Army Enlists Startup for Solaris Notebooks

A Cupertino, Calif.-based computer and server maker Monday said it has been awarded a multi-million dollar subcontract to supply U.S. soldiers with notebooks they’ll use as portable servers in the battlefield.

Under its partnership with General Dynamics, Tadpole Computer said it will supply the U.S. Army with its 64-bit SPARC/Solaris UNIX notebooks as part of its $2 billion, ten-year Common Hardware/Software III (CHS-3) program. Tactical computer users in the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force will eventually use the next-generation commercial and ruggedized workstations, as well as hardware and software.

Tadpole knows the drill, having been the long-term subcontractor to General Dynamics on the predecessor CHS-2 program. The company said its part of the $80 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract will be to provide the computer products through 2005.

“On the battle field you don’t have all the resources to set up full server room,” CEO Mark Johnston told noting that most enterprise servers weigh 80 pounds. “In essence, you have to set up the IT on the backs of HUMVEEs or aircraft. That is where our 10 pound notebooks come in handy.”

Tadpole was one of the first Silicon Valley companies to offer 64-bit notebooks and it has a large base of 64-bit portable systems. All of the company’s products are also Sun Microsystems SPARC binary compatible, such as its SPARCbook, UltraBookIIi and portable VoyagerIIi server. The commercial units sell for less than $3,000.

The company said its Government Issue models would be running 500MHz or 650MHz SPARC chips with as much as 160 GB of storage, 4 GB of memory, 3USB ports, 2 PCM-CIA ports, and a 15″ display with 1400×1050 resolution screen.

Johnston surmises his notebooks were handpicked because of their ability to run the Solaris operating environment, a popular system in server rooms and data centers.

“Solaris is strong in the command and control,” Johnston said. “You see some HP, but mostly Solaris.

Also as part of the contract, all other federal agencies also are eligible to purchase computer products and services. In addition to commercial and rugged computers, General Dynamics will provide network hardware equipment, power subsystems, peripheral devices and commercial software to U.S. Department of Defense customers around the world.

Once the hardware division of U.K.-based Tadpole Technology, the concern recently completed a management buyout from its former parent. Johnston said 75 percent of his company’s revenue is funded by government contracts.

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