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Silicon Graphics

Hot New Silicon Graphics Workstations 472

Jonathan C. Patschke writes: "SGI have finally unveiled their newest-generation visual workstation, the Silicon Graphics Fuel. Features include a MIPS R14k CPU, Vpro graphics, and a PCI bus (finally)." As you would expect from SGI, it looks good, and the specs are impressive. I only see IRIX listed, but with the specs on this thing, it may not be slow :)
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Hot New Silicon Graphics Workstations

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  • by itsnotme ( 20905 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:08PM (#2920666) Homepage
    Medical imaging... hmm... shooter games.. medical imaging.. hmm sounds nice.. makes the games more REALISTIC! and probably has enough horsepower to render it in real life color too.. ooh!
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cryptnotic ( 154382 )
    Why use one of these when you can run Maya [aliaswavefront.com] on a (faster) Mac OS X machine, like the new dual 1GHz G4's with the GeForce 4 MX?

    Cryptnotic

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by niola ( 74324 ) <jon@niola.net> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:16PM (#2920729) Homepage
      faster Mac OS X machine? No way dude. If you are looking purely at mhz, yeah, the Mac is faster, but the architecture is vastly different. The address bus and memory bus are larger, and even if most people think IRIX is a pile, it was designed for graphics i/o.

      I wouldn't mind having one of these, but I wish they would bring back their old logo :)

      Want a really fun machine? Get the Origin 2800 w/ 250 CPU's :)

      --Jon
      • Not to mention that VPro graphics in Octane2 and Fuel are 16 bit per RGBA component... that's 48 bit color (compared the 12bit per RGBA = 32 bit color for most of the computer world). This is important to some people, especially the film crowd.
        • Re:Why? (Score:2, Informative)

          No, the Octane2 and Fuel are 12bit per RGBA, and the PC world 8bit (48/4 = 12, 32/4 = 8)

          This is obviously important when you can buy 36-bit and 48-bit RGB photo scanners.
      • please in terms MHz the PowerPC is well behind even the under funded MIPS CPU's (they dont care so much about MHz but about integration on the same Die i.e. SOC)

        really I dont know why SGI dont use this chip
        RM9000x2 [pmc-sierra.com] its got HYPERTRANSPORT like the AMD chips and the ol SysAD bus and Supports DDR SDRAM

        all they have to have is GIMP for IRIX ICC'd and most people would be happy for Bitmap manipulation

        lots of render's work under IRIX so thats not a problem

        the problem is the back end Farm that now EVERYONE uses Linux for on el'cheapo AMD/Intel box's SGI used to live here and now they got shoved out by Linux

        they are doing the right thing extend product range and work on getting Linux on decent hardware so they can sell it to their customers

        pity Itanium turned out such a PIG

        I just hope SGI are doing their own motherboards (-;

        regards

        john jones
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Redundant)

      If you think that a Mac is a reasonable resplacement for one of these then you really don't understand either machine, nor what they're good for.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm really impressed with the work Apple is doing, but I'd never consider trading in an Octane for a OSX box, let alone a Fuel.
    • Not hardly (Score:5, Informative)

      by nosferatu-man ( 13652 ) <spamdot@homonculus.net> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:44PM (#2920936) Homepage
      A faster Mac? Please.

      This thing looks to have the same terrifying memory bandwidth as its
      big brother, the Octane2. 3.2GBps. On a dedicated port crossbar.
      The Mac is STILL struggling along with PC133 SDRAM. And the Mac has a
      "Geforce4MX", which is basically a faster GF2MX, not a fourth
      generation part. Compare that to the SGI graphics subsystem for a
      laugh.

      For processor bound tasks, yes, the 7455 G4 will be faster than the
      R14k, but for overall system performance, ESPECIALLY when pushing big
      models around, you'd be goofy stupid to try and use a Mac if you could
      afford one of these babies (to say nothing of the Octane2).

      Peace,
      (jfb)
      • This thing looks to have the same terrifying memory bandwidth as its big brother, the Octane2. 3.2GBps.
        >>>>>>>>>
        Less than terrifying considering the $200 DDR nForce-based boards have 4.2 GB/sec memory bandwidth.
        • Look up the difference between crossbar and bus based memory
          subsystems and then get back to us with "nForce".

          Peace,
          (jfb)
          • The nForce's TwinBank architecture is a limited form of a cross-bar as well. However, I'd ask you what use a cross-bar memory controller really is a single-processor machine.
      • This thing looks to have the same terrifying memory bandwidth as its
        big brother, the Octane2. 3.2GBps. On a dedicated port crossbar.


        Actually, Octane2 has 1 GB/s RAM. Fuel, Origin/Onyx 300, and Origin/Onyx 3000 have 3.2 GB/s RAM.

        This guy says it best: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=27074&cid=2921 310 [slashdot.org]
      • Re:Not hardly (Score:3, Informative)

        by Milalwi ( 134223 )
        I agree with most of what you said, obviously the Mac is not in the same league as an Octane, however...

        And the Mac has a
        "Geforce4MX", which is basically a faster GF2MX, not a fourth
        generation part.

        To quote [slashdot.org] someone else...

        NV17/GeForce4 MX is not the renaming of any existing product. (It is not just the mobile part either)

        NV17 is a new part and will be a very impressive complement to any other GPUs that are released in the near future.

        As for its performance just barely beating a GeForce3 Ti 500 (using Apple's or whomever's numbers) well... Wouldn't you like something in the price range of the current MX graphics cards that beat the most expensive GF3 Ti 500???

        A heck of a lot more people buy $199 graphics cards than buy $399 ones.

        It seems that the GF4MX should be about as fast as a GF3-Ti500, and that's pretty fast.

