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Ixnay WinNT on Alpha 205

Thanks to Jason Perlow for sending us the story that Compaq has laid off roughly 100 engineers responsible for WinNT on the Alpha platform, and will be not be doing more development on it. It's an interesting development, especially taken in light of Compaq's recent push with Linux, True64, and OpenVMS as the OSes (OSi?) of choice with the Alpha platform.
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Ixnay WinNT on Alpha

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  • Um, tell me, how many alphas were sold with VMS on them?
  • So where does the second "i" in virii come from?

    Oh, let me guess...

    1 virus, 2 virii, 3 viriii, 4 viriv...

    If you are going to grammar-flame, make sure you at least know your grammar...
  • First MIPS, then PPC, now Alpha. Intel will be next. :-)


  • Yea, I think he works directly as a Linux International promoter... But I bet he still has contacts ;-) and I can't think of anyone else who could get a couple 21264's to the gcc guys, can you? If so, feel free to beg em ;-) couldn't hurt.
  • Amen to that..

    but i'd also like to add that it should be about time that people see that Compaq's aren't that good.. at least in my feeble opinion. Then again, put linux on it, and the world's a better place. ;-)
  • Actually, that's good news. We were "this" close to getting a new Alpha dual here from Microway a few months back, and didn't do it because we couldn't find a good compiler. If there would have been anything that ran in Linux that would have gave the preformance we would have wanted, another Alpha would be in the building I work in ;-)

    But, the only thing we found was for Tru64, so the "chiefs" decided to get some more SGI's, and keep the commercial UNIX problems all with one company. :-( I do know for a fact though, that if the preformance (espically FP w/ Fortran) would have been there from a commercial Linux compiler, not only would there be a Alpha Linux box here, but a couple PIII's running Linux too. For pure hardware preformance, there would have been a lot of nice hardware we could have got for the price of the Origin and Octane we got insted.

    In the end, brand loyalty won, because it came down to a risk on something unknown, with questionable preformance from unknow compilers, compared to knowing how SGI would screw us already. As for Linux developed with a commercial compiler I say YES! I have long been a believer that people who don't optimize thier compiles, but go out and spend $700 more for a CPU that runs 20% faster are total idiots! It depends much on if the distribution was put together with the compiler, or if the compiler is included, and the price tag. Actually, I have thought about this for over a year now, and I think it was last summer some time I came to this conclusion:
    "If someone is selling a C compiler for Linux, and they claim it is better than GCC, why in the world don't they bundle it with a whole Linux distribution that was compiled with thier compiler?"
    If in fact the preformance was better, you may well be able to spend say $100 to $300 on a commercial compiler, and get a system that was 35% faster overall. I mean, even GCC can make your system up to 30% faster if you use the right flags (see my tests [] and the claims of Mandrake Linux). People are always looking for the latest greatest hardware boosts for an edge, and it's very short sighted to think about spending all that money on faster hardware when you have the source code right in front of you, and your runing unoptimized binaries.

    If Intel REALLY wanted to support Linux, they would port thier compiler to Linux (which is an OUTSTANDING C compiler for x86), and let VAResearch sell Red Hat recompiled optimized for each specific CPU using Intel's compiler. They would probably see a preformance boost that they can't get out of hardware alone.

    Along those lines, I also believe that AMD should really start backing the GCC project by donating half a dozen of thier new Athlon processors to the top developers in GCC. If they did that, and shiped instruction set specs and details, there could be a -march=athlon flag that could potential put thier preformance WAY ahead of PIII.

    I'm also hoping that IBM pays some close attention to GCC now that they are supporting the Linux community, with the G3 and the older Cyrix based stuff they still own, they could really make Linux on thier hardware "wake people up."

    Don't get me wrong, I think GCC is doing pretty darn well. But I do think that GCC development and support is much more important than elevating Linus to the level of a god.

  • I've been using :) since before 1990. What's wrong with it?


  • The Micros~1 Trolls on Slashdot can't start an intellectual debate and are slowly fading into irrelevance. Good to see them sinking with their own ship.
  • Can someone explain to me why they would like to kill of Alpha? I mean, isn't the Alpha processor what Intel is dreaming of when they are creating Merced?

    I will never understand marketing. Why did Compaq buy Digital anyway? It sure smells like when SGI bought Cray.
  • Plus is most definitely derived from Latin...

  • So Compaq/Digital sells more Alphas running NT than Tru64? Compaq doesn't get a damn thing from OS sales on NT/Alpha, whereas DU licenses are sometimes more than the boxes themselves. There's no way they're giving that up.

  • The people who they're trying to sell Alpha systems to and the people who buy Celerons to run overclocked in dual boards are generally not the same people.
    And anyway, to get close to, say, an XP1000 at 667MHz, you need a quad 550MHz PIII Xeon (and that is assuming your task scales to at least 80% on four processors), so at those performance levels, price/performance for the Alpha is better than for Intel (quad Xeon boxes are very expensive).
  • Perhaps your not familiar with the Alpha market. Where I work we sell tons of Tru64 Unix Alphas, a suprising number of OpenVMS Alphas and darned few NT alphas. Lately we've seen a lot of demand for Linux on the Alpha platform as well. The profit margin on the NT systems is terrible too. In short Compaq is having trouble giving NT away and customers are lining up in droves for Unix oriented solutions. If compaq were to discontinue Alpha then they would have to discontinue their tandem line since future Himalaya systems are designed around Alpha. At that point Compaq throws away something like $15billion in recent aqcuisitions, admits they don't have what it takes to play in the enterprise, has nothing to differentiate themselves from Dell and risks Lawsuits from the worlds largest banks who expect decades long support and upgrade paths for their Tandem hardware.
  • You know, is there any way that Digital could make the alpha-nt source available to the public? I know, it's a crazy idea, and I'm almost positive that MS would have fits over it.. but is it possible they made an oversight and Digital could release it?

