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A significant difference between the earlier Common Base Programme and EASE was with regard to hardware purchased on SERC grants. The Common Base had defined standard machines that were on an approved list. Researchers had to make a good case if they wanted to deviate from that list.
With EASE, the emphasis was on giving researchers information and letting them make informed choices. Three areas of particular importance were
- Workstations: these were available from a large range of manufacturers
- Servers: most workstations were now connected with local area networks, primarily ethernet, and it was now feasible to have server facilities for the local network
- Superworkstations: a set of companies had launched very fast workstations, often with parallel processing or vector processing capability, that would allow engineering design to take place without the need of a mainframe.
The procedure was to take a standard set of benchmarks, borrow equipment from the manufacturers, and produce a report rating the good and back features of each system.