        Milalwi
  • by david_e_v ( 42652 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:14PM (#2920710)
    Finally, after long dark times, and a very tough re-structuring effort, it seems that SGI is back on the field they lead by far: Big and powerful Unix systems, with the best graphics you can find in the industry. After the strategic zig-zag due to Mr. Belluzio 3-4 years ago("Now we're gonna be an NT vendor!"), it's good to see some big company other than Sun which sticks to the good old, reliable and scalable UNIX systems.
    Because, at least, not everyone should sell Windows machines, let Mr. Dell do it.
    Just hope support for Linux up to some extent.
    • Finally, after long dark times, and a very tough re-structuring effort, it seems that SGI is back on the field they lead by far: Big and powerful Unix systems, with the best graphics you can find in the industry. After the strategic zig-zag due to Mr. Belluzio 3-4 years ago("Now we're gonna be an NT vendor!"), it's good to see some big company other than Sun which sticks to the good old, reliable and scalable UNIX systems.
      Much as I enjoy Belluzo bashing, I believe the NT-madness actually preceeded his reign.

      If you want to argue that he encouraged it, made it a priority, and so on, I'd be willing to listen.

      By the way, kids: Mhz is not the measure of a machine. Floating point benchmarks are not the measure of a machine either. The world is a complicated place, and computers are no escape from that problem.

  • Huh. Did anyone else notice that they didn't mention anything about UMA like they hyped up on their O2? I wonder if they ditched UMA for something closer to the rest of the PC world. If so I'm sorry, UMA was a pretty neat idea.
    • Re:No Mention of UMA (Score:5, Informative)

      by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:31PM (#2920855) Homepage
      Fuel isn't based on UMA, it's based on the same exact set of ASICs that powers the Origin 3000. This is basicly a 1 CPU version of O3K. Compared to Octane2... Fuel has 3.2x RAM, 2x faster CPU bus, 1/2 the interconnect latency, plus a faster SCSI bus. Neat stuff. Not to mention that VPro graphics are 48bit, compared to the 32bit you find elsewhere. Film people like that.
      • Re:No Mention of UMA (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Shinobi ( 19308 )
        A major error: The O2 is NOT the same box as the Octane 2. The Octane Two can be maxed out with 8GB RAM, has the same graphics stuff, can have two CPU's, and has a fast memory solution as well, in the form of a fast crossbar switch. It was the O2, the little cute desktop box that had UMA, and a maximum of 1GB of RAM.
      • Fuel has 3.2x RAM...

        It's probably worth mentioning that Fuel maxes out at 4 GB of RAM while Octane2 can have 8 GB.

        Another key differentiator is that Fuel is exclusively a single-user workstation. Octane2 has a dual-head option (two V12 graphics pipes, each with an option dual-channel display adapter) and can take two mouse/keyboard combos. Two users can use an Octane2 at the same time with full graphics functionality. Can't do that with Fuel.
  • More like lukewarm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:20PM (#2920762) Journal
    SGI are still producing fantastic graphics architectures with next-to-nothing processing power behind them... Sheesh. What are they on ?

    I work in the video/film post-production business. We are one of their major clientbases, and these machines will go down well in this niche area. Unfortunately, althoguh SGI get a lot of press for their "movie" image, it's not their money-spinner...

    SGI get most of their money from government and research contracts. This machine will not cut the mustard in those areas - it's just too damn slow. Yes the CPU is probably a better performer than its Intel equivalent in MHz, but I just don't believe it'll get anywhere near the SPECfp and SPECint of the Athlon 2000 or Intel 2.2GHz CPUs.

    It's a shame. I *really* like SGI machines. I've bought several (I donated one of them to libsdl just so SDL would support SGIs :-) but this machine is - to coin a phrase - too little, too late :-(

    Simon.
    • by davechen ( 247143 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:36PM (#2920888) Homepage
      Here are some numbers from Spec.org [spec.org]

      This is for Spec CFP 2000 (i.e. floating point). I picked the SGI Origin 3200, which has a similar processor (although I'm not sure if its identical or not).

      Advanced Micro Devic Epox 8KHA+ Motherboard, AMD Athlon (TM) XP 2000+ 1 596 642
      Intel Corporation Intel D850MD motherboard (2.2 GHz, Pentium 4 pro 1 766 777
      SGI SGI Origin 3200 1X 500MHz R14k 1 436 463

      The Spec CINT 2000 numbers look similar, I just didn't feel like cutting and pasting.

      So, sure your average P4 or Athlon is faster, but its not as simple as a matter of Megahertz.

      My concern about SGI is that these machines have the same graphics V10 and V12 that they've been using for years now. I heard that these were designed as the last hurrah of designers who have since gone on to Nvidia or ATI.

      I wonder if SGI has the manpower left to design new, innovative graphics architectures, or will they be just slapping more texture and cranking the clock on old designs.

      dave
      • wonder if SGI has the manpower left to design new, innovative graphics architectures, or will they be just slapping
        more texture and cranking the clock on old designs.


        I've been told that a speed boost along the lines of a "V14" and "V16" will be available in May, with a totally new gfx line (compatible with existing machines as just a new gfx card) becoming available this fall.

        Then, of course, there are neat new SGI gfx offerings such as Onyx InfinitePerformance...

        http://www.sgi.com/visualization/onyx/3000/ip/

    • If these are 3d work stations for modeling and animation and not for rendering, then a fast video card and a good pipeline to the screen is all you need. Fast processors really only come into play when you're crunching on something like radiosity in Mental-Ray. I have a 400 mhz PII PC with 200+ MB RAM and a low end Oxygen card that can display much higher frames in Softimage 3D and XSI than a new 1.2G P4 with a Geforce 3 card.
    • by Glock27 ( 446276 )
      Yes the CPU is probably a better performer than its Intel equivalent in MHz, but I just don't believe it'll get anywhere near the SPECfp and SPECint of the Athlon 2000 or Intel 2.2GHz CPUs.

