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Silicon Graphics

SGI Sets Sights On Turnaround 255

grub wrote to us about an article about SGI, and its ongoing battles to turn its corporate fortunes around. The company's been doing interesting stuff for a long time - here's to hoping they stay around.
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SGI Sets Sights On Turnaround

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  • by Axe ( 11122 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @02:17AM (#2761695)
    Doing interesting stuff for a time? You mean, dropping good products, laying people off and trying to jump into PC business, cause their CEO reads magazines that say Dell is genious and everybody should be doing like Dell.. And then said CEO just leaves, after ruining the company? Interesting stuff indeed..

    If they want a turn around - get the old name back for a start.. It always was Silicon Graphics for me, not a nameless TLA...

  • I think SGI was better off when they only made IRIX/MIPS-based systems. I don't know why they started to make WINTEL systems anyway...seems like such a waste...
    • by skotte ( 262100 )
      While i cant agree more about MIPS/IRIX being their best idea to date ... i gotta say, the wintel boxes they made are/were the best i'd ever used. we had a visual workstation 230 and a 320 in the office, both running NT, and they totally ran circles around any other windows machine in the building (comapqs and HPs mostly)

      so yeah .. NT was their worst idea to date .. but boy they did it right.

      oh yeah -- did i mention they came with DETAILED instructions on how to setup a dual boot? probably my fFavorite part :)
      • you know -- if i may be so bold as to reply to my own post -- their leap to wintel should be a good clue to others about the total inefficiency of the wintel platform.

        pretty simple corrollary really: use wintel, lose money.

        sure sure .. there's more fFactors than that at work here. like a down market, and the fFact that they were trying to get a giant hold in a somewhat fFlooded market.

        but this, too, pushes the statement: if you are going to sell wintel, be prepared to lose a LOT of money in trying to make your mark.
      • I am using one right now. They are *nice* boxes. They were built using the same design methodology as their current IRIX/MIPS boxes are. System level PROM, custom HAL for NT, nicely intergrated GFX, Audio, and Video I/O. All for $4000 or so if you bought the right configuration. Kind of like a next generation O2 that runs NT.

        UMA design on the GFX allow insane amounts of texture with little performance loss. (500Mb texture is no problem on these little boxes.)

        Maybe they were too good. I do know at the time you could not find another NT machine that offered the features at anywhere near the price of the 320.

        Anyway, they were not canned because the market did not accept them. They were canned because they were litigated and dealt out of existance. From the legal issues surrounding the boot-loader partially owned by M$ and their M$ deal for GFX, they were locked into win32 only, or give up their plans for the line.

        These machines were supposed to run Linux with full 3D support for an awesome chipset. Shown at Siggraph 99. This combined with the proposed library and system software ports would have made a very nice workstation. Linux would have benefited nicely from this a couple years ahead of schedule. It is well known that Microsoft does not want anyone selling windows to sell anything else particularly on machines that make the process easy, so...

        Between that legal mess and some reluctance on the Open Source communities part to accept SGI work, owners of these machines are left with a very nice non-upgradable win2000 box. (Not that I ever want XP, but I DO WANT 3D LINUX dammit.)
  • I'm really surprised that linux wasn't mentioned a single time in this article, despite that fact that the competitive landscape of hollwywood rendering farms was "analyzed". Seems very fishy, considering that SGI is putting alot of man hours into making linux more enterprise ready, and leveraging it into commodity servers.

    .... Or am I reading SGI wrong? What is SGI's relationship to linux, and why doesn't this article mention linux once? Just wondering.
    • I'm really surprised that linux wasn't mentioned a single time in this article, ...
      Willard said the company's exit from the commodity NT server business was a good one. Its current strategy, to focus on its proprietary, high-end systems running Irix, its version of the Unix operating system and Linux, makes sense.

      Well, it was mentioned *once*....

      • yeah, but that's basicly no mention at all. What investor (seems like it's geared towards) wouldn't know about a relationship between SGI and linux? Come on, put some more meat on them bones, article writer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2001 @02:47AM (#2761768)
      What is SGI's relationship to linux, and why doesn't this article mention linux once?

      I'm posting this anonymously because I don't wanna get in trouble in case any of this is confidential. I don't think it is, but you never know.

      SGI's official relationship to Linux is this: none whatsoever. At one time, there were some pretty serious plans to port core OS libraries, build abstraction layers and shims, and phase out the IRIX kernel in favor of Linux. It was thought to be easier to turn Linux into a real commercial-quality kernel (not my words; don't flame me!) than to port 60-odd million lines of IRIX to the then-proposed IA-64-based Origin 3000 variant. These plans have been informally shelved, meaning SN-IA is still a product on the roadmap, but nobody is working on it. It seems to have been put in the "maybe after McKinley" category.

      (Take all of this as unofficial comment, of course, but this paragraph is total speculation on my part. I wonder if part of the reason IA-64 isn't really going anywhere in this market is because of the lack of a really good Fortran compiler for it. The MIPSpro Fortran 77 compiler, which I've worked with a lot, kicks ass, and I understand the F90 one does as well. Getting all of that tuned, optimized Fortran code to run on IA-64s seems to be a challenge for a lot of folks that are long-time die-hard SGI customers.)

      SGI is officially committed to continuing to develop and ship systems based on the MIPS processors (R12000, R14000, and the upcoming R16K, and R20K) with the IRIX OS until further notice, which is to say that they're not opposed to exploring other options, but there just isn't any reason to switch that plan right now. The Origin 3000 server is a great piece of work, and the new lower-end Origin 300 is selling nicely, too. On the workstation side, believe it or not the humble little O2 is still selling briskly-- now with R7000 or R12000 processors, painted purple, and called O2+. Octane2 kicks ass, and a new workstation to be announced in January or February is also going to be based on MIPS/IRIX, combining Octane2 graphics with Origin 3000-style architecture.

      So the official story is MIPS/IRIX forever.

      Unofficially, SGI loves Linux. Check out oss.sgi.com [sgi.com] sometime to see what SGI is doing with respect to Linux specifically (XFS, kdb, bigmem, NUMA, STP, etc) and Open Source in general (GLX, Inventor, Performer, etc).
      • by skotte ( 262100 )
        Nice post. well spoken. i have one point of difference tho. this is old information, but it's information.

        about a year ago, when SGI fFirst started pushing linux, they held a number of meet-n-greet seminars about linux and what it can do fFor you .. you know, bring people in, talk all morning, give people coffee and donuts and some cheap handouts. all that. and of course they talked a great deal about oss.sgi.com.

        After the event, I asked one of the event organizers whether linux was to replace IRIX. he told me fFlat out, "oh no, IRIX will always be the big engine. it handles larger machines .. yadda yadda .. Linux will be fFor desktops, and small networks."

        so, according to what i know, they werent going to replace IRIX, just accompany it.