    This is the reason free software can be so beneficial - alpha-NT would have continued unhindered if it had a developer base independent of the company. Now it's just going to sink for no reason other than economics. :/


  • by Zico ( 14255 )

    First of all, every news source that I've seen (except for ZDnet, surprise surprise), has stated that Compaq isn't ending their Win64-Alpha development, only their Win32-Alpha support. Anyone who's bought an NT-Alpha box anytime recently isn't stuck at a dead-end -- if they want to upgrade, they'd move to Win64 when it's available and get themselves a nice performance boost since NT/Win would finally be utilizing the 64-bit architecture.

    As for your point about Intel, they don't have Microsoft by the balls, because on the server end, Intel is struggling to get their 64-bit architecture to work. At this point, it's anybody's guess which will come out first: Win64 or Merced. As for the x86-compatible end, Intel potentially has a huge battle on its hands against AMD.

    Lastly, Microsoft has very close relations with Compaq. If Compaq's move were going to jeopardize Microsoft, Microsoft easily has enough money to invest in Compaq to make sure that this particular division (NT-Win32-Alpha) stays afloat. You don't think Compaq actually announced this move without discussing it with Microsoft, do you?


  • Makes perfect sense to me. Why continue to support an OS that has a pretty big competitor and that you've never gained much market share on? Why would a customer choose an Alpha NT box, with possible application support, instead of an Intel/AMD NT box with more applications?

    Maybe they're getting out of NT to give AMD a chance at it? Nah, couldn't be.

    The Unix and Linux camps are less taken in by Intel's marketing, and are more likely to try alternative solutions. Anyways, it's a possibility!
  • We'd had an annoying time with Compaq's Intel boxes

    First, I've never had a problem with anything made by Compaq (except for their consumer-level stuff, which is about the same as anybody else's.) I am writing this on a (circa) 1995 Deskpro that has never had any hardware problems at all.

    and their crappy dealer-based sales system

    As opposed to Digital's dealer-based sales system?
    (yes, Digital had dealers, just like Compaq.. and the only thing required to become one was a PO from a customer worth $15000 or more.)

    I'm sorry to hear about your problems with Compaq, but in truth, my experiences with Digital (pre-Compaq) are just as bad - how about a hard drive that failed, and Digital doesn't have any to replace it - so they said "we've got that on back-order right now, we expect stock in 3 to 6 weeks." _FIVE MONTHS LATER_ our hard drive arrived.

    I for one welcomed the purchase by Compaq.

    Our top programmer gave us a talk explaining that "NT" had originally stood for N10 ("N-ten")

    Your programmer was wrong. NT stood for "New Technology" - as in "not Windows 3.x" - it came from a new codebase, whereas the old (3.x) code stemmed from what was just a graphical shell (no multitasking, networking, memory management, etc..)
  • I read a "Ask Bill" column where Mr Gates denys having made the remark about 640KB.
  • Remember when everyone feared that Compaq after taking Digital would dump alpha and unix in favor of wintel? My how thing changed
  • Geekdom is even fond of completely wrong forms,
    as we can probably see. I have a friend who actually took Latin in school but insists that the plural of "Unix" is "Unixii".
  • Wonder what my old company is going to do? They announced they were going to can the DUX (Tru64) port of their software, but keep the WinNT Alpha port. And they had a bunch of Alpha workstations lying around.

    UGS was betting that Compaq would nuke the Tru64 division and that NT was the future, but it looks like they were wrong. (Maybe they'll send me all the now useless workstations....)
  • Why kill NT/Alpha?

    32bit support due to a trick, NT use only 32bit of the adress space (the first and last 2gb of the 64bit using sign extension). That is due to the number of DWORD in Win32 API that are used to pass pointers (HWND (windows structures) are DWORD, as well as many others things).

    Lack of application for NT/Alpha, there is FX!32 (run NT/Intel binaries), but even if it's fast it's still emulation.

    If you'd have to run a big server would you use WinNT/Alpha or Tru64? (Note: I have an Linux#Alpha machine) Intel processor are still best price/performance and adequate for most servers.

  • With thier acqusition of DEC and Linux becoming a viable alternative, why pay Microsoft so you can ship NT. Especially when M$ does none of the work to get it to run on Alpha.

    It looks to me like Compaq is looking to reduce system costs in the server area. Particularly in the lower end of the market an OS like NT makes up a significant portion of a systems total cost. Especially in the user license area.

    Maybe M$ went and increased the licensing cost for W2K.

    Then again it could just be they are cutting out an area of the business that just did make much money.

  • Well, to be fair both MS and IBM thought DOS was going to be dead meat under 286+ machines and attempted to replace it. Of course, the replacement, OS/2, was a disaster until about 1992. Then someone at MS figured out that they could kluge a protected mode extender onto DOS and tell IBM to screw themselves, and most PCs are still running with that solution (Windows) to this day, making everyone's head hurt.

