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Silicon Graphics Businesses

SGI Lives On, In Name At Least 107

Posted by kdawson
from the meet-the-new-boss dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "In a surprise corporate move, after Rackable Systems received bankruptcy court approval on April 30 to close its purchase of SGI, the company announced on Monday that the deal had closed and that the combined company would be called SGI — short for Silicon Graphics International instead of the original Silicon Graphics Inc. The revival of the SGI brand will certainly please people in Silicon Valley with a historical bent, as SGI has been one of the area's true icons. However, some consider this a curious turn of events, considering that Rackable has come to represent the new guard in the server market, while SGI has struggled for years. Executives hope the name change will help it expand its business overseas, where SGI is a better-known brand. The new SGI will also continue to develop and support the high-performance computing systems that Silicon Graphics was known for, says Rackable's president and CEO. 'There should be no disruption to Silicon Graphics customers.'"
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SGI Lives On, In Name At Least

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  • by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:15AM (#27920201)

    Let's see - Caldera bought the remains of SCO, rebranded themselves SCO and tried to carry on with SCOs business model - which had already been shown to be at deaths' door as it was.

    Sounds very similar. What next? SGI sues everyone who uses Linux?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by A12m0v (1315511)

      let's hope they embrace Linux and opensource IRIX.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by bsdaemonaut (1482047)

        They've pretty much already done this. The last major release of IRIX was in 1998. They stopped selling MIPS IRIX in 2006 and end-of-life for MIPS IRIX is 2013. Though they specifically state MIPS IRIX I can't find any mention of continuing versions based on other architectures. Not to mention, very few people wanted to run IRIX outside of SGI systems. So in effect, IRIX is currently stagnant beyond minor patches and will soon be completely dropped. They do, on the other hand, offer linux on all their new s

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Byzantine (85549)

          Probably the "giving back" is a reference to XFS [wikipedia.org]. They may have given more, but nothing else that I'm aware of has been high-profile.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by eugene2k (1213062)
            I think Linus mentioned somewhere in his blog (or in some interview) that SGI people have contributed code to improve scalability of the kernel.
        • by MrMr (219533) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:23AM (#27920819)
          They make some claims as to have "given back" to the linux community
          Well, they were the first to port Linux to a serious parallel architecture. Still not many vendors that will support a 512-core and 1-kernel system...
          About the giving back: http://oss.sgi.com/projects/ [sgi.com] if you want to check
          • Yeah somehow I had forgotten about projects like XFS, fam, and GLX, among other things.

            • Seriously. That's all we really want. Chrome cube on a purple case.

              • Yeah I always had a soft spot for the SGI Indigo, though the thing was built like a tank and sported the biggest graphics cards I've seen to date.

                • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                  Ugh, those damn things were ugly. They may have been built like tanks, but taking one apart [obsolyte.com] was like trying to solve a Rubik's cube. (an angled case fan?!) One has to be extra careful when pulling out the graphics card because it was easy to catch its cap on the frame and rip it right off!

                  The Oxygen and O2 were far more elegant designs. I wished that regular PCs had that kind of setup (the CPU and boards were covered with massive heatsinks but no dedicated fans, but the chassis had two huge master fans k
                  • That's the Indigo2 you are talking about which was extremely ugly and packed tight because of its pizza-box style box. The Indigo was a much nicer design and I don't know many people who wouldn't have drooled over it when it was current.

                    Here try this link at the same site: http://www.obsolyte.com/sgi_indigo/ [obsolyte.com]

                    • I have 3 R4000 'Blackjack' models lik ethis, at home. 2 have Elite graphics sets. All have DAT with audio firmware. Except for proprietary KB pinout, they are no trouble at all. I am thinking of rewiring a USB2PS/2 dongle to update the input devices.

          • Well, they were the first to port Linux to a serious parallel architecture. Still not many vendors that will support a 512-core and 1-kernel system...

            It was 512 Itanium2 *sockets* per kernel, 1024 cores per kernel with the dual core Itanium2. You shorted SGI by 512 cores/system. ;)

            And word has it they'd build 1024 socket/2048 core systems upon special request. I don't know if they ever sold an Altix configured this way. I do know it is possible, and (was) available.

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          Not to mention, very few people wanted to run IRIX outside of SGI systems.