        But i dont know your sources or their reliability. :) hell, you might be Bob Bishop hisself :) in which case, it's safe to say your source is better than mine :)
  • Having been on the internet since the late 1980s, and a Linux user since 1993, I have seen many changes that Linux has brought to the computing world. I saw Linux grow, from an alternative server OS to a viable contender for the desktop; I saw mindshare grow, from my niche LUG to Wall Street to the audience of Jay Leno's show. Change is often good, and I wouldn't trade the resources that our community has today for the comfort of the close, friendly Linux community of yesteryear.

    Unfortunately, the economics of a capitalist society are changing things, and the results are a mixed bag. On one hand, far fewer professional programmers will be employed, full time, to develop open source software that everyone can use for free. On the other hand, though, Corporate America will no longer control key parts of the Linux development effort. As it stands right now, many Linux coders are dependent on corporations for their paychecks; and these corporations choose which projects the open source coders get to work on, and how those projects are to develop. The funding is always welcome, but it has come at the expense of independence from the capitalist society that we shun. Linux was never about money; it was about coders developing the best product they can out of pride and the desire to make their hard work available to everyone.

    Companies like SGI, Corel, and LNUX have corrupted the open source ideal. Money is power and power corrupts. Although SGI's contributions to Linux development cannot be understated, nor can their influence be ignored. And when they inevitably go out of business, it will be another nail in the coffin of high end computer graphics, and another notch for freedom in the axe of the open source movement. But life is often bittersweet.

    Bill

  • The Silicon Valley article mentions SGI's recent military involvement, but you can also check out this article [cnn.com] from CNN [cnn.com] which provides a few more interesting details.
  • Willard said the company's exit from the commodity NT server business was a good one. Its current strategy, to focus on its proprietary, high-end systems running Irix, its version of the Unix operating system and Linux, makes sense.

    Hmm, must be a misplaced comma. They offer systems running Linux, but I'm fairly certain that Irix doesn't contain GPLed code. Good move getting away from the NT market.
    • Re:Irix and Linux (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Xandis ( 90167 )
      I think the comma is left-out rather than misplaced since the comma after Linux is fine (I think). Add a comma after 'Unix operating system' and you get that they are focusing on Irix and Linux...rather than having Irix being a version of Linux !!

      They have moved from NT but the problem for SGI is that they have also lost time and money with their misguided attempts at doing "other things." Hopefully, the new demand (and money) from government will give them an extra lease on life that can be properly used to build a solid profitable company.

      Since the stock is so cheap, it would be nice for some heavy hitters to buy them and make it a private company and some time in the future, if ever, they can take the company public.

      SGI needs to do a lot more R&D to ensure that it doesn't lose to others with deep pockets and they also need a clear strategy to determine the proper future of Irix vis a vis Linux.

      Being private will take a lot of pressure off their shoulders and allow them to focus on building something sustainable. I wouldn't be surprised if their best bet is to become a smaller research focused software company and letting hardware be handled by others.
  • Save SGI! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 )
    Since SGI obviously has some workings in the field of graphics and chip manufacturing, what if they were to join up with one of the companies like Nvidia or AMD? We could see some much more powerful chips at much lower prices if they did that. They could even write Linux/open source drivers, making the hardware much more compatable with different machines.
  • Its due to their great songs! get them while their hot [raettig.org]. SGI is #15 and they have 5 songs.

    "i have a dream, and it's called a graphics pipe/ it really works, and it's not just pc hype".
    • Its due to their great songs!

      I have an original, still-in-the-jewel-case "Octane: The Sound Track" CD. These five classic songs make a great addition to any collection.

      1. Ignite Your Mind
      2. I Have a Dream
      3. OCTANE Swing (featuring the can't-get-it-out-of-your-head lines, "Octane / you're gonna rock-tane!" and "Competition is in shock-tane!" and "Octane, danke shoen!")
      4. Retro OCTANE
      5. Knee Deep in 3D

      I wouldn't part with this disc for all the tea in China, but I'll encode it and send you the files for the right price. ;-)
      • I have this one too. Cool stuff. Just how many other workstation manufacturers do this sort of thing. Might be part of the problem, but I think it shows some extra spunk that make the products great.
  • SGI used to be a real innovator in the field of graphics. Now it seems like companies like ATI and Nvidia are actaully doing more for that field.

    I've been thouroughly unimpressed with SGI in recent years.

    -Evan.
    • Re:SGI (Score:5, Informative)

      by foobar104 ( 206452 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:12AM (#2761795) Journal
      SGI used to be a real innovator in the field of graphics. Now it seems like companies like ATI and Nvidia are actaully doing more for that field.

      You know, that's the funny thing about SGI's graphics hardware. InfiniteReality graphics first came out in January, 1996. Since then, SGI has put the same graphics processors on a new system interface for the Onyx2, and tweaked some components in the system twice (called IR2 and IR3, even though the changes were very minor).

      InfiniteReality--apart from having the coolest name of any graphics subsystem--has remained essentially unchanged since 1996. IR today has slightly faster geometry processors and much more TRAM than the original IR, but in every other way it is identical.

      That's six year old technology, baby. And the rest of the world is just now starting to catch up.

      Guess that's why SGI has been selling the same graphics hardware for all this time. Because they can.
      • Re:SGI (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pqbon ( 7033 )
        Given how the company is doing... I would say they can't. They just didn't know they couldn't...
        • Re:SGI (Score:2, Interesting)

          by skotte ( 262100 )
          nah. they just didnt know they couldnt sell wintel.

          in fFact.. get this: the visual workstation 320 came out fFirst, a couple years ago. solid kick ass machine. hardwired kick ass graphics card, the whole nine yards. one problem tho: if you wanted a different graphics card, you basically couldnt, or it was a lot of work. and the add-ons and stunning graphics made it fFairly expensive, and hard to sell. so -- and this is the fFunny part -- they downgraded the next year's models, put in slower dumber cards, and actually dropped the system's version number to 230 indicating it's a lesser machine.

          thats right.. their intended equipment was actually TOO GOOD. not many companies can seriously claim this.

          even if the wintel strategy was a bad move, by golly they did it up right
  • by K8Fan ( 37875 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @02:45AM (#2761763) Journal

    I used to demo software for an SGI dealer, and learned to loath the company. The special hard drive mounting bracket for an Indy would cost more than the drive. The knob box cost $1500. Nutty prices.

    But the thing that sealed their doom was when they didn't take the opportunity offered by Nintendo purchasing a huge number of R4000 chips. They could have taken the volumes offered by this to start selling MIPS chips to PC video card makers. They could have owned the entire video card market, and not suffered the brain drain that found all their best people working for competitors. Instead, their fat-cat sales force ruled against that move. They liked selling expensive workstations and servers to big clients for big bucks.

    If they had played this card correctly, Nvidia would have never happened. Who wouldn't have wanted a "Silicon Graphics" game card? Instead, they were stupid greedy and they'll die. And they'll deserve to die.

    • by foobar104 ( 206452 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:24AM (#2761808) Journal
      But the thing that sealed their doom was when they didn't take the opportunity offered by Nintendo purchasing a huge number of R4000 chips.