      I think you're right. There are published results at the SPEC website [spec.org] for the R14000 at 500 MHz. Here's the bottom line (CPU / SPECint / SPECfp - all rates are base):

      R14000 500---------- 410 / 436

      Athlon 2000+-------- 697 / 596
      Pentium 4 2200------- 771 / 766
      IBM Power4 1300----- 814 / 1169

      Looks like SGI should consider joining Apple in the PowerPC world...that Power4 looks pretty awesome!

      299,792,458 m/s...not just a good idea, its the law!

      • Looks like SGI should consider joining Apple in the PowerPC world...that Power4 looks pretty awesome!

        That Power4 also costs like $100,000 for each (4-way CMP) processor module alone, so, gee, it'd better be pretty awesome. The 1 GHz G4+ that powers the current generation of Macs would probably score about the same as the R14k on SPEC, or a bit lower...but we don't know because Apple is too cowardly to submit themselves to legitimate benchmarks when they have a bunch of fools running around believing that a G4 is faster than a P4 or Athlon, and Motorola doesn't bother because they know the G4+ is actually designed for the embedded signal processing market, where SPEC scores are not too relevant. Just because the G4 and Power4 are both "in the PowerPC world" doesn't mean they have similar performance characteristics.

        In any case, where the R1x000 really shines is in scalability to very high processor count NUMA configurations (not at issue in this case of course). It'd still be a world-class processor line if SGI hadn't given up 5 years ago by essentially stopping R1x000 development and committing to Itanium instead. They've finally realized their mistake and apparently have some extra tweaks on the way (R16k and R18k), but it's probably too little too late.

        Were I SGI at the moment, I'd drop IRIX for Linux, port everything that made IRIX special, and run it all on proprietary P4 or Xeon boards with all the special SGI graphics goodies. Although that was the idea behind their NT line and that didn't do so well, did it...

        SGI had some amazing tech back in the day, but having more or less rolled over and died the past few years it might be difficult for them to stay ahead of the commidity hardware crowd. (Re: 48-bit color, if johnc has his way--and he usually does--commidity graphics cards will have 48 or 64-bit internal color soon enough.) But they appear to be finally waking up and making a go at it, so best of luck to them.
        • That Power4 also costs like $100,000 for each (4-way CMP) processor module alone, so, gee, it'd better be pretty awesome.

          That $100,000 cost is fairly meaningless, since there is an extreme markup on server hardware, and the chip isn't in mass production. (Also this was a single-CPU system, so I don't think it was a multi-CPU module.) I'd venture to say that it can be mass-produced cheaper than P4, as I'll bet it has a lower gate count. The G5 will essentially be this architecture (though I doubt many G5 boxes will have 128 MB of L3 cache like the IBM box).

          Regardless, SGI has no qualms about using high-end components or producing expensive systems. It would most likely be good for them to actually be somewhere near the top in performance... ;-)

          The 1 GHz G4+ that powers the current generation of Macs would probably score about the same as the R14k on SPEC, or a bit lower

          Please cite some reference to support this (wild in my opinion) claim.

          ...but we don't know because Apple is too cowardly to submit themselves to legitimate benchmarks when they have a bunch of fools running around believing that a G4 is faster than a P4 or Athlon, and Motorola doesn't bother because they know the G4+ is actually designed for the embedded signal processing market, where SPEC scores are not too relevant.

          Fine, buy yourself a Mac and generate you're own SPEC scores. No one is stopping you, including Apple. (Anyone know if there are high quality FORTRAN compilers for MacOS X?)

          Just because the G4 and Power4 are both "in the PowerPC world" doesn't mean they have similar performance characteristics.

          What makes you think that Power4 technology won't make it's way into desktop chips? IBM manufactures desktop PowerPC chips as well, and certainly shows no sign of giving up on PowerPC in general. There have recently been rumors of Apple switching from Motorola to IBM for it's chips...we'll see what happens.

          299,792,458 m/s...not just a good idea, its the law!

          • Fine, buy yourself a Mac and generate you're own SPEC scores. No one is stopping you, including Apple.

            OK, how to GET the SPEC tests?!

            AFIAK you need about $3000 membership just to get the entire test suite that they use. Not worthwhile to just post some relevant numbers about someone else's product.

            Besides, I doubt that that person would want to buy a Mac as they seem solidly convinced that they don't perform as well as claimed when properly comparing the performance.
            • by RevAaron ( 125240 ) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `noraaver'> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @06:30PM (#2922333) Homepage
              Besides, I doubt that that person would want to buy a Mac as they seem solidly convinced that they
              don't perform as well as claimed when properly comparing the performance.


              I know very well that my iBook with a 500 MHz G3 doesn't perform the same as a 1 GHz P4. However, raw performance is definately not the most important thing in a computer. What matters is that I can do what I want to do. This requirement encompasses an adequate speed, naturally. However, I'm not willing to sacrifice the ability to what I want to do in the way I want to do it in order to gain MHz bragging rights, getting stuck running Linux or (eek) Windows. Some people seem to have other priorities, tyo each her own.

          • by ToLu the Happy Furby ( 63586 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @06:51PM (#2922436)
            Ok, you have several misconceptions about the relationship of IBM's PowerX line to IBM and Moto's Gx line. Simply put, they have extremely little in common besides the fact that they both use their own (incompatible) supersets of the PowerPC ISA.

            That $100,000 cost is fairly meaningless, since there is an extreme markup on server hardware, and the chip isn't in mass production...I'd venture to say that it can be mass-produced cheaper than P4, as I'll bet it has a lower gate count.