    On the other hand, load up WP 4.2 and Lotus 1-2-3 2.x -- You can still get a lot of work done with 640K.
  • Kind of amusing, when you consider that Compaq and MSFT have been together for many years.

    Guess that means W2K/WNT is not doing as well as Bill G would have us believe ...

  • Wasn't IBM's big mistake putting the 384K ROM space at the top of real memory, instead of the bottom? My understanding is that IBM did it this way only because that's how Apple did it (top 16K of the ]['s 64K.)
  • Will Compaq dare to stop supporting Windows and NT on x86? Probably not, too much of a cash cow. Why would they bother to stop supporting NT on Alpha? If Compaq/Digital stops supporting NT on Alpha, then they will piss off The Giant (Microsoft). Considering that Compaq sells (hmm.. lets see) x86 and Alpha computers, will Microsoft still help Compaq sell Windows on x86? Seems like Compaq is risking losing Windows $$$ on both its Alpha and x86 product lines!
  • Intel has finally succeeded in developing some kind of remote mind-control device.

    They've obviously been testing it for years at Motorola, but this excercise proves they've perfected it.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Please don't take this personally but that was a pretty stupid move on the part of your former employer. All they had to do was look at how the market for Alpha systems breaks down to see that compaq sells far more Unix systems than NT Alpha.

    Wrong! "Bus" is short for "omnibus", which is certainly Latin :).
  • I think that chip you're talking about is the 21164PC chip, in 164sx boards. It runs any OS you like (DU, Linux, NT, FreeBSD, maybe OpenBSD, probably NetBSD), but I think they were aiming it at the NT market. It has some MMX/Altivec like instructions on the chip, which, as far as I can tell, has never been given software support..

    Runs Linux like a champ, although I'm going to DU pretty soon.

  • 640K barrier was nto Bill's fault. IBM decreed the 640K limit.
  • GCC 2.95.1 was released August 19th BTW.

    People known to be working on getting GCC working better on Alpha are: Richard Henderson, David Mosberger, Catherine Moore. If you think any OS that uses GCC is something you would like to support, thank these people, and the others at GCC/EGCS [], they are the ones that will give you the freedom to run something other than WinNT and Tru64 on your Alpha.

  • by jafac ( 1449 )

    Now that Compaq is on the ropes, all I need is a good Acronym for DELL.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Alpha NT is the smallest fraction of Alpha business and the least profitable. NT sales were third behind both Tru64Unix and OpenVMS and rapidly sliding to fourth behind Linux. Unfortunately NT support gave Alpha a reputation as a competitor with x86 when its really targeted at Sun UltraSPARC and SGI MIPS/IRIX markets.
    You never hear anyone say 'its too bad that SPARC doesn't support NT, they could have some real market share if they did' or 'Gee AS400 is doomed since it only runs some minicomputer OS and not NT'.
  • "Over 100 souls and their families are having their lives torn asunder because they did a great job and made NT on Alpha the only alternative to Intel's monopoly."

    We are talking about NT here. The "Microsoft Monopoly". Like they can't go and work for some other company and make good money? They have a good understanding of alternative architectures and NT. Why not just move on, maybe work on getting NT to work smoothly w/Merced (another 64 bit processor)?
  • MS/IBM Lan Manager (Also resold by 3Com as 3Open or something) was an OS/2-based product which failed to gain much significant marketshare. It would be long forgotten, except that Windows NT uses the same networking layer.

    It certainly works very differently from NetWare, for one it ran NetBEUI and NetBIOS-over-TCP/IP. If you wrote your DOS app on the LanMan APIs, you're pretty much stuck on either DOS, OS/2, or Windows. (These were the days before 'WinSock' - APIs were pretty much NOS-specific.)

    I think the guy's concern is that they is no NetBEUI support in Linux, and the MS DOS TCP/IP software cuts pretty significantly into your 640K.

    (One solution might be to look at the book "Unauthorized Windows 95" by Andrew Schulman . In the book he describes how to use Win95 to create a 32-bit version of DOS, complete with protected mode networking.)
  • True, actually this is one of the prime reasons that if they axe NT, it will hurt Alpha. But reading the post below from Craig Zeller about what Enrico Pesatori had to say, this whole discussion may be mute.

    But, yes, the Microsoft C compiler shows well on NT/Alpha SPEC benchmarks. Problem is, most of the common binaries are FX!32 emulation. But, for people working with source, NT/Alpha is a decent choice. I only wish GCC was as good for Alpha.

    So, for example the scientific community or number crunchers who write thier own code can benifit from NT/Alpha, but people who rely on commercial software for things like graphics, sound, video, database, etc, don't get that benifit, and NT/Alpha isn't that great a choice (unless, of course, they get NT/Alpha native commercial binaries).

  • According to the OED, it's Latin, c. 1400, plural viruses
  • Yup. Realised that as soon as I went to check. Someday I really should get used to doing that first :)
  • At the university where I work, we were unfortunately committed to NT quite a while back - mainly because we had built a lot of custom code on top of MS Lan Manager on Netbeui.

    We'd had an annoying time with Compaq's Intel boxes, and their crappy dealer-based sales system, and their pathetic support, so when we wanted some new high-end kit to run NT we happily bought DEC Alphas because the were big and fast and made by DEC, who had always supported us well with our DECStations/Microvaxen etc. This was about 1994 I suppose.