      The Nintendo 64 was built around the MIPS R4300i embedded processor. It had limited R4000 instruction-set compatibility and a 64-bit execution unit, but it wasn't really related to the chips SGI used at the time at all.

      So while selling tons more embedded processors would have been a nice bonus for SGI's MIPS subsidiary, it wouldn't have affected their core business on bit.
      • I really don't know if that wouldn't affect their financial bottom line - look at the upcoming ATI Q4 profits - they made nice amount of money with their contract with Nintendo about the graphics chip.

        Case in point - SGI got some great hardware, totally impressive machine, and I haven't heard many flames about Irix. Yet it reminds me what was written by a british computer magazine about the Amiga 1000 - Dream machine - Nightmare price - I guess it's the same for SGI.

        So - you could think "ahh, market conditions now are not the best, they'll lower their prices on their workstations/servers" - well, you are more then welcome to look at the prices of their Visual Workstation machine's prices - FAR and ABOVE any competition! who would be nuts to buy at those prices?!?!?
    • Huh? The MIPS R4000 is a CPU, not a graphics processor. The whole point of SGIs workstations is that all the graphics work is offloaded into specialised hardware (not so revolutionary now, but pretty nifty when they first started doing it). That and some really clever memory and I/O architecture in the higher-end (Octane and up) systems.
    • The MIPS R4k chip is a CPU, not a graphics processor. I have a PDA with an R4k as well, but they don't do 3d. It wouldn't really have made much sense to put them on GFX cards. Sorry to burst your bubble.
    • The folks complaining that the specific chip used in the Nintendo wasn't a graphics chip are missing the point. It didn't matter if the 4600i would have any application to comsumer graphics cards. What mattered is that it caused MIPS to build a much larger fab. And, most importantly, it should have shown the management at SGI that there was a massive consumer market that wanted SGI chips. They had a demand and an opportunity and ignored them both.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @02:46AM (#2761767)
    Well, its going to be hard to sell pure number crunching at high prices when you can get a 1GHz PC at Best Buy for $599. (Imagine a you-know-what of those.) It's kind of like selling $18 CDs after Napster.

    Anyway, I hope they stay in business. Their web site is the easiest place to remember when you need to look up something in the STL Programmer's Reference [sgi.com].

    • Re:Market woes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MrDelSarto ( 95771 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:27AM (#2761813) Homepage
      SGI equipment is not and never was in the same ballpark as a $AU1200 PC. A Beowulf cluster of 1024 PC's is not the same as an Origin 3000 of 1024 processors. Read about ccNUMA [google.com].

      In terms of desktop processing, the I/O bandwidth of an O2/Ocatane can not be compared to a PC. In essence, that's where they differ from a PC with a GeForce. That's not to mention the video/audio hardware that comes built in that is well integrated into IRIX and for the most part well documented.

      In general, with SGI you get what you pay for.

      SGI is a great company (I've worked there) that's built on a culture of doing cool things with technology. They just seem to have made a lot of bad decisions. They seem to be returning to their core business now, i hope it works -- how many quaters have then been going to turn a profit next quater now?
    • I used to have an Indigo 2, not that I had any need for an Indigo 2, I just had the opportunity to get one in a swap for a PowerCC Mac Clone. It had Elan graphics which is great for medeling, but you even threaten it with a texture and it goes into convulsive fits. The thing about sgi is that the machines have the bandwidth . They are designed to move large amounts of graphics data. Well, really just any data that is bandwidth intensive. Plus the hardware just looks so damn cool.
    • uhhh, 18 dollar CD sellers are doing just fine.
  • It's good to here some good news come from SGI... I've been a fan of pretty much everything that they've ever done. I find Irix to have the sweetest desktop out there of any Unixes I've ever used (Gnome and KDE pundits may repectfully disagree). Hell, even the cases they put their machines in are works of art.

    Anyway, although I am rather happy to hear that they will be recieving a financial shot in the arm from the new wave of government spending, I am a little worried, given the track record for stability of Irix, that these machines will be running fighter jets (can anyone say kernel panic at 30,000 feet)?

    • amen to the case bit, dood. SGI was making kick ass cases ages before apple thought of it. The octane is one bad lookin mutha :)
      and actually, SGI was really pioneering in the fFireld of case design. many of the interesting new design elements of most comapnies today are directly ripped fFrom what SGI has been doing fFor years. compaq is the worst thief in this area, with large removable sections of the CPU, bent wavy fFront panel designs (which compaq totally fFucked up) hell, they were even making fFlat panels look good before anyone else.

      because looking cool matters.
    • In all honesty, I have never had a problem with IRIX stability. I have only experienced two kernel panics: one was related to failing hardware, the other to a brand-new graphics subsystem that had a major known bug (and subsequently fixed in the next quarterly OS release... there may already even been a patch for it at the time).

      Thinking back on IRIX history, only a few issues come to mind... ballooning RAM usage starting with IRIX 5.X (gee, IRIX swaps to disk on machines with less than 32 MB of RAM) and patch dependancy hell starting with IRIX 4.X but fixed in 1998 with the IRIX 6.5.X quarterly release stream. There have been a few minor regressions over the years and some software issues with brand-new hardware, but almost all have been fixed within a month or two. Anyone deploying mission-critical hardware will fully test their setup before deployment and work closely with the vendor. Heck, I would trust IRIX just as much as any other UNIX flavor... maybe even moreso. As with any other OS, stability issues should be worked out with the vendor, not ignored.
    • I find Irix to have the sweetest desktop out there of any Unixes I've ever used (Gnome and KDE pundits may repectfully disagree). Hell, even the cases they put their machines in are works of art.


      Sigh. And every CS student I've got interning for me says I'm a clueless pansy for using an iMac with OS X at home.

      Double standards rock, eh?

      --saint
  • SGI still around? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @02:54AM (#2761775) Homepage Journal
    Other than its ability to run on cheap (price and often quality) hardware, I still don't understand SGI's movement to Linux. I guess that I am showing my ignorance here, but it seems to me that Apple and SGI are in similar situations right now in some respects. Both companies historically have relied on income from the hardware side of things while making a closed OS/hardware system that for each of their respective markets is very effective. The difference between Apple and SGI however is that SGI already has a UNIX OS with a GUI (however difficult it is to manage but VERY extensible and powerful), and Apple is developing UNIX with a GUI (easier to manage, more powerful in some respects, etc etc etc...). Both companies need major transitions to survive, but why Linux/Intel? IRIX is already mature, stable, fast, with great graphics capabilities and IO capabilities, so I ask again, why move to Linux and Intel?

    Both companies obviously want to benefit from the open source paradigm while still remaining in business with proprietary OS's. (I am guessing here for SGI as I assume that they will make their OS on a proprietary linux model) The approach Apple is taking certainly makes sense to me by developing a UNIX OS that includes the opensource Darwin, but I am totally clueless as to what SGI is doing here. What makes Linux more attractive than simply continuing to develop IRIX and putting more effort into improving, simplifying some features, and pushing development for IRIX on perhaps less expensive hardware? (among other changes to their business model) Again it seems to me that SGI is making another crucial mistake here as the developers that have tapered off work for IRIX have not for the most part started developing for Linux (although I know of a few examples), primarily they have lost ground to Wintel. (thus
    their misguided attempt at Wintel/SGI boxes I guess)

    In short it appears that they are trying to make Linux/Intel into what they already have in IRIX/MIPS, only with cheaper hardware which seems awfully dangerous to me for both end users and the company.