            Yes and no. Sure the HPC market where the Power4 currently plays has huge markups and very low production volumes...but that also means designs which could not possibly be cost effective in the desktop market. A single Power4 multi-chip module contains 4 2-way CMP dies, 256-bit interconnect between each pair of dies, and, oh yeah, a measely 128MB of eDRAM.

            Each one of the 4 dies takes up 400mm^2 on a .18um process. (Compare to 217mm^2 for the P4 on .18um, 145mm^2 on .13um. "Lower gate count" my ass.) The process is copper and SOI, which are quite a bit more expensive and lower-yielding in the case of SOI than the P4's bulk aluminum process on .18um. The ceramic substrate the thing sits in probably costs IBM considerably more than the cost of a new iMac.

            G5 will essentially be this architecture.

            The G5 is an upcoming 32-bit embedded chip made by Motorola (like the G4 and G4+), and does not resemble the (64-bit) Power4's internal architecture in the slightest. Whether this chip will be the basis of the next generation of Macs is of course not yet known.

            The 1 GHz G4+ that powers the current generation of Macs would probably score about the same as the R14k on SPEC, or a bit lower

            Please cite some reference to support this (wild in my opinion) claim.

            Because Apple does not have the integrity (nor, according to the oft-repeated excuse, the FORTRAN compiler) to submit SPEC runs for a G4-based computer, there are no official SPEC scores for the G4. However, we do have Motorola's *estimated* *SPEC95* scores for the 7450 (a.k.a. G4+) at 733MHz. (Here [motorola.com], second page, on the left.)

            They are 32.1/23.9, SPEC95 int/fp. By comparison, a 400MHz R12k (best I could find for SPEC95; it is an old benchmark after all) scores 24.2 [spec.org]/43.5 [spec.org] SPEC95 int/fp; 25% worse on int, and 82% better on fp.

            That same 400MHz R12k scores 347/343 on SPEC2k int/fp. (Sorry, but no more links; the scores are all available at www.spec.org) Assuming equivalent SPEC95-to-SPEC2k ratios (a faulty assumption, but then again we're using estimated scores in the first place), we get our 733MHz G4+ scoring 460/188(!!) on SPEC2k int/fp.

            For a scaling factor we'll use the Coppermine PIII, since it has SPEC2k scores available for both 733MHz and 1GHz configs. 1GHz is 22%/16% faster than 733MHz at SPEC2k int/fp. (If you repeat my calcs, be sure to use the 1 GHz PIII scores using the same compiler version as the 733MHz scores.) So applying that to our "estimated" SPEC2k scores for 733MHz G4+, we get even-more-estimated SPEC2k scores of 563/219 for a 1GHz G4+.

            So, a decent spot (32%) better than the 500MHz R14k at int, and a significant bit (53%) worse at fp. Plus the CPU in the new SGI Graphics Fuel can be up to 600MHz and uses DDR and not SDRAM like the one I got the scores from.

            So...hope that helped.

            Re: the Power4 SPEC scores(Also this was a single-CPU system, so I don't think it was a multi-CPU module.)

            SPEC2k is single-threaded. The score was obtained using a 4-way Power4 "Turbo" module with 3 of the cores "turned off". The rather sneaky thing is this gave the remaining core access to all 128MB L3, which means the SPEC score probably overstates single-threaded performance a bit.

            What makes you think that Power4 technology won't make it's way into desktop chips? IBM manufactures desktop PowerPC chips as well, and certainly shows no sign of giving up on PowerPC in general. There have recently been rumors of Apple switching from Motorola to IBM for it's chips...we'll see what happens.

            Power4 is simply not a desktop chip design. Even using one of the 4 dies in the MCM as the basis for a desktop CPU is a shakey proposition, since they're too big (again, 400mm^2 on .18um), and include a bunch of integrated I/O stuff and the L3 TLBs, all stuff which would be worthless in a desktop machine. The actual datapaths are quite simple, and indeed are optimized to work in an 8-way MCM, not as the sole CPU of a desktop machine.

            Of course, it may be quite likely that Apple turns to IBM instead of Motorola for the next generation of Mac CPUs (especially as it looks somewhat likely that Moto will exit the semi business in the coming year). But it will not look anything like a Power4.
    • by AMuse ( 121806 ) <slashdot-amuse&foofus,com> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @03:49PM (#2921394) Homepage
      This machine will not cut the mustard in those areas - it's just too damn slow.

      I have to disagree. I work for a government research center who is still running some Indys and Challenge S series machines for some applications. The scientists there are worried less about speed, typically, and more about stability and function.

      Speed is good, but increased function is even more important, and above all else it had better NOT crash on day 13 of a 14 day modeling operation.
      • *Any* unix system should work for more than 14 days. I know a linux system will. I know a BSD system will, and I know a SunOs system will. I
        also know an SGI system will.

        The point I'm making is that uptime of less than a year is hardly news. The fact that you have paid an enormous amount of money for something does *not* guarantee it will be proportionatly better in its service than 'el cheapo' replacement, at least not in this environment.

        I used to work for the MOD (the equivalent of the US DARPA). We used to have SGI onyx's for our simulations, and life was good. We also had PC's running linux, and life was equally good. There were a few sun's, but because everything else was just as reliable, but got the job done faster, the Suns were marginalised. I could be less subtly about this, but I don't feel like it :-))

        ATB,
        Simon.
  • Good to see that SGI is still retaining some idea of what makes them great - I look at my little Indy, and when it was built, and wonder what would have happened if they had kept it up.

    OT - does anybody know of a Irix UG near Wichita, KS?
  • Price/Performance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:24PM (#2920794)
    Disclaimer. I spent the last three years working daily on an SGI Octane. I loved it and turned down several offers to "upgrade" to a Windows based system that in real terms was faster. SGI makes excellent systems which are by and large great to work with.