          Well, as someone who owns an Octane R12000 300mHz 64 bit machine (CMNB015ANG300) plus matching SGI 20-inch monitor (Sony GDM-4011P) I purchased used (and very cheap! :D ) from a fellow-LUG member who basically gave up on learning its' ins-and-outs, it would be great to have IRIX et al open-sourced. The Octane is quite the machine at ~54 pounds, and is still impressive in many areas despite being over 10 years old.

          I didn't receive the

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by toxygen01 (901511)
            IRIX license comes with your machine. You don't have to buy another one (aside from fact they wouldn't sell it to you). Just get install media (support.sgi.com for instance - last free offered overlay is 6.5.22). though, you will have to have 6.5 original install media. In this case I can only advise eBay or torrent (demonoid has one nice 2.5gb torrent with all 6.5 stuff + more).
          • I believe the Octane came with IRIX 6.4 which was considered extremely unreliable. I would definitely recommend upgrading if you haven't already. I don't know where you have been looking, but you can get IRIX 6.5.x for around $20 on ebay. There is nothing particularly special about IRIX though, unless it's for sentimental reasons there are better operating systems available to you. I can definitely understand sentimental reasons, after all I have a Sun Sparc 4/5/20 and an UltraSparc 60 sitting here beside m

            • by dwater (72834)

              I don't think there are any other operating systems that will run on his Octane....if he wants a different OS, he'll have to change h/w too.

              • Linux will, but the patch is experimental. Surprisingly NetBSD and OpenBSD do not, but they support the same CPU on different models so I'm unclear as to why support hasn't been completely added yet.

                So I guess I stand corrected, IRIX does sound better than Linux with experimental patches :P.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dwater (72834)

          When most people talk about IRIX, they're really talking about the GUI, which is 4Dwm, and there's an on-going porting effort here [maxxdesktop.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) *

      Reminds me of Cingular purchasing AT&T, then rebranding as AT&T. Cingular had a lot of goodwill for its excellent pricing, good coverage, and top notch service*. AT&T was seen as a dinosaur that was stuck in the past. They offered lousy pricing, terrible coverage, and some of the worst service in the industry.

      Result? Cingular took all their goodwill and flushed it down the toilet in exchange for a brand name that no one wanted to have as their carrier. Even worse, their service took a nosedive a

      • by dwye (1127395)

        > Reminds me of Cingular purchasing AT&T, then rebranding as AT&T.

        SBC bought AT&T, then renamed itself AT&T (which it was part of, prior to the Great Divestiture).

        AT&T (nee SBC) then bought BellSouth, which meant that it owned all of Cingular (60% SBC, 40% BSouth, before that), so it decided to use the AT&T brand for its wireless services, while keeping the Cingular brand, too (consumers liked the Cingular brand, businesses the AT&T brand).

        Cingular had earlier bought AT&T

    • by Geotopia (692701)

      Strangely, I've worked within a mile of everyone of these companies. I worked across the street from SGI at Adobe when Adobe was in Mountain View. I worked across I-17 from SCO when I was at Starfish (Borland). And today, my company is HQ'd about a mile away from SCO/Caldera. Something strange about these companies. The CEO of SGI was alleged to be living high off the hog, throwing lavish parties, getting drunk, harassing his female staff, and at the same time building a new Corporate Plaza. Perhaps to the

  • Does this mean IRIX will be developed again? I'm not seeing any info one way or the other.

    As a Linux and BSD guy, I'm pretty ignorant about IRIX other than the MIPS support. Does IRIX do anything innovative that makes developing it worthwhile?

    • by dwater (72834)

      I'm not sure why you would think this is even 'on-the-cards'. I would say that it's almost certainly not going to be developed again.

    • by Burkin (1534829)
      There was that 3d filesystem navigator that was used in the Jurassic Park movie.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      It had a "insert every CD between the first install and the current update" patch update method which made most sysadmins just rely on NFS (or interns) for updates, not to mention the Feature ans Maintenance streams. That's innovation.
      • by dwater (72834)

        It sounds like a good move to me...though a somewhat strange method of making admins do so.

    • Re:State of IRIX? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DavidChristopher (633902) * on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:58AM (#27920587)

      Does this mean IRIX will be developed again? I'm not seeing any info one way or the other.

      As a Linux and BSD guy, I'm pretty ignorant about IRIX other than the MIPS support. Does IRIX do anything innovative that makes developing it worthwhile?

      No. And I'm fairly certain of that.

