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Alphas get Cheaper? 86

zealot writes "Check out this article at The Register for info about cheap Samsung Alpha Processors. It costs $250 for a 533 MHz when ordered in volume (1000 procs or more). Now if we could just find a middle man to buy in bulk and sell them for, say $300. "
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Alphas get Cheaper?

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  • Yeah, who really is reading that as 25 cents per chip...

    Still, imaging the power of 1000 alpha computers. Go for it in a DES4...
  • by Trepidity ( 597 )
    Glad to see that /. hasn't given in and used a Compaq logo for this story rather than the Digital logo =)
  • Do I sound like a fanatic? I don't sound like a fanatic do I? No... I'm no fanatic... UhUh... no way. Gimme an Alpha, maybe a dual Alpha then you'll see a fanatic! :)
  • If someone wants to organise a Credit Union or a power purchasing consortium then I'll buy stock in that.

    I got my $100 bucks right here. (pats back pocket)
  • How about this:

    SCU (for lack of a better name) purchases 5000 of these CPUs, with motherboard, sells them for a profit, and gives the profit to suitable open-source organizations such as Debian, the FSF, or SPI(add organizations to taste) while retaining the wholesale cost of the processor (to break even on the whole deal).

    Basic breakdown: Buy hardware, sell at a profit, give profit to (eg) Debian, keep wholesale costs so the purchasing organization breaks even. Think this would be workable? Any comments from financial/business types out there?
  • Posted by wvdputte:

    This is great news... I was just looking to buy a new AXP motherboard.

    Right now I was thinking of buying the 164 UX board with 2 or 4 MB of RAM. The board has onboard SCSI and 100 Mbit Ethernet.

    You can get more info on this board at

    Right now the cheapest prices I found in Europe

    UX Board 2 MB : 1299 DM
    533 MHz CPU : 399 DM
    128 MB ECC RAM: 345 DM

    You need to add another 16% VAT to those prices

    in $ US with tax included, that is something like

    UX Board 2 MB : $930
    533 MHz CPU : $286
    128 MB ECC RAM: $248

    Once the 800 MHz CPU's become cheap, one could upgrade.

    My obvious question:

    1. Has anybody seen better offers? Where would you buy your AXP stuff?
    2. If a bunch of people in Europe could get together, would we get better prices?
  • Posted by Satyr:

    I'd also like a piece of it.
  • Posted by SmashPHASE:

    I may be wrong but if I interpreted this summary of the KP21264 on the Samsung site right,
    "- Industry open standard socket - AMD K7 chipset support and
    Slot A interchageability on the same motherboard "
    ( )
    The KP21264 will support the chipsets used for the
    AMD K7. Since this CPU and it's supporting MBs will go into mass production shortly, I think the prices of MB capable of running Alpha procs wil drop considerably...
  • Of course the geeks want hetrogenious processing systems. It is cool. Talk to your mac buddy about the ppc in your computer, then the pc bigot about the k7, and then the real geeks about the true power of the alpha, without losing x86 or ppc compatability.

    usefull is a different story, they don't care. If the hardware will support two different chips, I'm sure linux will gain support.

  • Also, they all come with 1MB of backside cache! Who want to build CHRP compatible machines with me!?

    ...oh well. Someday I'll fulfill my dream of PowerPC desktop world domination. Duopolies are better than monopolies.
  • 212 is much faster at the same MHz as 211 ... from the benchmarks I saw a 500MHz 212 would outperform a 211 running at 1GHz
  • Erm, I'd almost wager that the 400MHz Celeron is slower than your 333MHz PPC. Clock speed is only one of several factors that determine the speed of a machine
  • by marcus ( 1916 )
    My ancient 21066A, rated at 233, does 266 nicely. I've run it at 300, but it needs a fan at that rate.

  • Of course you'll need the rest of the system. This still doesn't compete with intel & clones on price/performance.