    This new system looks great but unless I was trapped by some particular piece of software I still could never cost justify buying one. $12000+? Sorry. Even presuming that the real world performance is significantly ahead of a high end Pentium system (which I doubt) it's still more expensive, especially once you factor in the service contracts. Those will add several thousand a year. Not to mention that a "well equiped" version will cost much more in all likelyhood.

    SGI makes great machines but as a business they are in a teeny-tiny little market niche that is being eroded far too quickly by commodity hardware. They manage to keep ahead for the super high end stuff but that never leaves much room to grow. Frankly I'm mildly astonished the company is doing as well as it is.

    I'd love to play around with one of these new Fuel systems but I doubt I'll ever have the chance. There just are too few cases where anyone could justify buying one. Sad really...
  • Last hurrah for SGI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PoiBoy ( 525770 ) <brian@poi h o l d ings.com> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:24PM (#2920801) Homepage
    This looks like a great machine for its intended markets, but one still has to ask the most relevant question: how much longer will SGI last?

    I'm not about to enter the SGI vs. Linux vs. Mac debate; look no further than the company's own stock price. Back in September the stock hit a low of $0.31 per share, though it has made impressive gains in recent months due to potential government contracts.

    Even in the great technology spending spree of the late 1990's SGI languished far behind everyone else. The company has lost money each quarter since at least 1999, the company is expected to show a net loss for the fiscal year ending in June, and the June 03 year is expected to be breakeven at best. Currently only four analysts follow the stock; jokes about the usefulness of analysts aside, 3 have it rated a hold and 1 has an outright sell.

    How much longer will SGI survive. The technology is great, but can they pay the bills?

    • There isn't really an SGI vs. Linux, SGI is working with Linux all they can. They have given us XFS, and much excellent info for integrating Linux with SGI. Heck, when I called SGI support a couple weeks ago re: issues with IRIX connecting to Linux NFS servers, he kept helping me even after we determined the problem was mostly on the Linux side.

      SGI is very plugged in when it comes to open source and Linux. I wouldn't be totally surprised to see SGI try a last ditch effort as a Linux vendor after selling off hardware divisions, if they can afford to do that.
  • sweet design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_rev_matt ( 239420 ) <slashbot@revmat[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:25PM (#2920816) Homepage
    SGI has always had incredible design sensibility. I like the logic of "If you pay a crapload of money for a workstation, it should look really cool". Outside of Apple, SGI is the only company that has a computer that people LOOK at and think "I want THAT on my desk".

    And of course the speed and power don't hurt...
  • I wonder why they went with 10k RPM drives, when 15k RPM drives are readily available and in use today. Working with large graphics, animations, etc it seems like there would be alot of saving and reading from the disk, enough that it would be worth it. Also, it says it has space for up to three drives, but doesn't mention any sort of hardware-based RAID feature.
    • Also, it says it has space for up to three drives, but doesn't mention any sort of hardware-based RAID feature.

      Because one of those three drives is the system drive. You can only do striping or mirroring with two disks, and the OS supports both of those in software through XVM or XLV. There's basically no reason to have internal hardware RAID.

      This coupled with the fact that no SGI system has ever had internal hardware RAID. It seems that the customers aren't exactly clamoring for it.
  • by Uttles ( 324447 ) <[uttles] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:27PM (#2920825) Homepage Journal
    Single MIPS® 64-bit R14000A processor, 500 MHz with 2MB L2 cache or 600 MHz with 4MB L2 cache; 200 MHz front-side bus

    OMG! Like, for real? Only 600 Mhz max? What kind of slack ass company makes a computer that slow these days? These people are totally lame! {/SARCASM}

    Sorry for the trolling guys, hopefully some of you find it funny. I just thought I'd do my impersonation of 75% of the readers when they evaluate Macintosh specs. Anyway, happy modding!
    • Megahertz might be a myth, but benchmarks [google.com] show that a P4 whips an R14K. On SpecFP, a 2 GHz P4 gets around 714, while a 500MHz R14K gets 436. Sure, it performs more than half as well at 1/4 the clock-speed, but it still performs only half as well and at much more than twice the cost. Single proc SGI's are worth nothing. Once you get into multi-proc machines, where the superior SGI bus architectures start to be effective, then you have something.
      Of course, there is the Alpha, still whopping ass after all these years, that no mainstream UNIX vendor uses. Why???
    • But that doesn't seem to stop Compaq and HP from "betting their prospective companies" on IA64, even if it is a dog and they've sold about twelve of them last year...

      MHz isn't everything (as Mac people can attest), but I would still like to see SGI start making PC video cards and their own Linux.

      ...or at least buy NVidia.

  • It looks like SGI is going to give a Fuel workstation away on Feb 27th to... someone that actually deserves one! Check out the "IRIX Innovation Zone"

    http://www.sgievents.com/developer2002/ [sgievents.com]

    Time to dig out some old, fun OpenGL code... and maybe gcc too (http://freeware.sgi.com)

  • Of Course IRIX Only (Score:5, Informative)

    by irix ( 22687 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:33PM (#2920869) Journal
    CmdrTaco writes:

    I only see IRIX listed

    That's becuase this is their latest MIPS system, not some x86 box. Despite some progress [sgi.com], Linux does not really run on SGI MIPS boxes. And some of us like IRIX just fine, thank you :-)

    • And some of us like IRIX just fine, thank you :-)

      Now, I've used Irix before in my daily job (only for about 6 months, though), and I've known at least 3 others that have used it or still use it for work. The key being that we were all essentially forced to use it. I'm not completely dogging Irix, I guess I just never found a reason to like it. It served its purpose decently and only occasionally gave me real problems, but I was still elated when everyone was moved from the SGI machines to x86 machines running Linux (oddly enough, because of management concerns regarding SGI's future).
  • by The Man ( 684 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:38PM (#2920897) Homepage
    all the people who have never used an SGI give their pet theories about how much faster a[n] {Athlon|AthlonXP|Pentium3|Pentium4|Xeon|...} is than the R14k because of {clock speed|pipelines|RAMBUS|...}. *sigh* The SGI is fast. The CPU is fast. The graphics are REALLY fast. The system bus architecture...well, go read SGI's white papers. No PC can compete. Never has, never will. Get over yourselves and recognize that, although the SGI is better than any PC ever made, the price/performance ratio is not so good. Which means that it's not a standard desktop workstation, and sure enough when you look at their target applications list you won't see "word processing" or "web browsing." Imagine that, a machine not targetted at people who read slashdot all day...