      IRIX was discontinued in 2006 by SGI - http://www.sgi.com/support/mips_irix.html [sgi.com] - and most of the cool technical features of IRIX were ported over to Linux ages ago - like xfs http://oss.sgi.com/projects/xfs/ [sgi.com]. Actually, the correct question is will this new, improved and revived SGI continue to support the open source efforts of the old SGI regime? http://oss.sgi.com/projects/ [sgi.com] . I don't see a point in reviving IRIX, but there was a lot of OSS work done out of that shop and I'd hate to see it disappear. Right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by j1mmy (43634)

      Everything SGI has sold over the last couple years runs linux.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The best thing SGI ever sold though (back in 1997) ran Solaris [cray-cyber.org]. Too bad they didn't realize what they were selling.

        • by dwater (72834)

          I would question it being the best thing they ever sold, but it was certainly the stupidest move in selling it...

    • by mikael (484)

      As far as the command shells and development environment, IRIX seemed to be no different from any other release of Linux or Unix. Most of the innovation would have been with the device drivers interfacing to the graphics hardware and API's. But those patents were sold off to Microsoft.

      The most memorable thing about the SGI's was the 'buttonfly' user interface for selecting between the various demo applications (the radiosity/texture mapped house, the SGI logo coming out of the 2D drawing - that one is in th

      • by dwater (72834)

        > the SGI logo coming out of the 2D drawing - that one is in the GLUT demos

        It's part of the Maxx Desktop [maxxdesktop.com] now :)

        Brings back memories when I run it on Ubuntu...

        • by mikael (484)

          That is what the SGI desktop environment looked like - and that is the demo "Ideas in Motion". Does that mean Motif can be used on Linux?

  • I hear echos of Infogrammes purchase of Atari here, which might bode well if they keep the solid business while reducing overlap and optimizing product lineup. I wish them luck.

  • I've learned about Rackable is when they bought SGI!

    SGI is not what is used to be. From MIPS and graphics chips (N64 used graphics by SGI), to another Itanium/Windows Server vendor.

    • Re:First.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:09AM (#27920687) Homepage Journal

      Rackable is a small server vendor with revenues in the hundreds of millions while they big boys in that space (HP, IBM, Dell, Sun) are in the billions.

      They build x86 based rack servers. They're focus seems to have been in high density rack systems. I think one of their first/biggest innovation was creating a half depth chassis so you could put two servers back to back in a 1u space leaving a hot air plenum in the middle to keep things from getting overheated. They also have 12V Motherboards [techtarget.com] like Google uses on their systems.

      The goal of Rackable isn't to sell you one x86 server, it's to give you a solution including a rack full of their servers. That seems to have also been the focus of SGI lately. They went from big single systems to clustered super computers. So the deal appears to make sense. I'm sure there's a lot of good talent and patents that Rackable could use to help it become a bigger player.

      In 2007 Rackable's 4 biggest clients [blogspot.com] were Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon and Facebook.

      The name change might be good because SGI is a more recognizable name in the industry. I think some people see Rackable as an x86 server vendor but they're really a server farm vendor.

      The past couple of years haven't been great for Rackable with some pretty big losses in proportion to their revenue so they need to make some bigger moves and this might do the trick.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:20AM (#27920247)

    Although the SGI "brand" is still widely recognized, I am not convinced it has a lot of value. After all, if SGI had a whole lot of happy customers (left) then it would not be in the situation of being sold to WhatsItsName.

    I am not sure I would want to chance the name of my company to something that makes people say, "Oh, wow, you're still around?" (especially given that I work for one of those)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mapkinase (958129)

      Fanbase is never about what is currently happening to their object of worship. Fans are about what was in the glory days when they became infatuated with that object.

      I remember glory days of SGI when it was an amazing graphics workstation. I remember looking at stereopairs of new protein folds in InsightII.

      They were top of the notch graphics workstations and as a fan I am quite excited that the brand is kept.

      • by mccalli (323026)
        "They were top of the notch graphics workstations and as a fan I am quite excited that the brand is kept."

        Me too. But would you buy from them again, that's the thing? I'm also a (mildish) Commodore retro fan, but would I necessarily buy another Commodore? After all, they're still going too.

        My own feeling is that recommending an SGI to someone who's not kept up with recent events would invoke either the same nostalgia you're talking about, or a "huh - SGI? Aren't they a bit old-fashioned?". Personally
        • by fm6 (162816)

          But would you buy from them again, that's the thing?