    I believe that by 2005 SGI will no longer be in the low to mid-range workstation market. This market will belong to perhaps Linux/Intel or OSX/PowerPC. Right now for what my maintenance contracts cost me for a single SGI Octane, I can purchase a new G4 WITH a 22in Cinema display YEARLY! This is not even talking about the $40k initial acquisition costs.

    SGI will survive in the server market and high end visualization market if they are not acquired by someone else. After all SGI's market cap is only around 585 million last time I checked.
    • Re:SGI still around? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by foobar104 ( 206452 )
      I believe that by 2005 SGI will no longer be in the low to mid-range workstation market.

      I'm not sure how you define that market, but for my money SGI isn't in it now.

      SGI's workstation products include O2+ (a special purpose machine), Octane2 (definitely high end), and Onyx 3000 (the highest of the high). There's going to be a new product coming early next year-- this is not a secret, although the details and case color are-- that sits below Octane2 on the price graph, but it isn't going to be a low- or mid-range desktop computer either.
    • A takeover of SGI does seem pretty likely at this point. Here's some reasons why I suspect IBM would snap them up:
      1. IBM has a much larger market cap and a fairly healthy balance sheet (this gives them the resources)
      2. One of IBM's most profitable business sectors (or so a little birdy told me) outside of consulting is big iron and high performance computing, which is right up SGI's alley.
      3. IBM has a large product base and customer base that center around Unix already
      4. if IBM is serious about a Linux push, SGI is a source of skilled engineers who have also been working on Linux in the enterprise
      5. it'd be one less competitor for all those cushy big-gov/big-edu contracts that IBM loves

      Just idle speculation on my part. Sun is more of a pure-play Unix vendor, and thus might seem more appropriate as a takeover initiator, but I don't think their financial reserves are high enough to do it. Further, they're more of a "one-os, one-platform" company than IBM and would probably have a harder time assimilating the SGI folks/products.

      Jeez, if SGI goes tits up, how many Unix (commercial) vendors will be left? Both HP and Compaq seem to be treating their unix offerings as an afterthought compated to cheap shitty PCs and winprinters. I guess just Solaris and AIX. God save us all from AIX being the only Unix out there...;-)

      • Go ahead and ask Sun, HP, Compaq, IBM about the server market share and who are their competitors - SGI is listen way down in the bottom...

        This sounds just like old Digital - great products (ok, not the Digital PC's that they tried to sell - yuck!) - horrible sales division.
      • I've always liked Apple as a suitor to SGI.

        Apple won't or can't compete in the commodity corporate desktop world and trying to expand that market would be a waste of time and money. The niche markets they do dominate, such as print production, are suffering to some extent from stagnation. The markets aren't growing bigger and with the general softness in the ad markets, I can tell you (as an ad industry employee) that budgets to replace B&W G3s with G4s wholesale aren't going to be there like they were 2-3 years ago when G3s rapidly replaced earlier PPC Macs -- there's little end user demand and ZERO management push.

        Buying SGI would provide Apple with an entry into a world of higher-end computing than they currently have and would enable them to provide a much more vertically integrated solution to markets that are somewhat out of reach for them in terms of software and hardware -- high end film production, animation, and scientific visualization. From a technology perspective, it would give a credibility boost to Apple's nascent Unix and allow them to have hardware unified by a single OS.

        It may be arguable that Apple's credibility in creative circles, early-to-market product offerings, and increasingly high performance machines will give it the bottom third of the video production market by default, and that SGIs technology is rapidly being obsoleteed by commodity hardware.

        However, I don't think that there's nearly the growth prospect in desktop video that there was in desktop publishing or the huge edge over x86, either. And own its own, Apple still can't escape the low-end niche it sits in.
        • Apple certainly might be able to do it. Comparing market cap rates, SGI is around 585 Million whereas, Apple is around 6.8 Billion with 4Billion in cash. One of many issues is how would one go about integrating SGI into Apple safely without bringing Apples share price down significantly. And finally integrating the different corporate strategies, management, engineers etc... would be difficult. My guess is that much of SGI's sales force has already been eliminated, but I am not sure about that. If Apple did purchase SGI, they could 1) sell/dump/can the NT thing, saving many $$'s 2) Integrate IRIX and the SGI developed Linux technology into OSX, and forget all further development of SGI Linux, and IRIX saving redundant development $$'s 3) Integrate the storage and server divisions into Apple to aggressively go after the business market, 4) create migration paths from IRIX to move the workstation segment to OSX and G4/G5 making the workstations more affordable,easier to support, and more flexible, 5) eventually power their visualization systems by OSX (if feasible) or spin the visualization business off into its own division for federal, university, and large corporate users.

          I am not quite sure how one would market this, considering that Apple has (two perhaps three?) principal markets right now. Consumer (web, personal management, games), professional (multimedia types), some science users (utilizing many areas). The acquisition of SGI would really present another two or three markets to play to, but the technology could eventually end up merging many potential markets given cheap enough hardware/software, and powerful enough systems. As it is right now, most consumers do not need the power that most computer firms are touting. (My in-laws are still using a 7100/66 for web, email, and writing letters. It is a totally useable machine, however I think I will replace it with a flat panel iMac this year.) At any rate, the consumer Mac line could go forward, with the G4/5 line integrating technology from SGI's workstation market essentially blending two to three markets right there while the server and visualization markets could add one or two for a total of 3-4 markets with which to focus on eliminating lots of redundancy and decreasing costs.

          As for support, I would guess that Apple would have to support IRIX for a decade or more given the mission critical applications that rely upon it. This would be one of the costs/risks associated with an acquisition of SGI. In the computer industry, planning 5 years down the road is hard enough, but 10?!?!
      • Both HP and Compaq seem to be treating their unix offerings as an afterthought compated to cheap shitty PCs and winprinters.

        A friend of mine just ordered a copy of Tru64 for the Alpha he bought on eBay -- took him almost an hour to explain to the Compaq sales droid on the phone what Tru64 was and what hardware it ran on.

        When pretty much every architecture but the PowerPC and the x86 went tits-up, I knew things were getting bad. But when someone from the company that now owns DEC didn't know what "Unix" was, that's when I realized how boring this industry has really gotten.

        --saint
    • Re:SGI still around? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by skotte ( 262100 )
      I still don't understand SGI's movement to Linux

      hey, here's a couple reasons fFor a company to move to linux:

      1) sales fForce: "it looks good! it costs nothing to buy, and you only make money on selling it!"

      2) marketting: "it's The Next Big Thing, and we wouldnt want to miss out on it, now would we?"