    The machine is nice, SGI makes a fine product, and with renewed violence on the part of the US military they have some chance of being solvent again in the near future. So relax, enjoy looking at a beautiful product you will never be able to afford, and don't be so jealous.

  • SGI has been slowly collapsing like flan on a cupboard for the past 6 years. They haven't achieved much other than injecting their necrotic agent into once-successful companies like Cray, MIPS and others they have absorbed throughout the years. They are overly-diversified and unfocused, which a pathetic excuse for a new workstation won't help.
  • by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:41PM (#2920921)
    I will not let SGI sit on their laurels. They will have to prove to me that it is worth 4x money for the applications that me and my clients run.

    I have one scientist I support. I told him that the p4 was some hot computing (in more ways than one). He put his app on it. His $5k linux machine (dual p4) outran his dual R10k (might have been 12k, can't remember) but 4x. Some might say "Well, ya...that's such an old box". I'll say that it has to last longer because it cost $60k! Not to mention the memory upgrade prices.

    There comes a point with the hardware were it is cheaper to get a programmer to optimize your app for a linux machine, or to buy a compiler that can fake out your 32 bit box into doign 64 bit-ish instructions.
  • Alot of animators have switched to win2000 based workstations with maya and the like, and linux based render farms. The workstations are alot cheaper and perform better than the sgi equivelants, and the render farms are MUCH MUCH cheaper than sgi's equivelant massive multi-cpu workhorse systems.
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:47PM (#2920957) Homepage Journal

    I think it's getting to be evident that the traditional UNIX RISC workstation vendors are having a hard time keeping their CPUs not only on the price/performance curve, but on the performance curve itself.

    The MIPS chip is battling uphill, just like the UltraSPARC III against competitive offerings like the 2.2 GHz Northwood P4 and the AMD Athlon XP 2000.

    I respect SGI for it's history of graphics expertise and devotion to producing quality hardware, but like many others I have to ask the hard question:

    Is what I'm getting in this desktop workstation worth the difference in price with, say, an HP x4000 running Linux with a Wildcat 5110?
    For some people, it probably is worth the extra money. But I think that target market is constantly shrinking.

    SGI has hemorrhaged some good people, money, and their 3D patent portfolio (to MS recently). They can ill afford to come up with any product less than a perfect bullseye at this stage of the game. I fear this is not it.

  • It's Badass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Octane23 ( 555021 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:50PM (#2920982)
    Ok people, let's get some things straight. First off, this is a _workstation_ so discussing it's use as a node in a render farm is kind of pointless, unless you use the 'free cpu in the office' model that some companies favor. Yes, x86 boxes are better for batch rendering. That's cool. It means that you can throw a lot of cheap hardware at a labor intensive process. Yippe.

    Since this is a workstation, it's primary usage in the post production industry would be as a modeling or editing station, like the Octane/Octane2. Actually, looking at the specs, this looks like an "Octane lite." Note that in the expansion section they do not mention available XIO slots, so no HD (snowball) cards for this puppy. As for the lack of UMA mentioned by another poster, UMA was only ever available on the O2 and x86 visual workstations. Using the system memory for texture is good for CAD applications, but not so good for the real time manipulation of textures needed by Maya or Discreet's compositing applications. Note that the stock graphics are VPro V10 - pretty badass. Personally, I have a V6 in My Octane2. In short, this is an R14k single proc Octane, with no XIO, not too sure about the backplane, as there do not seem to be any fuel related docs up on techpubs yet. For 1/2 the price of an Octane2, this seems like a pretty good deal to me.

    Now, as for the clock cycles. Please. Hasn't the recent AMD vs intel clock cycle mess taught you people anything? Clock Cycles !=speed. I mean really, this is not a box to play quake on. This is a box to design quake on. =)

    Finally, on a personal note, I think it's pretty amusing that they have returned to the Crimson color scheme.

    Good work all around lads, glad to see that there are still enough good people at sgi to get this kind of box out the door. I think that this box is a good mid range system, right between the O2 and the Octane.

    • In short, this is an R14k single proc Octane, with no XIO, not too sure about the backplane, as there do not seem to be any fuel related docs up on techpubs yet.

      I have a PowerPoint that I don't think I can redistribute, but the info in it isn't secret any more.

      Think Origin 300 for Fuel's internals. The CPU is connected to the Bedrock ASIC (memory controller and system crossbow) via a 200 MHz 64-bit FSB (1.6 GB per second). The Bedrock interfaces to the RAM over a 200 MHz DDR bus (3.2 GB per second) and to the XBridge, which is another crossbow and protocol translator.

      XBridge interfaces to the graphics board, which has a new type of interface that's sort of like a cross between XIO and PCI. It's proprietary, and it's 1.6 GB per sec.

      XBridge also interfaces to the two external PCI busses-- one 64 bit/33 MHz with two slots, and one 64 bit/66 MHz with two slots. Also, XBridge connects the internal stuff like the serial ports, Ethernet, internal SCSI bus, and so on.

      This is exactly the same internal architecture used in the Origin/Onyx 300 and Origin/Onyx 3000.
    • It's Octane Lite for the mostpart, however...