    At the time, NT was more multiplatform than Linux (eek!) as it ran on Intel, Alpha, MIPS and PPC. Our top programmer gave us a talk explaining that "NT" had originally stood for N10 ("N-ten") a prototype chip that never went into production.

    You can imagine our feelings, some years later, when DEC (good service) was bought by Compaq (terrible service by half-trained teenagers).

    Recently we had a dodgy ethernet card on one of our NT Alphas, so our Compaq dealer, three days later, sent out a witless fool who half-overwrote the BIOS and left it unbootable for another day.

    So now there will be no NT/Alpha expertise left within the useless parent company either.

    If we could remote-boot (via BOOTP) into DOS 7 with a small-memory-footprint net client that could see a SAMBA server, we'd dump this rubbish and never pay a penny for NT again. But sadly, only a NETBEUI-based client is small enough at the moment.

  • Not that benchmarks are really very relevant, but the Alpha 21264 at 667MHz beats a PIII Xeon 550MHz by nearly 4x on SPECMark, and a 600MHz Athlon by about 2.5x. I'd say that's a pretty significant speed advantage.
  • Yes, and the most anti-MS organization, Sun, bought the rights to it, and conveniently decided not to release it. Pretty kewl, eh?
  • Yeah man, and if I can't run powerpoint and norton tools and after dark on my AS400 it can't be any good either.
    I think too many slashdotters ,and industry analysts for that matter, view server products through desktop blinders. Most of the apps available for the desktop are useless or at least wasted on a server oriented system. Admittedly NT on Alpha is not a very big seller, but the market it aims at is the SQL/Exchange/Webserver market, not the desktop productivity market.
  • N10 did exist (I was wrong about it never seeing the light of day - it was renamed the i860) and was the original NT platform (see here [] for a nostalgia-inducing account.

    "New Technology" was retrofitted to the NT monicker by the marketing department.

    As for the Dec/Compaq thing - maybe we just had good luck with Dec and (ongoing) bad luck with Compaq.

  • Not so fast folks. Compaq have not made any statements about the end of NT or Alpha, and the reality of the layoffs is quite different from the press spin on it.

    The engineers layed off worked on the NT4 port to Alpha. That is done and dusted, there is no more work to be done in that field now. The next Alpha NT move is to Win64, and that port is being developed and driven entirely in-house at Microsoft.

    NT is not dead on Alpha. If Windows 2000 scales as well as Microsoft are predicting, and the Win64 Alpha version gets finished as planned, then a lot of companies are going to be very interested in combining this with the horsepower Compaqs imminent Wildfire (Alpha) platform provides. If anything it will put NT Alpha in more direct competition with big UNIX systems, an area of competition it's been denied so far due to NT's lack of scalability.

    Alpha also has a very rosey future. A .18 micron shrink is in the works (possibly with copper interconnects) which will have two benefits. 1) a significant leap in MHz, way over the 1GHz milestone. 2) A significant reduction in price (smaller die = more per wafer). When Merced ships Alpha will be significantly faster, smaller and cheeper! Alpha still rules the 64 bit roost, and nothing else in the 64bit market looks like getting anywhere close to it in price/performance.

    This story about the end of Alpha NT is just that, a story. Pure press fiction and FUD.

  • Glory? Credit? Those don't buy a new mercedes. Surely DEC got proper credit in the form of money for their work?
  • Is why anyone would have bought an Alpha-based machine, and then crippled it with NT.

  • > Wasn't IBM's big mistake putting the 384K ROM
    > space at the top of real memory, instead of the
    > bottom? My understanding is that IBM did it this
    > way only because that's how Apple did it (top
    > 16K of the ]['s 64K.)

    No. Placement of the ROM is a processor issue. After reset goes inactive, your processor starts executing at a certain "easy" address. Like 0 (Z80), 0xffff:0? (8086) or 0x7ffe (Transputer).

    So, on x86, you have to put your ROM near the end of the memory. If I remember correctly, even modern x86 processors start in 8086 mode near the 1Mb mark.

  • Compaq sells far more Tru64 on Alpha than NT on Alpha. Compaq sells larger more expensive systems with tru64 than with NT and Compaq makes far more profit from Tru64 than NT. Hell, all of those statements apply to VMS versus NT. NT was supposed to be a Volume leader for Alpha. It has not been one. Compaq has not ended support for NT on Alpha all they have done is laid off some programmers working on NT 4.0. Development on 64bit Windows2000 continues at Microsoft under the direct supervision on David Cutler who uses a quad processor Alpha as his primary development platform. Compaq has more muscle with MS than DEC did and is able to get MS to support more of the development workload. Its is theoretically possible that Compaq may choose not to support Win2000 some time in the future if the market were to shun that OS, but for the time being Compaq still supports NT and still plans to support Win2000 when it becomes available.
  • There isn't a lot of reason to run Alpha NT, you can't do much with it. If you're going to roll your own apps then why not use linux or tru64?

    Does this make NT single platform again?

  • I have been using Debian on a 21164A for the past year and I have to say that i have not run into any of the problems you allude to except for a few issues that can be traced directly to the kernel. (Pat on the back to the Debian development team).

    In response to your comments on GCC, I agree with you wholeheartedly. GCC does not produce fast code on the Alpha platform.

