It's not every day that a Kansas University department gets to purchase a $1 million piece of equipment.
But KU's Academic Computing Services recently acquired a Vax 9000 computer, which lists for $1.549 million. The outdated Vax 8650 was traded to Digital Equipment Corporation, bringing the price down to $1 million.
The Vax 9000, which will work 10 times faster than the model it replaces, will be used by faculty and students who are conducting research. KU is the second university to install a Vax 9000, and it is the first academic institution to use the computer for research application, said Jerry Niebaum, director of Academic Computing Services.
As far as he knows, Pennsylvania State, which uses a Vax 9000 in its library system, is the only other university using the high-tech computer.
THREE DIGITAL representatives and a local support team were on hand when the Vax 9000 was installed at KU about a week ago.
Michael Grobe, supervisor of documentation, said KU replaced the Vax 8650 because it had become "100 percent saturated." He said its main processing unit was constantly tied up, and the model no longer met the processing needs of the university. The Vax is housed in KU's computer center.
Niebaum said there were frequent brownouts and long delays in getting jobs processed.
Connected to work stations and terminals across campus, the Vax is also linked to Internet, a worldwide network that had 60,000 sites six months ago.
GROBE SAID Vax users probably won't notice a big difference when they use the 9000 model. He said it will execute the same instructions but will run at a different speed than the Vax 8650.
"The major plus is that the conversion will be almost transparent," Grove said. "They shouldn't have to do anything different from what they did before."
The computer, which Niebaum described as a "problem-solving tool," is used primarily by faculty and students in the physics and chemistry departments. But Grobe said it is also valuable to other disciplines that rely on statistical information. For example, the School of Engineering will switch to the Vax 9000, Grobe said.
So far, there have not been any major problems with the computer. Within 24 hours of its installation, one of the computer's disk controllers failed, but Digital flew out two replacement controllers, Niebaum said.
"It's actually gone very smoothly," he said. "This is very new hardware technology. The few few problems there have been have been in older components of the machine."