      The backplane, etc is much faster. Where Octane/Octane2 is based on Origin 2000 tech, Fuel is based on Origin 3000. Fuel RAM is 3.2 GB/sec (Octane is 1.0 GB/sec). Fuel CPU interface is twice as fast. Fuel crossbar switch latencies are about half as long.

      Octane is a fully loaded 18-wheeler semi traveling down the highway. Fuel is the same semi, with a smaller trailer, and some aftermarket racing tweaks.

      Fuel uses a single, flat board with perpendicular expansion cards... somewhat PC (or Sun Blade 1000) like. There is one XIO interface and that's used for graphics, but the physical connector is not traditional XIO.
    • Re:It's Badass (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nusuth ( 520833 ) <oooo_0000us@NospAm.yahoo.com> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @04:04PM (#2921497) Homepage
      Now, as for the clock cycles. Please. Hasn't the recent AMD vs intel clock cycle mess taught you people anything?

      Well I already knew that before the mess but recent wars between intel and amd has tought me something which most of the people don't seem to get: with enough competition between two strong componies, a product line can evolve to unimaginable heights. The x86 line is fast, so fast that they make everything else seem ridiculously slow or ridiculously expensive or both. The x86s were not designed to be one size fits all, but it turned out they came to be just that.

      One can buy a dedicated super-computer for 1000X the price and 100X the power, or a computer 3X the price 2X the power but noone in their right minds should buy a computer 2X the power with a 10X higher cost. Instead one would buy two x86s and match the power or buy five of them and do some weird stuff!

      Price/Performance doesn't get in the way if you cannot get the performace you want no matter the price on an alternative platform. Older SGIs were expensive too, but they are one of the few computers that could cut it. You couldn't just buy a hundered 486s and expect same performace. This just doesn't happen anymore except for supercomputers. Current x86s are very fast that there is no offering in the Or perhaps this post is offtopic, as benchmarks quoted here show that fastest single x86s are faster than R14 already.

    • Re:It's Badass (Score:2, Informative)

      by sootman ( 158191 )
      I mean really, this is not a box to play quake on.

      Yes it is: http://www.sgi.com/fun/freeware/games.html

      :-)

  • Am I the only one who thinks a 600mhz CPU w/4mb of L2 cache can smoke a 1+ghz x86/POW whatever w/32/128k of cache? And it really does 64bits, not just considers it, yippy! If any body read the article these are for front-end workstations, NOT render farms. Yes the big guns in hollywood use Linux for render farms, but the workstations are still SGI. Why, becuase PC's still suck at COMPLEX 3D. They are getting better, but they are still ghugging on stuff an SGI whips through (higher data throughput and bus speed mean A LOT!) Besides, why would you spend 10 grand on a high-end graphics station and use it for a render farm? You'd never use the graphics capabilities in a render farm, that's 100% CPU crunching. You gotta love those HUGE mips CPU's. You could make a really cool toaster(for bread not video) with a couple R5000's stuck side by side! Thank god SGI stopped making those stupid NT boxes with the reversed PCI slots and custom memory! Let's hope they didn't integrate the graphics on the Mboard this time. A company I worked for actually bought a bunch of SGI 320's in '99. And when the company went bust 10 months later, we all got $5,000 unupgradable paper weights as a consolation prize.
  • PCI has been available for Octanes and O2s for quite some time - externally. And they've had a better bus for everything integrated for quite some time too. All you get, in terms of PCI, with this system is an internal card cage.

  • It's too bad they don't have a processor like this [broadcom.com] MIPS-based processor. 600MHz is pretty slow, even for MIPS.

    Apparently the above processor is becomming popular for areas other than networking, its intended market.

    -Aaron
  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @03:14PM (#2921176) Homepage
    First of all, the Fuel workstation is sort of a cool new evolution... it uses the existing V10 and V12 graphics from Octane2, and the chipset from a single Origin 3000 node. This means instant software compatibility and one hell of an awesome base to run future graphics and CPU offerings. Compared to a single CPU Octane2... Fuel has *half* the latency, *3.2x* the RAM thruput, and *twice* the CPU interconnect thruput. And it run the same OS and the same apps. All for about 1/3 to about 1/2 the price. Sounds like a pretty resonable update to me. And an Octane2 ain't too shabby for real-time interactive apps, either. If you haven't already, find one to play with. A VPro-based Octane running IRIX 6.5.12 or newer is a 3D beast, and yet rock solid stable. Even makes for one hell of an uncompressed, realtime HD video solution, if you can afford the RAID and HD interface. I've never seen a PC or Mac HD solution come even close to Octane2. And Fuel is that much better...

    Folks run IRIX for HD video editing, effects compositing, and 3D modeling for a reason -- it works and it doesn't have the "crap out" effect when working under a huge load. Sure the CPUs in an SGI aren't extremely powerful, but that doesn't matter much -- it's the crossbar switch architecture (Octane/Octane2 is based on Origin 2000, Fuel is based on Origin 3000) and wide busses that make the difference. Batch jobs and long haul rendering is all done on a farm of cheap PC's anyway (unless you're ILM, which owns six Origin 2000s, each with 128 CPUs).

    Secondly, SGI is coming up with some way cool graphics offerings. In my opinion, the new Onyx InfinitePerformance graphics is bigger news than the new workstation:http://www.sgi.com/visualization/onyx/ 3000/ip/tech_info.html [sgi.com].