  • Looks like Alpha really has a chance to dominate if it can get a foothold before Merced. A lower price and mainstream availability (Compaq could do this) would really help. As far as competing 64-bit architectures go, look at this poll [] to see by how much the Alpha platform is dominating industry opinion. How to leverage that into a real thrust against Intel? I think price will be a big part of it.
    In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if these lower prices weren't part of a larger strategy by all Alpha licensees. It's now or never - let's see if everyone comes down, at least on the slower Alphas.
  • Not to mention the fact that apparently most of the people who visited in the last couple days voted Alpha - mind you that's not surprising, 'cause it's an alpha-related story. Fact remains that these web-surveys, whether /., ontopofIT or CNN, are all very unscientific, no matter what the sample size.
  • The K7 is supposed to (a) support SMP and (b) be electrically-compatble with the Alpha. Someone fill me in here -- what is the possibility that the K7 SMP design will be sufficiently compatible with the Alpha (maybe the same design?) that a heterogeneous multiprocessing system might be possible. Of course, this assumes the right basic hardware exists, like an SMP-compatible passive backplane system with daughterboards for the respective processors...
  • Right-o. Your typical geek isn't going to use/need/want this. But for applications needing emulation, having the native processor present is of tremendous help. For example, the application I'm thinking of is an Alpha-primary system (boots to Linux for Alpha) with a K7-secondary processor used to support non-portable 32-bit x86 apps and WINE calls. Not TOO much work in patching WINE to look for the right processor, although other individual apps would be right bastards. There's also something to be said for optimizing ops for different processors when writing your own very-custom number-crunching code.

    I wonder if anyone's done a patch to make WINE use the SunPC card (486) in SPARC Linux? Hum. Then again, noone else would put twin turbos in their Volvo either, but hey, that's just the way I am.
  • Actually, is there a law against minting your own currency?

    I'll give you 35 Slashdollars for that there Alpha.
  • And motherboards? Can I buy single PPC motherboards?

    I have 100 Slashdollars right here [pats back pocket]
  • Yes, generally you can count on up to 10% fairly safely, as long as you provide the power and airflow. Typically 533 are very happy at 600MHz.
    Remember, they aren't really _different_ chips, they make a batch, and select out the better ones through testing..
    Keep em cool and they run happy..
  • I just voted for MIPS...

  • DEC claimed for years that they would price Alpha chips competitively, but they never did. Let's hope that they (or Samsung) have finally learned a lesson and will follow through.

    And if the 21264 and the AMD K7 really are slot A interchangeable, we should finally have inexpensive motherboards into which to plug our inexpensive Alpha chips.

    I want a 21264, and I want it NOW! If not sooner!

  • With any luck, when the AMD K7 comes out on the ev6 bus at least some cheaper low end motherboards will appear.
  • I'm running a Microway Alpha Screamer as a web
    server. This is the current base box. It's
    faster than my 300 Mhz.K6 Desktop but, in most things, not much faster with RH 5.1. Byte bench
    marks are less in some areas. For this to be a
    big deal, more optimization and tuned apps would
    help a lot. Neither box uses the proprietary slot1
    architecture, however, so I do gain satisfaction.
    Attn. Compaq! we want the hotter stuff cheaper.
  • The slot protocol will be identical. Whether the CPU is 64 or 32 bit doesn't matter at all (as that's completely internal to the CPU). As for the data path... the protocol will be identical. So probably the K7 will also have 128bit data bus, or the EV7 protocol will make 128bit optional and work with 64bit data.

    But you would have to change the BIOS for switching CPUs, I expect.

  • There are 21264 benchmarks for systems between 500 and 575MHz floating around; a dual 21264/500 board costs about $9000 at the moment, with the targetted market being embedded controllers which need that sort of performance.

    Digital are very good at doing extremely aggressive speed-binning; they have 616, 625, 633 and even the occasional 666MHz 21164 running in very high-end systems, and they can produce 600MHz chips in large enough quantities that SGI can build 1024-way multi-processing T3E/1200 boxes.

    The 21264 is not a small nor a simple chip; 64k data, 64k instruction caches already take up an awful lot of transistors. It has 15.2 million transistors, and is huge (300mm^2) in the 0.35u process. It bears about the same relation to the 21164 as the PPro does to the Pentium - much cleverer scheduling, much cleverer renaming, out-of-order execution, and all the other techniques required to get great performance out of an architecture.