          Obviously not, since they stopped making graphics workstations a long time ago. Like Sun, they've long since conceded that market to commodity PCs and specialized in servers and HPC clusters.

          Correction: Sun does still have a couple [sun.com] of workstations left. But sadly, they're Intel-based.

          • by mapkinase (958129)

            The difference between fan and non-fan is that when given a choice a fan would forgive a slightly inferior quality in favor of some set "traditional" even less significant features (like "SGI" logo). If new SGI would achieve this "slighly inferior" level in any line of products, I would consider it.

  •     I hope they keep the logo. I always liked it.

        They just have stylized SGI text at the top of their though. Not that I've ever had much of their equipment though. I had a few machines, but the longest used piece was a SGI monitor (Sony trinitron 17" CRT)

    • by dwater (72834)

      If you like the logo, then you can try the old 'ideas' demo. It comes part of the 5dwm for linux - now called Maxx Desktop [maxxdesktop.com] - along with the old favourites, gr_osview, and gmemusage.

      • Yes, it might have a good performance and be stable. But, *yuck*, why does it have to be so butt-ugly? ^^
        I mean the window border, and the whole widget set look like Windows 3.1, with an even worse color scheme.
        You might say it is not that important. And I agree. But it looks like it was intentionally made to look ugly and outdated.

        Compare this to my desktop: http://navid.radiantempire.com/pub/Desktop-2009.0-cube.png [radiantempire.com]
        (I only turned it that way, and disabled anti-aliasing, to quickly anonymize everything. Usu

        • Oh, and: No, I have no window management buttons. There is no need for them when you can assign keyboard/mouse actions that work wherever you click, and also without the mouse. Also, they are so last decade. ^^

        • by dwater (72834)

          > So no offense, but with the style of MaXX, I would get depressive.

          Well, it's still under development...hint hint.

          I don't much care what it looks like - I just like how fast I can use it; and I don't mean the speed of the window manager so much as the short cuts/etc/etc, though the speed is part of it too (it's impressive how quick it is in the alpha...I wonder what the end result will be like).

          Yes, I can probably fiddle with gnome or some other window manager to behave the same way - I even heard of so

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I liked it so much that every time I was in a headend that had the @home broadband, I would pry the logos off of the SGI rackmount servers. My dell at work was an SGI after that with an SGI monitor, SGI mouse.... etc... I even found a SGI mousepad in the boxes they had stashed in the back.

      I watched them destroy all those SGI servers after @home died.. It was a crime to destroy that gear.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mr. Roadkill (731328)

        I would pry the logos off of the SGI rackmount servers. My dell at work was an SGI after that

        Soon as I get around to scrapping one of the E250 servers at work, my car is becoming a Sun. I've got an Alphaserver carcass somewhere in the server room, so it might even become a Digital tomorrow.

  • I mean SGI is or was an icon in high-end graphics and workstations, not a web-hosting company.

    I do not see the connection here. I looks more like the sgi.com and logo grab, but what for? Does it really emphasizes web-hosting in any shape or form?
    • Honestly if you check their website it doesn't appear that graphics has been their focus for a while. They certainly don't stress it anyway. They don't even sell workstations anymore: just servers, HPCs, and data storage solutions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I mean SGI is or was an icon in high-end graphics and workstations, not a web-hosting company.

      Rackable isn't a web hosting company, you are likely confusing them with RackSpace.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrgnDancer (137700)

      They're an HPC company now, have been since Onyx was discontinued quite a while ago. The first generation of Altix had a graphics version (The Prism), but it used COTS graphics cards and was only ever modestly successful at making them work through their NUMALink backplane technology. In essence it was only ever useful because it could have a lot more CPUs than a PC of the day did. It's graphics were only so-so, but it could preprocess a lot of data before rendering it. Made it somewhat useful in scient

      • by dwater (72834)

        You clearly aren't familiar with SGI's latest move back into 'graphics' (note the quotes, since it's not in the traditional sense).

  • So it's sort of SGI Inc., or SGII? SGI Ltd? So it's _nearly_ the same then...
  • The Rackable name is recognized in certain spaces that have nothing to do with "Silicon Graphics". If they wanted to take advantage of the SGI name recognition overseas and within the US supercomputer arena, they should have used it in combination. SGI a division of Rackable Inc. I think you get the idea.
  • by BESTouff (531293) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:44AM (#27920477)
    'There should be no disruption to Silicon Graphics customers'.

