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Compaq SystemPro

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Title: Compaq SystemPro  
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Subject: Compaq, Banyan Systems, Extended Industry Standard Architecture, Rules of the garage, Exstream Software
Collection: Server Hardware
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Compaq SystemPro

Compaq SystemPro

The SystemPro from Compaq, released in November 1989, was arguably the first true PC based server. It supported Intel's 486 chip, a 32-bit bus, RAID disk and dual-processor support well before its main rivals.


  • Innovative features 1
    • Multiprocessing 1.1
    • System/Memory Architecture 1.2
    • RAID 1.3
  • Market 2
  • Legacy 3
  • References 4

Innovative features

The SystemPro, along with the simultaneously released Compaq Deskpro 486, was one of the first two commercially available computer systems containing the new EISA bus. The SystemPro was also one of the first PC-style systems specifically designed as a network server, and as such was built from the ground up to take full advantage of the EISA bus. It included such features as multiprocessing (the original systems were asymmetric-only), hardware RAID, and bus-mastering network cards. All models of SystemPro used a full-height tower configuration, with eight internal hard drive bays.


CPU-board closeup

At its initial release in November 1989, the SystemPro supported up to two 33 MHz 386 processors, but early in 1990 33 MHz 486 processors became an option (the processors were housed on proprietary daughterboards). Because the system was asymmetric, 386 and 486 processors could be mixed. Single processor configurations were also available.

The only operating system which fully supported the SystemPro's asymmetric multiprocessing was a custom version of SCO Unix, sold by Compaq. However, when running OS/2, certain applications (notably Sybase SQL Server) could be offloaded to the second processor, and later, Novell NetWare SFT-III was able to offload its I/O engine. It is worth noting that the original versions of Windows NT (3.1) included a hardware abstraction layer specifically for the SystemPro; despite NT's symmetric multiprocessing design, this HAL could offload some kernel tasks to the second CPU. This made Windows NT 3.1 the only version of Windows to support multiprocessor 386-based machines.

System/Memory Architecture

The system used a state-of-the-art shared memory bus design, called Tri-Flex Architecture, to facilitate its multiprocessing capabilities.require('Module:No globals')

local p = {}

-- articles in which traditional Chinese preceeds simplified Chinese local t1st = { ["228 Incident"] = true, ["Chinese calendar"] = true, ["Lippo Centre, Hong Kong"] = true, ["Republic of China"] = true, ["Republic of China at the 1924 Summer Olympics"] = true, ["Taiwan"] = true, ["Taiwan (island)"] = true, ["Taiwan Province"] = true, ["Wei Boyang"] = true, }

-- the labels for each part local labels = { ["c"] = "Chinese", ["s"] = "simplified Chinese", ["t"] = "traditional Chinese", ["p"] = "pinyin", ["tp"] = "Tongyong Pinyin", ["w"] = "Wade–Giles", ["j"] = "Jyutping", ["cy"] = "Cantonese Yale", ["poj"] = "Pe̍h-ōe-jī", ["zhu"] = "Zhuyin Fuhao", ["l"] = "literally", }

-- article titles for wikilinks for each part local wlinks = { ["c"] = "Chinese language", ["s"] = "simplified Chinese characters", ["t"] = "traditional Chinese characters", ["p"] = "pinyin", ["tp"] = "Tongyong Pinyin", ["w"] = "Wade–Giles", ["j"] = "Jyutping", ["cy"] = "Yale romanization of Cantonese", ["poj"] = "Pe̍h-ōe-jī", ["zhu"] = "Bopomofo", }

-- for those parts which are to be treated as languages their ISO code local ISOlang = { ["c"] = "zh", ["t"] = "zh-Hant", ["s"] = "zh-Hans", ["p"] = "zh-Latn-pinyin", ["tp"] = "zh-Latn", ["w"] = "zh-Latn-wadegile", ["j"] = "yue-jyutping", ["cy"] = "yue", ["poj"] = "hak", ["zhu"] = "zh-Bopo", }

local italic = { ["p"] = true, ["tp"] = true, ["w"] = true, ["j"] = true, ["cy"] = true, ["poj"] = true, } -- Categories for different kinds of Chinese text local cats = { ["c"] = "", ["s"] = "", ["t"] = "", }