    Since it has a reasonable number of registers, and a sane FP design, it's about 50% faster on integer work and 2x as fast on FP work as a P3 of the same clock speed.

    And it's been wildly delayed; the announcement I have with details in it was produced on 25/10/1996, and said 'samples first quarter 1997, volume second half 1997'; Digital representatives were promising volume production of 21264 systems by October 1997. If it had come out then, Intel would be in considerable trouble.
  • Bullcrap. Alphas have a PCI BUS, use ATX power supplies, and can use generic PC hardware. Other than the motherboard, the cost of an alpha system and an intel system (with the same components) is the same. Becase, well...they're the same components.
  • Thanks to Samsung, there are now cheap Alphas in quantity. However, just make sure it's not a 21164PC; these buggers don't have the L2 cache in the package, which is what helps the Alpha haul ass. (can you say Celloweron?)
    I'm looking forward to the 21264 (and up) which will have SMP connectivity built in.

  • If there is a law agianst it, than its and USA one. Up here, Canadian Tire (a hardware/everything store), a national chain gives away Canadian Tire money, something like 1% of purchases, and takes it back at par.

    Its printed on the same stock as Canadian currency (less holograms we have on 20's and up) at the same mint, a crown (ie government run sort of for-profit) corperation.
  • I'm curious about the DS20 clone from dcginc. I looked at their web site ( []) and could not find any information on the machine that you are refering to for $10k. How did you find out about this machine? Is this a 2-processor machine?

    Thanks for the info.

  • I've just checked Samsung's site, and the motherboards listed have space for 2-4 megabytes of cache. The processors that they're offering are 21164s, which is not so great, but they're clocked at up to the mid-600 MHz range. These motherboards are designed to be compatible with PCI and ISA peripherals made for standard PCs.

    I didn't see a price sheet on the site. You may have to write them directly in order to get pricing information (I know that that's the case with Compaq's alpha pages).

  • Ok, I'm surprised. And impressed.

    How they managed to pull 600 MHz at 0.35 without overheating is beyond me. I'm assuming that that's with a dual-phase clock. I'm also assuming that they can do a significant amount of work in one clock cycle. Does anyone have more information on the transistor technology used for various parts of the chip (i.e. CMOS, BiCMOS, ECL), and on the 21164 instruction set with clocks-to-execute information?

    Why they're fabricating at 0.28 is a mystery to me, as most fabs can run at 0.25 now.

    If they can pull 750 MHz at 0.28, then the 21264 should reach 1.2-1.4 GHz on 0.18 by late 1H-00 or so.

    Re. clock speed, this will always influence performance. However, I agree that making sure that memory and peripherals can keep up with the processor is important too.

  • I know there are a lot of Alpha people out there reading, so I'll ask an off-topic question.

    Does anyone have a web browser other than lynx running on their Alpha under Linux?

    I've finally got X running on my AS 200 and now I don't even know what to do with it. I've been using the machine as a web server and to play with Samba. I'd sure like to be able to surf the web with it. I'm the hacker equivalent of a *script-kiddie* when it comes to programming, so I'm looking for compiled binaries that are known to work. Help, anyone?
  • Count me in on a buyers group! Imagine that.. the slashdot buyers group. Like cars, but with hardware. We pull together, buy, and sell it. Rob takes it to IPO, and we all get shares.
  • Unfortunately, Motherboards and cache for alpha are very expensive. I'm paying $1810 for a 600 MHz alpha w/4 MB cache on a UX motherboard. Cheaper than the alternative alpha not from samsung would be, though. Long Live Alpha! Everyone write portable code! :-)
  • From what I hear, Alpha chips were designed to handle emulation seamlessly by loading 100% of the emulated CPU's register set into the chip itself. All that has to be done is a few redirects to the soft set, and bingo, you have an emulated CPU at MAYBE a 15% performance penalty. Not bad, considering the Alpha is at least 4 times faster than existing Pentium II/Xeon processors at comparable clock rates.

    BTW - FX32 isn't a Windows emulation system. It only emulates the Intel processor core. NT itself does all of the software work.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman