SGI Builds High-Performance Servers

FRAMINGHAM (07/28/2000) - Silicon Graphics Inc. has jumped over the latest competitive hurdle in the high-performance computing race with the debut of its new Origin 3000 and Onyx 3000 servers.

The Mountain View, Calif., vendor's latest entries into high-end computing use Mips Technologies Inc. processors, SGI's Irix operating system and a new, modular architecture called NUMAflex. The systems consist of "bricks," which are 19-in. Electronic Industries Association rack-mounted devices that serve general functions such as CPU and system memory and specific functions such as graphics, I/O and routing.

Each NUMAflex system accepts up to 512 processors that can use a single system image. With the system's shared memory, programmers can write applications that use idle RAM associated with any available processor in the server. Irix determines which memory can be lent to another application and for how long.

Brad Comes, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research Development Center's Major Shared Resource Center in Vicksburg, Miss., said hisorganization purchased one ofthe machines as part of the Department of Defense's high-performance computer modernization program. More than 500 scientists and engineers will share the system, fully configured with 512 processors and more than a half-terabyte of memory. SGI's new offerings are "a particularly exciting development because of the fully shared memory capabilities," Comes said. SGI's use of bricks "makes it possible to do system maintenance without having to take the system down."

For SGI, the Origin 3000 may win the battle but not the war. SGI's Unix server market share has fallen, said Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. "SGI focuses on the graphics and high-end computing markets that, while interesting, tend not to be as lucrative as general-purpose computing markets," he said.

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