    However there is about to be an option. Compaq is porting their fortran and C compilers to Linux as we speak. The Fortran Compiler is already out in beta release and it is a dream. I have achieved at least a 2X speedup using the same code and as much as 5X depending on what I am working with. If the C compiler is nearly this good I'll be hooked.

    This brings me to an interesting question. I Strongly doubt that Compaq will ever release the source code for these compilers. For me this is not an issue because I'm not really up to compiler development and for in house scientific applications speed is the only concern. However, what do you people think about using these compilers for developing linux distributions? If there is a significant advantage to using this technology on alphas running linux will people continue to stick with egcs/gcc?
  • This wasn't because of the alpha proc but instead because of the respective bios on the motherboard. There have been many work arounds released since then.
    Openstep/NeXTSTEP/Solaris/FreeBSD/Linux/ultrix/OSF /...
  • Damn, this "plural of Virus" thing needs to be in the slashdot faq.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • David Cutler, along with a crew of people that he brought over from DEC. Somewhat ironic don't you think.
  • Compaq sells way more Unix and more VMS than NT on the Alpha. You're right about the profit though. Far more profitable to sell Unix and VMS than NT. I don't think Compaq is going to discontinue NT support any time soon though.
  • It makes sense. Why should Compaq (currently stuggling) fund NT development on the Alpha, when Microsoft has billions of dollars in the bank? NT's only claim on the high-end was the Alpha: If they loose it, they loose even more prestige. If they don't want it, why should Compaq waste their time trying to force it anyway?

    Now, the Alpha may be loosing its edge, what with AMD's Athlon at 650 MHz and doing well in performance, but the Alpha is still a much cleaner design then anything Intel-ish. And Merced seems to be turing into yet another extension to the x86 line, instead of leaving the 8086 behind in 1969 like it originally was going to. But that is another story... :-)
  • So Compaq/Digital sells more Alphas running NT than Tru64?

    Not according to the Digital employees and resellers I have talked to. They report selling more OpenVMS based Alphas than NT based ones, and more Tru64 based Alphas than OpenVMS ones. They also report that Digital and the resellers make considerably better margins on OpenVMS and Tru64 based machines than on NT based machines.

  • Digital had an awesome Field Service Organization, and you just plain CAN'T play in the enterprise space without that. Digital's technology was an afterthought in this purchase. Compaq's execs said so publicly at the time.

    Intel owns (the manufacturing) of the Alpha anyway. They're just restrained by the FTC from totally crushing the platform (that was part of the agreement when Intel settled with Digital on their lawsuit about Intel STEALING Alpha technology from Digital during some partnership dispute).

    If Intel can keep their mind control lasers trained on the right people at Compaq, they can trick Compaq into killing the Alpha for them.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Aren't we forgetting a few platforms, like UltraSparc. The notion that Intel is all alone in the sub $30K server market is just absurd.
  • Intel owns some of the fabs, but as part of the SECs approval of the sale Compaq has to source more than 50% of its chip from vendors other than intel. The Alpha is actually rather cheap these days, its still .35 micron process and doesn't have those pesky external cache chips, just alot of onchip cache like the Celeron. In real world applications the 21264 is running about 3 times as fast as a 21164 at the same clock speed; about 60 SPECfp at 600MH.

    BTW, Alpha NT isn't very popular but there are still alot of things you can only do with NT if you run it on an Alpha.
  • >So, why does Microsoft even bother making Win2000 run on 32-bit machines?

    Because NT 5 was supposed to be out soon after the Pentium II, not in 2000
  • Been reading my posts to license-discuss again haven't you? :) No, it isn't. Digital would need to make a commitment to make it go very far, but I think it's better than laying off a hundred workers and killing the project.

  • The AMD Athlon is a cool CPU and I will probably buy one in the near future but its got NOTHING on the Alpha. 32bit x86 vs 64bit RISC there is just no comparison.
  • Also considering the well-known-in-some-circles source of this information, I wouldn't be surprised if the entire story was based on one person standing in rough proximity to an Alpha saying "Dude, NT is soo dead!"

    If you really wanna know how reliable Jay Perlow is, scan dejanews regarding "pre-release" copies of OS/2 3.0.

  • The Alpha is too expensive for me, BUT:

    DEC claimed that Intel stole the Alpha design for their pentiums.

    Intel paid the settlement, and, then, also bought out DEC processor manufacturing business and agreed to manufacture the Alpha for however-many years. Intel also gained ownership of the strongarm CPU in this deal.
  • Wasn't IBM's big mistake putting the 384K ROM space at the top of real memory, instead of the bottom? My understanding is that IBM did it this way only because that's how Apple did it (top 16K of the ]['s 64K.)

    No. Placement of the ROM is a processor issue. After reset goes inactive, your processor starts executing at a certain "easy" address. Like 0 (Z80), 0xffff:0? (8086) or 0x7ffe (Transputer).

    As well as that, the first 1k of memory is used by the 8088 for the interrupt handler addresses, and obviously it made sense for this to be in RAM, rather than ROM.

  • Well, that would be really cool... except ALL THE ENGINEERS ARE BEING LAID OFF. There is no one at DECWest, the place is a ghost town. The same engineers do the work for 32 and 64 bit and the porting team is now unemployed. Most of them were contractors who were told they didn't have to report for work, that the project was DEAD.

    The statement "we will not be supporting NT on Alpha, the last revision will be NT4 SP6" is the one you should pay attention to.