    SGI screwed up big time in the past, but they're working on fixing the situation. They can't do everything at once, but they're working as hard as they can. They're a pretty wide spread company. Hell, they even own Alias-Wavefront (ever heard of Maya?). They're doing some other cool things, too. Their developer program is now free to commercial developers, but hobbyists with a real project are invited as well in a case-by-case basis. They're even giving away a Fuel workstation at the SGI Global Developer Conference next month. And it's not just a drawing, either. The winner of the machine will be a hobbyist with an attendee-voted best project. Very, very cool stuff.

    http://www.sgi.com/developers [sgi.com]
    http://www.sgievents.com/developer2002/ [sgievents.com]
    • What kind of video editing software runs on these systems, and how much does it cost?

      I still think Irix is the most usable of any X-Windows environment, but it's beginning to show its age. Have they considered tweaking it a bit so it's not so Motif-like?

      I still use an Indigo2 R10000 at home. It sure was easy to buy at $400-odd.

      D
    • it's the crossbar switch architecture

      It's my impression that the Althlons and P4s are crossbar switch systems. It may not have as many routes - DECpaq called them "D" chips or something like that. Of course, the number and type of such crossbar switches do have an effect on the ability to move data swiftly.

      Am I wrong?
  • No audio, huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Emil Brink ( 69213 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @03:17PM (#2921199) Homepage
    One thing that immediately struck me when browsing the tech specs, was that the only mention of audio was this:
    Digital Audio Through USB ports
    Now, I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with this, but SGI workstations are known for their great audio capabilities. Even the humble O2 [sgi.com] has 8-channel 24-bit ADAT optical audio I/O; that's quite something! It seems SGI has decided that this level of audio support is no longer desired, though... Too bad. I'm not sure if USB can be pushed to support this; at 48kHz sampling rate, 8 channels of 24-bit audio requires a minimum of 9 Mbps of bandwidth, which is less than the 12 Mbps theoretical maximum. *Shrug*. Of course, there's PCI slots, but having it integrated was very convenient. And cool, too.
  • I applaud SGI for finally releasing a new high end graphics workstation.

    Other readers claim that this machine is "too slow" compared to current technical capabilities. This may be due to the fact that in the 80's, SGI machines were much faster than commodity systems, percentagewise, than they are now. I believe, however, that this SGI machine is just right for science, government, and media, just as SGI claim. My belief is that such organizations have a complete computing environment, so to speak, in the form of a network. Although the enthusiast, such as many Slashdot readers, likes to install fancy shmancy computers on a network for the "power trip", I believe that in a serious workplace environment, every machine on a network has a defined purpose. This SGI workstation fits perfectly in such an environment, where most tasks take place on back-end server machines, leaving the workstation free to process the user's application and display high quality graphics. Besides that, don't forget that SGI's systems offer services and reliability not found on your typical Dell running Windows. Speed isn't the only reason for buying an SGI machine.

    Well; that's a deep subject.

  • by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <doug&opengeek,org> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @04:08PM (#2921524) Homepage Journal
    They have lowered the bar for entry for many people who could use an Octane, but don't need the higher end options avaliable. This machine combined with their O300 scalable server line and the new VizServer products will open a lot of new doors for SGI. They are working very hard at improving price / performance and it shows in this product as well as their O300 line of machines currently shipping.

    For those doing the MHZ thing while bitching about the price, forget it. This is a visual workstation. For those doing modeling, imaging, MCAD, and other graphical tasks, Fuel is hard to beat. There are things that even older IRIX machines do easily that give todays PC the fits. I use them all the time and they are worth what you pay for stability, long life, and capability.

    Think of it this way also: You will now be able to get re-maunfactured Octane machines, with very good GFX systems for a lot cheaper in the next coming months. Given the very long life of these machines, that can only be a good thing.

    These attributes are what holistic design gives you. Sure the price is higher, but you do get exactly what you pay for... For an example, look at Apple. Say what you want, but they are doing very well while copying what SGI has always done for years. Slowly the 'market' (read: masses) are beginning to figure out that this approach has long term value.

    Basically you almost never throw an SGI machine away. When used for one of the specialized tasks they are built for, they continue to be useful long after they should be.

    A little off topic, but look at Apple machines and realize that they will be good for making DVDs a long time from now. 5 years from now an older G4 with the DVD drive will still have nice value because it gets the DVD tasks done right. This is how SGI machines have almost always been.

    So pay more now, but if the purchase actually reflects the strengths of the machine, you pay a hell of a lot less later.

    There is more coming this year I'll bet, it should be an interesting one for SGI!
  • by nomadic ( 141991 )
    If SGI really wants to dominate a market, they should sell PC cases...I know I'd spend a hell of a lot of money on something that cool-looking.
  • For a company who has a main focus of large-scale parallel processing, I find it funny that they describe their graphics processor as "unparalleled"
    ("the unparalleled VProTM 3D graphics system for IRIX®")
  • by halfelven ( 207781 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @06:53PM (#2922440)
    Well, it's not the first time Slashdot misses the point. :-( SGI didn't released just the Fuel workstation today. In fact, that the smallest and most insignificant part of their announcement.
    The actual announcement reffers to the so-called Visual Area Networking [sgi.com] - a concept that, basically, boils down to distributed visualising and data processing over a network.
    With VAN, a user can interact with an InfinitePerformance supercomputer (usually an Onyx 3000 with several hundred processors), let the big iron do the data processing, and receive the resulting images over a network to a thin client. That "thin" client may be a Fuel workstation, a PDA, some device used by US troops to get realtime maps of the enemy positions, whatever.

    The point is, many people, working from many different locations, can work together using their thin clients, but manipulating data on the same supercomputer. I've seen some impressive demos, where two people were immersed into the same VR environment, and were manipulating objects on the same scene, at the same time, over the network. Given the fact that the scene was not just a pure graphical computer-games scene, but an actual simulation with real physical laws and everything, that was pretty damn cool.

    I tried to submit the actual story, but it was rejected. Instead, Slashdot caught this ridiculous story about "yet another workstation from SGI". Come on people, get real...

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