
Alpha-based workstations provided Digital priced them competitively with a
high-end Pentium,'' said Greg Wettstein, director of pharmacological services
at the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, N.D.

The cancer center has been running its entire operation on 29 Linux-based
workstations since 1993, Wettstein said, making it one of the largest commercial
Linux installations.

The advantage of porting Linux, currently available only on 386- and 486- based
PCs, to Alpha would be to turn the operating system loose on a RISC- based
``inherently hotter underlying box,'' he said.

``It's fascinating that somebody like Digital even has a team working on this,''
Wettstein said. Digital's marketing plans are unclear, but Wettstein said if
the port is successful ~~``Linux will market itself.''

In fact, that is pretty much what has happened during the past two years, as
a cottage industry has sprung up around Linux, which is freely available on
the Internet. Linux has no company, no advertising and no marketing budget.

Larry Augustin first used Linux as a way to get Unix on his home PC for free.
Realizing that there is ``a fair amount of pain'' involved in getting the
system up and running, he built a business selling completely configured
Linux PCs.

Augustin, now president of VA Research, Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif., said,
``We're looking forward to offering our customers Linux workstations on Alpha,''
as an alternative to Intel Corp.-based PCs.

Viable or not?

Linux has spread primarily to individual users and colleges, but even on
campus not everyone is a Linux devotee. One software engineer at a major
university and a Digital user said Linux is not a ``commercial-strength''

Dan Kusnetsky, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.,
said a Linux/Alpha econobox could be a marketing nightmare for Digital,
which already has three operating systems OpenVMS, Digital Unix and Windows NT.

``Digital has a confusing lineup now. Adding another one will not improve that,''
Kusnetsky said. The Digital/Linux venture could turn out to be an interesting
``technology safari'' that never makes its way out of the development jungle, he

A Digital spokesman said the company has no plans to manufacture Linux-based

Torvalds said he hopes Linux/Alpha will develop into a legitimate alternative.

From Helsinki, Torvalds is forging ahead on the port. He has completed memory
management, page sharing, the basic file and shell utilities and device drivers.

Torvalds is scheduled to deliver a Linux tutorial at the May Digital Equipment
Computer User Society meeting in Washington, leading to some speculation that he
will boot up a Linux/Alpha system at that time.

[03-27-95 at 14:47 EST, Copyright 1995, Computerworld]

Joachim Paulini                  | Institut fuer Theoretische Physik


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