      3) management: "surveys say more people know what linux is, than irix. let's go with the established winner!"
    • Other than its ability to run on cheap (price and often quality) hardware, I still don't understand SGI's movement to Linux.
      They're not getting into Linux for its own sake. It's a hardware thing. SGI needs to sell more commodity-processor system -- lower costs, bigger software base. But what OS to use? They basically have three choices:
      1. Port IRIX to the Itanium. Expensive, and not a good way to grow their customer base. People who prefer IRIX will want to run it on MIPS-based systems anyway.
      2. NT. License fees, scalability. They've actually done an NT workstation or two, but the market was underwealmed. SGI just no longer has a role in the low-end workstation market.
      3. Linux. No license fees. There are scalability issues here too, but the source is open, and the Linux community is more than happy to accomodate SGI's needs. Especially after they contributed a few nice toys, like XFS [sgi.com].
      Before the layoffs, I would have pointed out that SGI's customer support division is one of the few operations making actual money, so perhaps they hope to sell support and integration contracts for other people's hardware. When I worked there two years ago, all the support people were studying every Linux distro they could find, not just SGI Linux. But that division was hit bad by the layoffs. Perhaps Linux support isn't the cash cow they'd hopped. Perhaps they just needed to get their head count down, and screw the business plan.
  • this is totally ot, so mod down as appropriate. -1 would be ideal, since this article has already been ruined.

    I can't imagine anything more losing than sitting and waiting for new slashdot news you can ruin. Some of your posts are undeniably funny, though.

    What aren't funny are your posts that fuck up the page. Page lengthening. How amusing. I'm very impressed that you can get past the lameness filter, and I'm sure you feel you've accomplished something. Go you.

    These posts leave me no choice but to browse at 0. There are some posts that get modded down unfairly, and I end up missing them. Thanks bunches.

    This may be among the more pointless bitches of all time, I know, but I felt like bitching.
    • by SaDan ( 81097 )
      Enough is enough. Stick to fantasizing about Natalie Portman and grits. That was at least original and funny!

      I agree, the page lengthening crap is highly annoying. You have succeeded in pissing us all off.

      Here's a poster of Natalie and a bowl of grits... Please go play somewhere else for a while.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <(jcr) (at) (mac.com)> on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:11AM (#2761794) Journal
    SGI is caught in the classic problem that killed DEC, and is killing Tandem, Stratus, DG, and many others: the performance of the lowend is improving so quickly that we can do things on $1K machines that used to require $1M machines.

    I have a friend who had an idea that could have saved them. When he was at SGI, he pointed out that machines that were optimized for graphics had to have great I/O performance, which would also make them great performers in another I/O intensive task: running RDMS engines like Oracle and Sybase. SGI management wasn't interested.

    So, SGI employees and stockholders lose out, and the rest of us gain another lesson in the dangers of rigid thinking.

    -jcr
    • by foobar104 ( 206452 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:48AM (#2761834) Journal
      SGI is caught in the classic problem that killed DEC, and is killing Tandem, Stratus, DG, and many others: the performance of the lowend is improving so quickly that we can do things on $1K machines that used to require $1M machines.

      In a way, you're right. Every day I deal with the fact that SGI computers aren't cost-effective for general purpose tasks like file serving or database applications.

      But at the same time, you've pointed out the reason why SGI is trying to do what they're trying to do. Some tasks that could previously only be done on SGI workstations can now be done on cheap(er) PC-type computers. I'm thinking of 3D modeling and image exploitation specifically, but there are lots of other examples, too.

      So okay, SGI needs to get out of the desktop workstation business except where they can justify it. So they're doing that.

      But there are some tasks that you've never been able to do cost-effectively on a PC-type system. Like high-definition or film compositing and editing. Sure, you can do film-resolution work with After Effects or Final Cut Pro, but it'd be so slow that you couldn't turn a profit doing it. So instead you buy a half-million-dollar Onyx and go to sleep every night on a big pile of money.

      Now, for the first time, there's a desktop workstation that's capable of doing most of what an Onyx can do: Octane2. So now SGI is going to a lot of those customers that have Onyxes and asking them if they'd like to buy three or four smaller systems that do 80% of what the Onyx can do to augment their existing stuff. And many of them are saying yes, because (and this is the key) they already know they can be profitable doing it.

      Of course, when SGI pushes down too far into the market space, they tend to get spanked a little. If you're doing standard-definition video editing, or god forbid compressed, you can do most of what you need with an Avid or Final Cut Pro on a G4. So SGI loses a lot there.

      The trick: find the sweet spot, where the market is broad enough that you have a lot of customers to call on but not so broad that you get beat on price-performance, and sit there.

      At the other end of the spectrum, there's the really high end. The Grand Challenge type stuff, like the project that motivated ASCI Blue Mountain at Los Alamos. If you're going to try to simulate a nuclear explosion instead of just setting one off and watching the pretty colors, you're going to need a computer that is several hundred times bigger than anything that had ever been built before. So there's an opportunity there to sell some of your big iron to the government, and (more importantly) to fund some R&D that will then trickle down to your commercial products so you can get back to beating the competition on features instead of fighting over price.

      So yeah, in a way you're right. The low end keeps getting better. But as it does, we keep thinking of things to do-- both commercially and in the sciences-- that the low end can't handle. It's like swimming in the ocean. The waves are moving under you, and if you just sit still you're going to get dunked. But if you swim in the right direction at the right speed you can stay at the crest of the wave. That's the trick: to stay on the crest of the technology wave.
      • Oh yes, that reminds me...

        When SGI bought Cray super computers corp., they sold some parts, one of the parts was sold to Sun microsystems, and Sun renamed it to Sun E10000...

        I'm sure that few people know about Sun E10K, and I'm sure Sun sold tons of these machines at huge prices and got a very nice profit from them...

        Who the hell made this stupid decision to sell it to Sun???
    • Your friend was right, but SGI is in this market and have been pushing it for a long time. Origin's are a good solution for huge databases and data warehousing, and are used as such. They are all about I/O and processing performance -- only one application is to put graphics head(s) on them and create visualisations. Oracle and Sybase are available for IRIX and work fine, and are used.

      SGI can be criticised for much, but not for a lack of database/warehousing solutions.
      • Your friend was right, but SGI is in this market and have been pushing it for a long time.

        The incident I mentioned took place about six years ago.

        -jcr
      • or at least, their reputation for such.

        One place I worked at had SGI webservers/application servers alongside SUN equivalents. The SGIs had approximately an order of magnitude higher failure rate. Granted, this was their low-end systems, but it wasn't encouraging -- and many sites would try low end systems first to get the feel of a company's products.
    • Agreed. It was easy to sell visual UNIX workstations when the PCs could not do hardware accelerated 3D at all. The low end visual workstations has been taken by cheapo PCs. This shift has basically created a totally new market in the industry (that is where I'm).

      Well, low end sucked anyway and SGI is consentrating on the highest of high end. Unfortunately, the high end is probably not growing that fast. Yes, there will never be enough computing power. To do what? Most engineers and researchers I know are happy with PCs. What are you going to do with $1M - $10M system? Simulate the universe or something similar? Good, if you are happy with only a handful of customers.

      Maybe SGI should start targetting rich people and entertainment markets (e.g. LustReality).

      I think Sun's workstations will also be in trouble. Just check their workstation prices (Blade 1000). Ridiculous. You can get a 900Mhz Blade 1000 at $10,995. Adding another processor to your configuration will cost you $9,995. Adding another 36-GB 10000 RPM FC-AL hard disk will cost you, $2,300. Fuck, you get more if you just buy two machines and stick them together.

    • Uhm, hello? There is no Tandem to kill. Tandem has been acquired by Compaq more than four years ago [mercurycenter.com] Of course Compaq managed to f@&k this up just as they did with Digital shortly afterwards.
    • the classic problem that killed DEC, and is killing Tandem, Stratus, DG, and many others: the performance of the lowend is improving so quickly that we can do things on $1K machines that used to require $1M machines.

      Actually, that's not true. Commodity PC hardware can't do what a DG NUMA box, or a Tandem or Stratus box could do, either from a technical competence or a performance point of view. But it can do a close enough approximation that most people don't care. No, the PC hardware won't give you five nines reliability. Nor will it allow you to have a single system image across 64 or more CPUs. But most people are prepared to tolerate an occasional reboot, and a loss of performance to save themselves a bucket load of cash. And that's the problem. Why spend big bucks, when you can get 90% of what you want for a couple of grand? Sure, as a techie, I'd love to have a DG AV35000 to play with, but realistically, unless I'm running insane amounts of Oracle, I don't need it. I can get the job done with a high end PC. Not as quickly, sure, but quickly enough to satisfy my business requirements.

    • I have a friend who had an idea that could have saved them. When he was at SGI, he pointed out that machines that were optimized for graphics had to have great I/O performance, which would also make them great performers in another I/O intensive task: running RDMS engines like Oracle and Sybase. SGI management wasn't interested.

      Indeed true and indeed sad. Management ignored databases, stating that their focus was on the "technical and creative professional". Seems they ignored the fact that said pros need to store their data somewhere. Q: Where does PIXAR or ILM store its vast amounts of models, textures, and scenes? (Hint: it's not in a bunch of basic directories on a generic filesystem).

      SGI failed to realize that databases are *big*, *everywhere*. Oracle on SGI IRIX is dead, but that's almost ok... Oracle 8 was nothing more than a quick port with zero optimization (other than some basic compiler flags -- hardly "optimized"). Sybase is a different story. Its IRIX version has risen from the ashes and is quite zippy. Current version makes good use of O200/O2K/O300/O3K architecture and future version will be even better.

      It's looking up, but ever so slowly.
  • by thanq ( 321486 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:46AM (#2761832)

    On September 13th I was looking at SGI's stock at $0.33 a share, and I was thinking about buying some of it.

    I thought that the company had good prospects, even though it was failing at customer service, shipping ordered products, selling short and losgin a lot of money on a number of their x86 intel-based workstations.

    They had built some amazing supercomputers for the national weather service, providing boxes for render farms for final fantasy, monster inc., and a bunch of other movie prodcutions (sorry, no time to look for links).

    It seemed that it was the 'market analysts' and some disrgruntled customers and amazingly a lot of fear of 'restructuring' the company, that brought the stock price so low.

    Somehow, I ended up not buying any. Now their stock is at around $2.14 a share.

    I will be kicking my ass till I die that I didn't buy those shares.

    It definately shows how much hype goes into inflating or deflating the stock prices and might not show the actual company value, performance, or ability to bring money to the stockholders.

    I believe that SGI will come out on top after all.

  • SGI is a very big business in terms of CGI and I really hope they don't collapse since they were always the one who discovered break-throughs in graphical technology.
  • SGI's Failing Points (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lethyos ( 408045 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @04:25AM (#2761859) Journal
    Yes, I definitely agree that SGI has done some killer things. They revolutionized the graphics industry and demonstrated that computers can be made to do visual effects never dreamed of. Their systems are powerful tools for research. All in all, they've been quite swell.

    But, we don't need them anymore. Nor do we want them.

    SGI offers big, expensive, proprietary solutions, that like Microsoft, lock you into their product line with little or no hope of escape. Let's discuss the reasons.

    1. Lack of extensibility. SGI boxen typically do not scale well, and if they do, much of your hardware has to be replaced to accomplish any scaling. Ever try to upgrade an Indy? And O2!? I certainly understand that in any upgrade, sacrifices of existing hardware must be made, but they are no champions of modularity.

    2. Proprietary hardware. SGI hardware, for its consumer price-level equivalents is not all that great. You can spend $16,000 on one or maybe two decent SGI systems, or you can buy 10-15 high-powered PC's and cluster them. You get the advantages of redundancy too. Another problem here is repair work. Nobody but SGI and SGI certified technicians can repair their hardware. Worse still, only SGI and a few licensed vendors manufacture SGI hardware replacements. More money here. And then there is Irix...

    3. Proprietary OS and software. Irix is a disgrace. Certainly, it's a great performer, but because it's geared specifically to SGI hardware. Take Linux and optimise it to the same level and write good drivers, and you'd have not just a strong contender, but a superior OS. However, it's just not there and SGI doesn't want it to be. They're too proud of their OS and they want Irix tools to remain Irix-only so SGI software vendors can't take their products to other markets without tough costs. Since everyone does servers these days, SGI doesn't mind having Linux run on Challenge or other volume servers. Besides, everyone who wants Big Iron for www.hugefuckingcompany.com uses Sun anyway.

    All in all, what SGI does for huge costs can be done in the PC scene with a fraction of the price. Perhaps not in Linux yet, but certainly in Windows with products from NewTek and ReelMagic for example. With nVidia around pumping out killer graphics hardware, what do we really need SGI for? I guess the only reason I can see is that they produce big solutions (who else will build a C.A.V.E. for you?). Can anyone clue me in on what it is exactly SGI does that we can't do everywhere else these days?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm posting ananymously to avoid trouble however I really do have to respond to this as and SGI employee (Standard legal disclamer I speak for myself not employer etc...)

      1. Lack of extensibility.

      There is a difference between upgrading and scalability. Scalability is not about adding an extra harddrive it is about adding CPU's and IO. Take the 3800 for example. That goes to 1024 CPUS' running off one kernel. That looks like it scales well to me. Yes you pay but it sure is impressive

      2 & 3 Proprietary OS/Hardware. So what? Sun does and get aways with it. So does HP/IBM and every other UNIX manufacture. The hardware is designed for certain function and the SGI does it very well.

      Adding preformance to a system is not as easy as you think. Its not about just writing some code and say look how great this is. Look at from the point os Sparc Linux for Sun. The scsi layer get only arouind 1/2 the performace of Solaris. Why? Because solaris is designed to make the most of the hardware

      I think you should wait to see what SGI can really do
    • Proprietary OS and software.

      It's UNIX. Sure, it's a *flavor* of UNIX, but its genetic makeup is 99% indentical to every other flavor out there. Golly, even the "SGI GUI" is just a modified version of Motif plus HTML and vector icon libraries, all of which are well documented. Over the past 10 years I've ported code (graphical, non-graphical, and device drivers) to and from IRIX with very few problems. And heck, most of the problems had to deal with REACT, SGI's real-time kernel extensions... something that nobody else in the UNIX arena had at the time (they're just now catching up).

      SGI hardware isn't cheap, but it's worth every penny to those that need it. The same goes for the support contracts (which are cheap if you consider the short response times and 24/7 electronic monitoring). And for the high-dollar customers, SGI Custom Engineering is actually a bargain if you compare their services to that of other companies. For almost any user, the SGI developer program (www.sgi.com) offers A LOT for the price (nothing, it's free)... compilers, 40% - 70% hardware discounts, support & training discounts, and gobs of co-marketing opportunities. Plus they listen. Aside from two less-than-satasfactory incidents, my group has had no trouble talking to real SGI engineers when their help was needed. SGI management and executives have also always been willing to lend an ear. Of course... listening and *doing* are two totally different things, but I think the company is finally pulling its head out of its rear.
    • Some organizations with money need the power of SGI. And when it's upgrade time they just buy a new system. This isn't for the average script kiddie who likes building his own systems.
    • 3. Proprietary OS and software. Irix is a disgrace.

      While networking Irix was a beast (way back when), my Indy is what I cut my teeth on for comercial coding and really learned vi (grin). We had RS/6000's running AIX too, so all the C code had to run on both platforms. C is C - if you stay away from hardware specific libraries, and for serious number crunching it was hard to beat what the Irix C compiler cranked out. Yes a Linux box can do Unix , but when you start hitting the _BIG_NUMBER_ stuff, there is a reason (beyond support contracts) why we have Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, and even Irix. Yup, people have used Linux for rendering farms, but that is only one application.

      Irix has fallen out of favor with even SGI, however, so its days are numbered. Real or not, that perception feeds the downward spiral. I suspect the same thing is happening with HP-UX. Course SGI did a lot of dumb things, like trying to switch everything over to NT and Intel - botching it, then jumping to Linux - TBD....

      SGI had unholy graphics powers in the early 90's - It was just a pleasure to do molecular biology work on them. Compaired to my personal 486dx2/50 w/4M or the Mac in our lab, they set the high end of the delta between "workstation" and "personal" class computers for me.

      As for upgrading - you ever see them "upgrade" an AIX box? They gut the thing and drop in all new parts. While you may get to stick some RAM in your sunblade 100, that's about it as you move into systems that the vendor has there but on the line from an uptime service agreement....

      But ya, I'll miss them too. Every time I see an old Indy sitting unloved in one of those computer graveyard stores, I have to fight off the urge. From a comercial standpoint, they don't make the list anymore for the stuff I do today.
    • What the fuck are you talking about? Do you know anything about SGI hardware or software?

      1. Saying SGI boxes do not scale completely invalidates any thought you've ever had in your life. Have you ever seen an Onyx/Origin system before? You add a brick and have twice the processing horse power or add 10 PCI (or any periphrial connection you ca nthink of) slots to do anything you want. You don't even have to turn the system off to add anything to it. Origins scale from 2 processor to 128 processor systems at the drop of a fucking hat. Using the Indy and O2 for your examples is just jackassery. Neither of which were designed for easy upgrades. Later revisions of the O2 when the Octane was released were easy as could be to upgrade. You turn the system off and slide out a processor modules and replace it with a new one. Voila.

      2. Clusters fucking suck. Jesus get it through your Beowulf worshiping head that clusters are not the answer to all computation problems. LANL might build a bix cluster of PC systems to solve some embarrassingly redundant set of equations big fucking whoop. The big SGI systems are cache coherent and have messaging latencies measured in nanoseconds. A processor on one end of a 512 processor machine can talk to another processor with similar latency that a PC based system can talk to its own RAM. It is trivial to write software that spawns processes onto multiple nodes in a cluster, ccNUMA systems run as if their far flunt components were a single machine.

      3. Linux cannot do that. If it COULD do that it would no longer be Linux and certainly would not be portable outside of SGI's hardware. Do you seriously think you can get good performance out of off the shelf software? Hell no. Optimizing software and good drivers doesn't mean anything. You've bitten far too deeply into Linux hype if you think it is even a contender to the grand daddy Unix systems.

      Bringing up NewTek and ReelMagic cards is just fucking ridiculous. Wow you can have a hardware video processor that uses a PCI bus. That's rad...until you've seen an Origin in action running more than a dozen pipelines feeding 8 display channels. Try that with a PCI bus and see what happens. Nobody buys SGI for the logo.
      • Nobody buys SGI for the logo.

        Well, not the new logo anyway...

        Just kidding. ;)

  • i'm not so impressed that sgi's "recovery" is basically linked to war-based activities. here, outside the usa, many people roll their eyes when they hear about how much the usa spends "in the interest of national security" (read "keeping the rest of the world as fucked as possible") and how few americans benefit from this (for example, those with shares in SGI and the other big companies who benefit from war-making). i don't really care who makes the soft-tech (missile guidance software for example) or the hard-tech (cruise milliles) -- they're the same type of sucker on the ass of real americans. oh wait, i don't see any real americans on my yankee-doodle-ized media, so maybe they don't exist ...
    • Quick, somebody call Attorney General John Ashcroft, before we know it this kid could one day crash a hijacked airliner into SGI's head quarters or perhaps shootup his high school!
  • I really don't understand how anyone can take this seriously. All these plans must be imaginary, since SGI has cancelled reality [sgi.com]. It was a big story [slashdot.org] here some months ago.
  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @08:06AM (#2762010) Homepage
    SGI has always had a hard time trying to market itself. They've typically made endless incorrect assumptions and end up preaching to the choir. And yet, the wow factor that made the company and it's little cube logo a legend in the late 1980s is still there, abeit in a slightly different manner.

    True, not everyone needs 512 or 1024 CPUs running on a single system under a single kernel. Or 16 graphics pipelines. But there are those that do. Which is why, shortly after the introduction of the Origin 3000 two years ago, an entire convoy of the machines were sent to Fort Meade.

    It's almost as though SGI has gotten used to the high end, as though their technology (HW, SW, APIs, SDKs) no longer impress themsleves. Nowhere else, not even E&S, can a person find a platform that can drive up to 128 display channels (16 pipes x 8 channels per pipe) with perfect sync, or even at all. O2K and O3K (and more recently, O300 and Octane2) can drive multiple displays from one or more graphics pipelines. Raw, per-CPU performance isn't anything to write home about, but the thruput and latencies are perfect for generating insane 3D and mixing it with streams of HDTV... or anything. Think of a way-cool use of video and 3D. Now increase the complexity and choose, oh, 4 camera viewpoints. Maybe an additional display for stats and another for an "operators station". Easy with O2K/O3K (aka "Onyx" when gfx are invloved). It can be done and it's proven. They've been doing this sort of thing since you and I were using our "cutting edge" unaccelerated 2D graphics cards running at an "insane" 1024x768.