    Jim Finlaw is just treading water, trying to ease the hysteria this decision will cause in the market. A whole lot of companies planned to buy the new Alpha DS10's and DS20's to run Win2K and then be streamlined and ready for 32 to 64 bit conversion that Compaq swore up and down would happen. Even more companies were overjoyed that Win64 would run on their old Alpha EV5's.

    Compaq is not supporting NT on Alpha, at all. Development has ceased, engineering has left the building. They are going with Merced because it's cheap, even though it doesn't exist yet.
  • So, why does Microsoft even bother making Win2000 run on 32-bit machines? Why not start out 64-bit? This is especially true if you are targeting the "enterprise" market and their high-end go-fast servers

    It's important to note that Alpha has been a key propaganda weapon for Microsoft to argue that NT is competitive with the big unix iron. Many of their boasts (such as 10,000 POP3 users on Exchange, or TerraServer - the 'worlds largest' on-line database.) derive from running NT on some very high-end Alpha equipment. The bottom line is that I can't belive MS would drop Alpha development because doing so would make NT/2000 look half as fast as far as the marketing department is concerned.

    As for "64-bit ready", it's not the software, but the hardware. If MS ever gets a 64-bit OS and applicaitons out the door, you get a free performance boost with your NT/Alpha box. Of course, it seems that Microsoft is munging the 32 to 64 bit transition as bad as they munged the 16 to 32 bit transition.
  • Okay, not fair, but going back to my anti-Motorola rant from the Metrowerks buyout thread:

    Here's what an alleged Motorola engineer had to say about the Metrowerks deal: /motoengineer.html

    See? Billy Edwards. He's the guy who's being targeted by the Intel mind-control lasers. Now all we have to do is find out who the chump is at CompEC.

    Obviously, senator McCain is also targeted: 0820119.html

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Digital Electronics/Luser Laboratories

    Dumbass Engineering for Lazy Losers

    Distributors of Expensive Laminated Lead

    Disguised Embezzlers and Landfill Loaders

    Devastating Empire of Lawsuits and Larceny
  • I guess dropping support for the operating system is a good way to get out of including a windows tax in the price.

    Now if we can just get everybody else to do it... B-)

  • 640K barrier was nto Bill's fault. IBM decreed the 640K limit.

    Actually, the 640K limit is a result of IBM's use of the 8088 processor (instead of the 8086). The 8088 only brings out enough address lines to address 1M of RAM. IBM then chose to reserve the upper 384K of space for I/O (video memory, etc) and ROM (BIOS and Microsoft BASICA).

  • I think Mad Dog works for VA Linux Systems now. Jim
  • The majority of the work on that was done by an old Sun engineer.

    Actually it was an old DEC engineer -- the same guy who was the principal architect for VMS.
  • No, Bill was infact responsible for having a DOS that thought it was running on a particular piece of hardware and allowing that DOS to continue on thinking that until 14 years later.

    A 1991 OS that acts like it's stuck on a 1981 IBM PC XT is why Linux even exists.
  • How about doofus?

    I don't think that's Latin, or even atlinay.
  • People on the high end of Intel hardware ($3000 to $7000 range) stick with Intel because of OS flexability

    I've never heard that before. Is this true? I thought they used it because of executable compatibility. Do people really buy $5000 x86 machines because they run more than one OS? Any case-studies out there?
  • by greg ( 1058 )
    Compaq never made an NT only chip. NT and Tru64 require completely different BIOS. Most alphas include both BIOS flashed into CMOS but a few budget NT models do not have the TRU64 SRM BIOS. DEC made it very clear that these machines would not support anything but NT however a few small resellers thought they could get away with selling the NT model and copying the customers licenses from other Unix or VMS systems without bing new licenses. Also, in the OEM motherboard business DEC sould not sell Unix/VMS capable motherboards to resellers who were not Unix and VMS certified. Some of these board resellers sold NT boards to customers claiming they would run Unix when they couldn't.

    BTW, if compaq wanted to kill the alpha line they would just halt production. Continuing production and purposely hampering sales is incredibly stupid.
  • Remember the bif foofaraw about Digital suing Intel over patent infringement? The reason NT was ported to the Alpha chip was for the speed. Now the pentia (and other intel offerings) have the speed too. The lab full of NT multias had that little steel tube screensaver chugging around faster than it chugged around on the 486es. This is no longer the case.
  • Your talking about MVI instructions. They are nothing like MMX. MVI is basically an MPEG encoder built into the CPU. If you have a video capture camera you can encode 640x480 30 frame a second video MPEGs without the need for a hardware encoder card. This feature is standard on all new Alpha CPUs.

    The Alpha architecture has no need of MMX like gimics to hide multimedia shortcomings.
  • but remember that Compaq has recently laid of about 8,000 employees.
    and a lot of their top-brass has left (whether fired our on their own).
    Definitely a lot of restructuring going on.
  • That isn't going to happen. It will still be a supported, standard solution.

  • MS has never really helped NT/Alpha. It took them years to port Office over. The brunt of the development work for the OS (afaik) was done by Digital, ditto marketing. This is no different really from the other chipsets that have dropped NT when their mfrs got tired of maintaining it, like MIPS. (I think there was another, but I can't remember.)

