Tandem Aims to Add Value With New Computer Line

Tandem Computers Inc. has launched a line of computers that use the same type of microchips found in desktop workstations, making the new computers comparatively inexpensive.

The standardized design allows Tandem to bring new systems to market faster, company officials said.

Tandem, based in Cupertino, Calif., makes transaction-processing computers that many banks use to run automated teller machine networks, cash management operations, and credit card accounting. About 100 financial institutions use Tandem systems, including Banc One, Norwest, and Barclays.

Rewards of Risc

The new systems mark the company's first foray into reduced-instruction-set computing, or Risc, processors, which have fueled a new generation of faster, cheaper workstations. Risc computers contain microprocessor "brains" modified to handle specific calculations more efficiently than general-purpose computers.

Sun Microsystems Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., Hewlett-Packard Co., Cupertino, Calif., and International Business Machines Corp. have adopted Risc chips for their lines of workstation computers. These systems often small enough to fit on a desktop, can handle sophisticated data modeling and graphics programs that were previously available on expensive minicomputers or mainframes.

In the past Tandem developed its own microprocessors in-house, a costly endeavor. The Risc chips are available from several outside firms. Tandem is getting the chips from Mips Computer Systems Inc.

Tandem officials say the new systems deliver better performance for a lower cost than existing systems. The systems are suitable for traditional banking operations that require "fault tolerant" computers, which are designed to keep running even if a part fails.

They are also suitable for sophisticated marketing programs, where banks use computers to search through massive customer and product data bases to tailor specific services at certain customers.

The NonStop Cyclone/R is for large-scale on-line processing system for data base applications at banks' main data centers. The system starts at $535,000. The NonStop CLX/R is a midrange computer suitable for branch networking and distributed applications. Entry-level models of the CLX/R start at $25,000. Both systems are available now.

Tandem also introduced a new on-line processing system based on the Unix operating system. The Integrity 300, priced at $159,800, provides twice the data throughput as its predecessor system, the Integrity 200, which is $124,000. Integrity comes in an entry-level model for $94,500.

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