    A pair of old demos SGI likes to show off are sometimes called "from space to your face", in which over 500 GB of sat photo textures are shuffled thru one or more InfiniteReality graphics pipes to provide a realtime "bungie jump" from the moon to earth and back. INSANE. 60fps/60hz locked. 4 huge disk RAIDs composed of dozens of drives grinding away like mad to keep the textures coming. WILD STUFF. All in a day's work.

    SGI isn't about buzzwords or about wizbang marketing. It's about providing modular solutions to some of the most challenging problems. They've been there to provide HW and SW to those wishing to work on the cutting edge. In 1988 they were selling 3D workstations. In 1991 folks were doing crazy 3D and video mixing. Today their hardware can be used to drive gobs of displays and to shuffle huge amounts of data. Sure, the desktop PC in 2007 will be able to do the same thing. By then, PCs will be able to drive gobs of high end gfx subsystems, and even a cheap graphics card won't sneeze at several GB of textures loading and unloading every second... but until then, for those that need this TODAY, there's SiliconGraphics.

    Let's hope SGI is here tomorrow to show us even more cool things.
    • They've been doing this sort of thing since you and I were using our "cutting edge" unaccelerated 2D graphics cards running at an "insane" 1024x768.

      A simulator project I worked on in '98-'99 used a 32-processor Onyx2 with eight pipes (4 RMs each) to drive seven out-the-window channels at 3200x3400@60 plus a heads-up display.

      Not a type: 3,200 pixels across, 3,400 pixels down, 60 frames per second. Times seven channels.

      I've been doing this for a while, and it made me stop and say, "Holy crap."
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfoxNO@SPAMsnowfox.net> on Saturday December 29, 2001 @10:25AM (#2762181) Homepage
    Is it just me, or should SGI still be able to sell based on the name, if they take a rational desktop approach?

    A pretty, curvy plastic case with the SGI logo prominently displayed, and they could probably compete with Dell for workstation products, while adding 10-15% just for the name.

    I work in video games. Many of us, especially my artist coworkers, have worked with SGI extensively in the past. They miss the SGI platform, many with a fondness on par with that of the typical Linux, Mac or Amiga fanatic. And these people do have a voice when it comes to purchasing. If these guys thought they could get "An SGI that runs Windows," but at a sane price (they missed this part with their Windows endeavors), they'd jump on it.

    Hell, I'd probably get one too, just for the novelty of it. A bona-fide SGI running Linux just feels cooler than generic PC hardware, even if I know the internals are identical.

    There's probably a lot of money to be made in selling branded PC hardware. When Gateway bought Amiga, they could have probably sold thousands more units just by replacing front panels with something stylish and Amiga-esque, flashing a set of BIOSes with a snazzy "Amiga Phoenix" or similar logo & tossing a UAE CD and a Boing! mug in the box. There was no need for them to look into reinventing the PC, just like it was silly of SGI to go about trying to reinvent the PC when they tried shipping Windows products. Commodity hardware is rocketing forward so fast that most any attempt at creating custom hardware for your own PC products is purely daft. It's all about presentation.

    Certainly, pretty cases wouldn't have to be SGI's only business line, but it could certainly be a source of safe & easy revenue to help turn things around.

  • SGI has created the file alteration monitor and ported it to linux. (This shows up as '/etc/xinetd.d/sgi_fam' in RH7.2.) This allows apps to request a central daemon to monitor files and directories for modification, so that the apps can be notified when this happens. I've started playing with this and it looks cool. This helps provide real-time auditing of file activities on critical files - helps mollify the security types, which is important in a corporate setting.
  • for my pee cee?

    Hell, "graphics" is in their name! What's wrong with giving NVidia and ATI a little competition, especially at the gamer and prosumer level? How about a sub $1,000 card that does digital video in and out, accelerates OpenGL with *precision* and spanks NVidia at games?

    Hell they can tweak on of their old boards and milk it all it's worth. And it shouldn't cut into their fat margin business.
  • they sure had a nice finder and environment, especially for the day.

    i've heard the main reason for migrating to Linux is a variety of shortcomings in the Unix/Irix code base that are irreperable, but not too sure about that.

    i think it would be neat for them to have a partnership with Sony and make a hot-rod linux/MIPS PS2 and put the SGI badge on it.

    My gut feeling is that the PC box makers are going to be under a huge cloud as Microsoft starts using next generation Xboxes to get around the court ordered OEM restrictions.

    that makes the low-end market very open to ew styles and configurations of consoles.
  • They're doomed. (Score:3, Informative)

    by mallan ( 37663 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @03:00PM (#2762980) Homepage
    SGI keeps making mistake after mistake. I don't see how they have a snowball's chance in hell unless they axe their entire marketing team.

    They came out with a pretty nice IA32 Linux workstation, the 330. Performance was good, the graphics smoked the O2's, and old IRIX customers were interested in porting to Linux. The machines were a little more expensive than what you could get from Dell, but SGI was fully supporting their machines. They provided documentation and APIs to help customers port from IRIX to Linux. The extent of Dell Linux support is "it should work on our machines."

    The government and special effects industries have been two of SGI's biggest customers for years. Not only did SGI kill their IA32 Linux line before the government had a chance to buy them (the bulk of government spending comes at the end of the government's fiscal year. SGI dropped the 330 about a month before then), they killed their Linux line a couple of months before ILM decided to dump 600 O2 workstations in favor of Linux boxes.

    They kept the 330 on the market for less than one year. People who wanted to get SGI AI32 Linux workstations never had an opportunity to buy them. If they had just kept their 330's on the market for another 3 months, they would have been selling them like hotcakes to former IRIX shops.

    They're doomed. They've effectively handed away the Linux graphics workstation market to Dell, HP and custom shops.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday December 29, 2001 @09:11PM (#2763736) Homepage
    SGI, as others mentioned, has the basic problem that the low end ate the high end in graphics and servers. They're a high-margin company in a business that went low-margin. Few companies survive that.

    SGI has changed direction so many times in the past five years (moving into servers, deemphasizing graphics, selling NT workstations, deemphasizing servers, dumping the NT workstation line, reemphasizing graphics, acquiring Intergraph's line of overpriced NT workstations...) that customers can't rely on them following through on anything. And that doesn't even include the Cray acquisition and dismantling.

    I noticed the remark in the article: "In its cost-cutting measures, SGI sold its nine buildings and leased back six of them." That's so SGI. This is right after they finished the new, zowie HQ building in Mountain View, and emptied out the fancy Silicon Studios building.

    One big SGI success is Alias/Wavefront's Maya. That's one of the very few examples in the history of high-tech when a company bought two technology companies and actually got them to work together. Maya was a major advance, and dethroned Softimage|3D as the lead package in high-end animation. That's an incredible result from a merger.

    Of course, they had to sell Maya on NT to make any money. So it didn't do much for SGI's hardware business.

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