SGI to offer Origin computer with IA-64, Linux

Silicon Graphics plans to introduce a version of its Origin 3000 series computer built around Intel's 64-bit IA-64 Itanium processor running Linux, SGI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Bishop said in an interview.

The current Origin 3000 computers from SGI are built around processors from MIPS Technologies Inc, and run SGI's proprietary IRIX operating system. SGI has not decided as yet on the name for the new product line.

By incorporating the Origin 3000 system architecture in its Itanium-Linux systems, SGI aims to differentiate its product line from Itanium-Linux products from other vendors, Bishop said.

"Once Intel has Itanium IA-64 in the market under general availability, we will offer the Origin 3000 with an Itanium chip and Linux operating system," he said. "The system will have the very fast multiprocessor interconnect in the NUMAflex architecture, and will get differentiated from our competitors' products with its very high performance." NUMAflex is the third-generation implementation of SGI's NUMA shared-memory, multiprocessing architecture.

The new computers will be aimed at the Internet market.

"Today on the Internet, you have rack-and-stack and simple round-robin switching, which is very slow, clumsy, and power consuming, and every rack-and-stack processor needs a new operating system, and there is no shared memory," Bishop said. "In the future, when you have Itanium and the NUMAflex architecture, then all of the processors can share a common memory, and in addition there is only one copy of the operating system, which is shared."

Customers can also physically partition the systems between both MIPS-IRIX and Itanium-Linux, but the two partitions will not be able to share memory.

SGI aims to bring scalability and 64-way multiprocessing and beyond to Linux.

"We would be happy to see Linux become more scalable based on its own development, but if it doesn't, then we will scale it ourselves and offer it to the market," Bishop said.

SGI also would cooperate with other computer makers in this regard, and may even put its implementation of NUMA into open source. SGI has already made a number of contributions to the Linux open source community, including the release of its Pro64 compilers for the Itanium processor, and its journaled file system technology, XFS.

Even if NUMA goes open source, SGI will still have the edge because of high-speed interconnection access it obtained in its 1996 acquisition of Cray Research Inc., Bishop said.

"Remember that the performance differential comes from the high-speed interconnect which is a hardware feature which is transparent to the software," he said. "We build hardware with interconnect speed below 50 nanoseconds, and we can interconnect across 1 terabyte of shared memory in 500 nanoseconds. So if the software has scalability and NUMA features, our system would drive it extremely fast, and that would differentiate us from our competition even if they are using scalable NUMA Linux."

Silicon Graphics Inc., in Mountain View, California, can be reached at +1-650-960-1980 or

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