    Yes. Both of you.

  • If only ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lucag (24231)

    Compaq had changed its name to Digital when it still had time ...

    [just being nostalgic and wondering who had the "bright" idea to dump development of the Alpha line in favour of ia64 ! ]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Posting anonymously 'cos I was involved.

      The killing of the Alpha was a rather long and tortured affair. It also was a really sad day when the people who made the decision had to accept that their architecture was dead.

      Let's be honest here, I loved the Alpha and it was a phenomenal architecture for its time. However, by 1998 its time was actually ending anyway. Realistically, other CPU architectures like MIPS were chomping at our heels in our opinion. They were rapidly catching up with us in terms of perform


    • As I understand it, it was Intel who really got screwed on IA64.

      Digital -> Compaq -> HPQ got essentially several billion $$$s in free R&D from Intel to give them a new platform to which VMS could be ported.

      Which, in turn, means that all those legacy VMS systems can [at least in theory] be ported to a modern architecture.

      Bottom line being that I don't think that Compaq [much less Digital] had several billion $$$s lying around to build a new Alpha fab.
  • SGI doesn't need to be known as successful in order for the use of the name to be effective, it just has to be known to have a history. People are comfortable with continuity, assuming it means success and therefore reputability. Maintaining the old lines isn't even necessary. Just the name can serve the purpose.

    AT&T has existed primarily as a brand name since the Ma Bell breakup of 1984. It gets slapped on top of the various mergers and partnerships involving SBC with more or less emphasis according to

    • by sdiz (224607)

      ....because it's trademark had expired...

      doh!
      Does trademark ever expire?

  • Logo usage (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xargle (165143) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:04AM (#27920649)

    I like this: http://www.rackable.com/sgi/sgi_logo_guidelines6.pdf [rackable.com] ...extremely specific usage and typesetting guidelines for the new logo which are then comprehensively broken by the last page of the same document :)

  • As best I understood, the SGI that was bought out hasn't made any new systems with MIPS chips for some time. If SGI is no longer innovating in CPUs then they are just a name in the industry. The last time I checked the SGI web site every new system available was using an Intel CPU of some sort.

    I don't know that we need to maintain high-dollar names in that field anymore...
    • by dwater (72834)

      Well, arguably, SGI didn't innovate in CPUs - that was MIPS which they bought and then sold again. No, their real innovation was in graphics and system architecture, IMO.

      • No, their real innovation was in graphics and system architecture, IMO

        Very true. However, if you look at their current products page [sgi.com], you'll be hard-pressed to find a system on there that uses a graphics card that they designed. It appears they have become more dedicated to raw speed above other things; though you can also buy storage appliances from them - which I suspect don't use their graphics technology either.

        • by dwater (72834)

          Did you miss the Visual User Experience links? That's basically using the whole machine as a 'graphics card'. IIRC, SGI's (IRIX) high end graphics was moving that way, so it's not a surprise.

      • by Josepdin (837627)

        Well, arguably, SGI didn't innovate in CPUs - that was MIPS which they bought and then sold again. No, their real innovation was in graphics and system architecture, IMO.

        Correct. Specifically, they were phenomenal in terms of their "backplane." ccNUMA, later NUMAFlex was an incredibly scalable way to communicate between nodes and is how they scaled Origin and Altix. Crazy scalable.

  • How about open sourcing Irix?
    • by solios (53048)

      The one chunk of IRIX that IMO might still be relevant - the thing you got without having to install over a gig of GPL software - was XFS [wikipedia.org], and that has been GPLed.

      The only advantage I could see to opening IRIX would be in getting a peek under the hood to figure out how to get the framebuffers on the MIPS kit to work with the various freenix distros that run on MIPS. My extremely brief stint with IRIX was spent getting a variety of GPL software (from SSH to the GIMP to Mozilla, etc) up and running under som

    • by toxygen01 (901511)
      It's already available. piratebay provides sources for 6.5.5 too :)
  • I am an IRIX user...my daily driver (at home) is an Octane2 and you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hand. But yes, there aren't many of us left. IRIX is a rock solid operating system and I don't plan on abandoning it anytime soon...
  • by berbo (671598) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:23AM (#27921629)
    That might get peoples attention.
  • I was very disappointed to see that this wasn't a story about Stargate.
  • Was I the only one who got my hopes up that this was going to be a Stargate post?

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