    Compaq can stop supporting NT/Alpha development and immediately save lots of money that wasn't being made up in sales. If MS really wants NT/Alpha, let them pay for it.
  • Having watched Digital through the merger and seen Compaq make a series of poor business decisions related to the technology currently shipping and under development at Digital and the potential market share gain in niches where they had no presence, this move was no surprise.

    With no production merced chips due for months and months, and no Alpha Win2K who is going to develop the user applications for Win64 and on what? The DECWest team was developing the Win64 VC++ compiler on the Alpha Win2K platform, which is dead now. Compaq has just shot MS in the head and themselves in the market.

    Digital became easy prey for the recent Compaq takeover after the company took a serious nose dive following the first attempted "merger". While I wouldn't want to mention names, I can't help but think that the $300 million golden parachute that Bob Palmer jumped out of Digital with could have been quite an incentive for driving the company into the ground - had he known in advance that he would be so rewarded.

    This latest decision is just one of many that hilight Compaq's total misunderstanding of computer technology and what a "technology leader" is. By killing the undernourished Digital products, some of which sold themselves with no advertising *at all*, Compaq has proven that they are not a "technology" company at all. They merely sell (or kill) what other, better companies innovate. They have no respect for high end, high speed advanced technologies or the kind of investment that produced the axiom: "if you can afford it, buy Digital Alpha.. if you can't, buy Dell or HP".

    Mark Minasi wrote about Digital Cluster for NT. A clustering product that was the code base for MSCS. DCNT was done, paid for. It was a high availability 2 node cluster that ran on standard NT and supported SQL, Oracle, Netscape Server, IIS, MCIS and Network Interface failover to name a few. It was a simple, small but effective entry level clustering product. This product could have been given away FREE as and incentive to companies to buy 2 Compaq servers (it runs well even on low end cheap boxes) with standard NT while providing a vehicle for migration to MS Enterprise server and MSCS. This product was one of the first killed by Compaq after the merger. When a company totally *ignores* an opportunity to leverage server sales FREE, they are STUPID.

    In the industry, there has never been any question which platform was better. Alpha has always been superior in performance, but never price. This isn't a fault in the technology, but the management who could not come up with a way to lower chip costs (like using 3rd party OEMs, such as API and finding production partners). It has been nearly 2 years since Digital produced their last processor, tied up in litigation with Intel - they were unable to go to market until just the last few months with a new line of processors: the EV6. In benchmark tests the new Alpha chips outperformed the xeon by 5 to 1. The ES40 (quad EV6) was the target platform for Win64, and would have made MS a solid contender in the enterprise. Alpha was the only real 64bit platform to develop and test on, and Compaq would have beat intel to the market on 64bit Win2K by anywhere from 3 months to 3 years. The opportunity was tremendous, the market was wide open, everyone in NT Alpha was psyched to be on top again - there was no avoiding it... or so it seemed.

    So, how do IT directors feel about Compaq now that they have backpeddled on their initial promises that they would support NT on Alpha? Betrayed, decieved.. and certain that Sun, HPUX and Dell's Linux offerings will get much more favorable attention in the future. Business won't soon forget being abandoned by Compaq and Wall Street Analysts are sure to notice that the decisions made by Compaq since the merger are either grossly stupid, or circumstantial evidence of collusion to monopolize the industry around the MS operating system and the Intel processor platform.

    We're sad to see Alpha being killed off like this. Technology that good deserved better, and so did the user community.


  • I thought there was some speculation that 64-bit NT would ship on the Alpha sometime next year, before Merced can make it out the door. I wonder if NT/Alpha is really being killed, or Microsoft is just picking up all the development under some secret back-slapping deal.

    Regardless, Compaq/DEC needs to start marketing the hardware better at people who buy large x86 servers.

    As for Alpha applications, it seems that there are very few workstation apps, but server applications seem aplenty. Specifically, all of the Microsoft stuff (SQL, Exchange, etc) runs on Alpha.
  • NT was the love child of David Cutler who did the original development for NT while he was working at Digital. When Digital killed the product Cutler took the idea to MS. Digital supported NT because it was a volume opporunity for Alpha (which they subsequently mismanaged).

    For more information on current alpha processor specs see:

    This generation of chips was demoed at 1Ghz in June.

    The current benchmarks are more like 5 times faster than the xeon, not 3 times faster than the celeron.
  • First off, the suffix "i" is the plural form of "us", as in the plural of "virus" is "virii" not "viruses". Second, even if "OS" ended in "us", it would need to be a Latin word to qualify for the "i" suffix. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find an word that ends in "us" that is not derived from Latin, but I'm sure there is at least one.
  • well, uhm... were you in the room for the announcement? Where are you getting your information? What then would be the reason that all the Compaq 64 bit developers packed their belongings and left the MS campus on Friday?

    The statement was that there will be no "Alpha NT revisions after NT 4 SP6". Are you heading for the unemployment office?
  • Oh my goodness! Looks like Bill was wrong again!

    I'm working at an ISP here in Northern Ohio. I recently got hired in here to design the network and hook up the Cisco, etc. etc. My boss wanted to go with NT. I winced. After some persuasion, we decided to go with Linux. :) And with the great performance and stability we've experienced thus far, it's been pleasant indeed (except for configuring sendmail, AIIIEEE!!!) My Boss was like, "You're really sold on this free stuff, aren't you?" I thus began my ESR impression. Things are looking up for us.

