off-topic, but I can't resist the flamebait: best minicomputer?

Discussion in 'Python' started by John Benson, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. John Benson

    John Benson Guest

    Like I said, I can't resist the temptation...

    Tandem practically invented the commercially useful, networked minicomputer.
    Up to 16 loosely-coupled processors with distributed microkernel OS
    architecture per system connected via a SAN (System Area Network), RAID 1
    (mirrored disk volumes), SSI (Single System Image, with single logon, of
    course), multiple-system database commits, shared-nothing fault-tolerance:
    you had all this back in the late 70's. You could also add another network
    level to harness up to 255 16-processor systems together. This gave Tandems
    the linear expandability that allowed their "minicomputer" systems to scale
    up to and overtake the IBM big iron. As a matter of fact, it was the Tandem
    expandability (since you could have multiple channels per processor, 16
    processors per system, 255 systems per Expand network) that provided the I/O
    bandwidth to enable the ATM explosion.

    Stock exchanges used to melt down automatically when their legacy systems
    choked on excessive trading volume. For years, NASDAQ has used Tandems, and
    needs to proactively decide when to suspend trading because the Tandems
    handle pretty much whatever is thrown at them.

    They're fault-tolerant, too. That's why a some of your 911 systems use them,
    because some people feel that 911 has to work all the time, like stock
    exchanges and ATM networks.

    The problem is, Tandems are the unsung heroes of data processing because
    they're embedded so deeply in the infrastructure. You place your trade with
    a discount broker, not a Tandem. You see a Diebold or perhaps an NCR ATM,
    not a Tandem.

    Go back to the top and look at the lineup of late 70's Tandem features.
    Chances are, you didn't read about them in Byte or wherever until the
    eighties or nineties. Fact is, pretty much everybody has been following
    Tandem's lead for decades, however much they posture as "industry leaders."

    When I started working on Tandems in the late 70's and they were expected to
    run weeks, months and years without stopping, I remember reading an article
    in which a Unix guy bragged that his system had actually run two or three
    weeks without crashing. Even now, in the 2000's, people still periodically
    reboot their Unix and NT servers to scare away the memory leak bogeymen,
    even if everything appears to be working fine. Anyone advocating that for a
    Tandem system even 20 years ago would have been dispatched to the nearest
    psychotherapist.

    Unix boxes: carried the Multics banner forward, and pioneered lots of
    software technology. Macs and PCs: added GUIs to the mix. Tandem: you never
    heard about it, because it never broke.
    John Benson, Jan 15, 2004
    #1
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