function p.Zh(frame) -- load arguments module to simplify handling of args local getArgs = require('Module:Arguments').getArgs local args = getArgs(frame) return p._Zh(args) end function p._Zh(args) local uselinks = not (args["links"] == "no") -- whether to add links local uselabels = not (args["labels"] == "no") -- whether to have labels local capfirst = args["scase"] ~= nil

        local t1 = false -- whether traditional Chinese characters go first
        local j1 = false -- whether Cantonese Romanisations go first
        local testChar
        if (args["first"]) then
                 for testChar in mw.ustring.gmatch(args["first"], "%a+") do
          if (testChar == "t") then
           t1 = true
          if (testChar == "j") then
           j1 = true
        if (t1 == false) then
         local title = mw.title.getCurrentTitle()
         t1 = t1st[title.text] == true

-- based on setting/preference specify order local orderlist = {"c", "s", "t", "p", "tp", "w", "j", "cy", "poj", "zhu", "l"} if (t1) then orderlist[2] = "t" orderlist[3] = "s" end if (j1) then orderlist[4] = "j" orderlist[5] = "cy" orderlist[6] = "p" orderlist[7] = "tp" orderlist[8] = "w" end -- rename rules. Rules to change parameters and labels based on other parameters if args["hp"] then -- hp an alias for p ([hanyu] pinyin) args["p"] = args["hp"] end if args["tp"] then -- if also Tongyu pinyin use full name for Hanyu pinyin labels["p"] = "Hanyu Pinyin" end if (args["s"] and args["s"] == args["t"]) then -- Treat simplified + traditional as Chinese if they're the same args["c"] = args["s"] args["s"] = nil args["t"] = nil elseif (not (args["s"] and args["t"])) then -- use short label if only one of simplified and traditional labels["s"] = labels["c"] labels["t"] = labels["c"] end local body = "" -- the output string local params -- for creating HTML spans local label -- the label, i.e. the bit preceeding the supplied text local val -- the supplied text -- go through all possible fields in loop, adding them to the output for i, part in ipairs(orderlist) do if (args[part]) then -- build label label = "" if (uselabels) then label = labels[part] if (capfirst) then label = mw.language.getContentLanguage():ucfirst( The original SystemPro shipped with 4MB 80ns DRAM, expandable up to 256MB using proprietary memory modules.


RAID-Controller closeup

The SystemPro also offered one of the first implementations of RAID (including RAID 5) available on a PC-based system. The original RAID card, called the IDA (Intelligent Drive Array) used a proprietary form of IDE, supporting up to 4 drives internally. At its release, the largest drive available was 210 MB. Two IDA cards could be installed, allowing all 8 hard drive bays to be filled (each IDA controller array would appear as a separate logical drive to the operating system, however), providing a grand total of 1.2 GB using RAID 5, or 1.6 GB using non-redundant striping (RAID 0). Another option called the IDA Expansion Array provided support for up to 7 drives in a single array (housed in an external tower chassis looking virtually identical to the SystemPro itself), using an early (and very proprietary) form of differential SCSI. Note that all hard drives in the SystemPro or the Expansion Array were internally mounted drives; hot swapping was not an option.


The SystemPro was marketed for those who had scaled up to the top end of LAN hardware, or those who were scaling down from minicomputers — and its pricing was set accordingly. At the time of launch, the "low-end" SystemPro (a single 33-MHz 386 CPU, 4 MB RAM, and two 120-MB hard drives) listed for $15,999 (USD); the same machine with 840 MB of storage (four 210-MB hard drives) listed for $25,999 (USD). A second 386 processor card cost $3,500 (USD), and an additional 32 MB of RAM was $21,999 (USD).


The SystemPro line continued for several years, ending with the SystemPro XL (the only model that supported symmetric multiprocessing). It was replaced by the Compaq Proliant line, which introduced hot swappable drives and the rack mount chassis now popular in data centers. However, the SystemPro is notable for having established the PC-based server market, and setting a high-water mark for the servers that followed.


  • Step Back in Time to 1988: Gary Thome on YouTube
  • Step Back in Time to 1988: McGraw on YouTube
  • A posting to USENET at the time of the launch
  • Another USENET posting at the time
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