    I can't see too many corporations that are jumping on the NT bandwagon (which is a bandwagon in name only, produced by MS-Strongarm(tm)), unless they have some pretty PH-Bosses reading those NT-ad-peppered "IT Management" magazines.

    And now Compaq is dumping NT and staying with Linux? My oh my looks like Bill might be as wrong about this one as he was about 640k...

    May the penguin be with you.
    ----- if ($anyone_cares) {print "Just Another Perl Newbie"}
  • The statements about what could and couldn't be said were so vague - they basically said "don't call all the customers", and they didn't hand out any "guidelines for confidentiality" or anything...

    So, yeah, the only people being asked to stay on are finishing NT4 SP6. Most of the contractors aren't reporting unless they're coming in to use the internal job search facilities. The only folks still at MS are FTE's collecting the equipment that was signed out to them for use at MS, so they will get their severence package. Rumor has it that intel and MS are scavenging 64 bit developers.. they'll probably back a van up to the front door of the site and hire people on the way out the door.

    Yesterday the whole site was a ghost town and MS still hadn't responded to the news. I have yet to see an official statement by MS internally or externally. Alpha on NT is dead, everyone working on Alpha Win2K 32 AND 64 has nothing more to do. Most of the contractors who were co-located at MS have already handed in their credentials and are looking for work.
  • It could still turn out that way, unfortunately.

    Dropping WinNT support for the Alpha will probably have a short term effect of decreasing Alpha sales. If Linux and other UNIXes catch on more, the Alpha sales could rebound, except this time with UNIXes instead of NT on them. However, if they don't, Compaq could just shift its focus to Wintel and drop the Alpha entirely.

    So, this could be one of two things:
    1) Compaq signalling they'd rather concentrate on UNIX than WinNT
    2) Compaq signalling they'd rather concentrate on Intel-compatible chips than Alpha
  • I was there.

    I'm unemployed.

    The only people working are finishing NT4 SP6.

  • Namely, that Compaq might simply be trying to kill off the Alpha platform. As much as I prefer Linux to NT, the existence of NT on the Alpha is good for the platform.
  • What part of "I just got laid off" are you missing? While I'm not the source of this story, I was in the room when I was told my job was gone and that there would be NO MORE ALPHA NT development.

    I don't care who Jay Perlow is... I'm looking for a new job.

  • Some would say that the plural of useless is ie :)

  • The same sort of thing often happens when people try to pluralise "torus"--they end up talking about Japanese architecture.

  • But for Compaq to pull the plug on Alpha on NT just before Microsoft ships Windows 2000 seems like strange timing, the source added. "NT on Alpha was like a Cadillac running at half-speed. But the Alpha was really going to be able to take advantage of its 64-bitness once Microsoft shipped Windows 2000 and especially the Datacenter version."

    Golly Beav, why would Compaq, a company that is having some financial turbulence, want to concentrate on providing the resources they have available now instead of waiting on another company to provide a product (64 bit NT; stay with me here) that many people are saying they may never ship?

    Gee Wally, I dunno; maybe there are some things we just aren't meant to know.

  • Do people really buy $5000 x86 machines because they run more than one OS?

    That's not exactly what I meant about Intel Hardware. What I meant was they can run NT if they are use to Windows, and get full system preformance expectations from the hardware with NT. They can run Linux or FreeBSD, and get the preformance they expect.

    With Alpha, you can only get the preformance you would expect from an alpha if you run Tru64. If you run Linux, or NT, or anything else, your preformance will not be all that it could be.

  • by BadlandZ ( 1725 ) on Friday August 20, 1999 @12:01PM (#1734941) Journal
    The Tru64 licence is still holding back the Alpha, and one has to honestly admit that looseing WinNT is going to hurt Alpha also. (Which, BTW, they are still advertizing on thier site). People on the high end of Intel hardware ($3000 to $7000 range) stick with Intel because of OS flexability (NT and Linux are good, and there are other choices like FreeBSD, etc..) Good Alpha hardware is avaliable in this range, but when you tack on the software costs, it shoots the "system costs" completely out of the Intel ballpark.

    Alpha hardware has always been ahead, don't be fooled by the fact that people are saying how slow the Multia is, that came out when Intel only had 386's, and was dang fast for the time. Alphas are still fast, but you can't compare the old Alphas to the new Intels.

    The Alpha market has problems because Tru64 UNIX costs soo much, and the compiler is another big $$$ on top of that. But, if you want to get the most out of your Alpha, you buy them.

    If people out there really want to preserve Alpha as a choice in the CPU market, Linux could be an answer in the future, but it isn't now. Linux on Alpha is plagued with a few problems yet (or maybe it's just Red Hat Linux for Alpha?). In addition, gcc isn't bringing executable preformance to the levels of the commercial compilers on this hardware (more important that Linux itself).

    Compaq would be wise to take some of the money they save cutting NT, and put a small fraction of that into patching up GCC for Alpha... Or, porting some commercial compilers to Linux/Alpha and selling them at a reasonable price (although this is a less preferable option).

    If GCC can reach the level of efficency on Alpha hardware that it has reached on Intel (and now AMD hardware, see PGCC), Alpha will make a BIG come back. But, if Merced comes out before this happens, all bets are off. Alpha can beat Merced, but it will need the support of people NOW, not when Merced arrives. (Any Compaq guys out there? Hay, Mad Dog, how `bout getting the GCC guys a couple more 21264's, then we would all be happier!)

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.