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Silicon Graphics

SGI behind Linux: it's official 45

Cornel Ciocîrlan writes "SGI announced yesterday that it will support Linux as its fourth operating system. The press release talks about contributions to the open-source community in the area of high-performance file systems, OpenGL, high-bandwidth I/O, compilers and other scalability features. "
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SGI behind Linux: it's official

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The SGI press release speaks much of interoperability. The question is
    what mechanisms they intend to employ to those ends. The only thing
    specifically mentioned is their official support for Samba. While this
    is a Good Thing, it is important to remember that Samba is, at its base,
    a mechanism for providing interoperability on one specific vendor's
    terms: Microsoft's.

    If SGI is truly interested in pushing interoperability, what they ought
    to be pushing, IMO, is open-standards, cross-platform interoperability
    mechanisms such as CORBA, Java and LDAP.
  • Ok lets face it, obviously most of you reading this are younger and NOT working in LARGE hardware manufacturers shops. Good software that scales well and is robust takes a hell of a lot of time.
    SGI is probably hard at work porting stuff.
    I see from a few web sites that the 320 VW runs
    linux 2.2.5 pretty good. ^_^

    Lets face it, Linux is NOT ready for serious
    HARD CORE production work at the same level as the
    Solaris's and Irix's of this world. A few examples you say? Async IO. I wouldn't bother
    with databases until this happens in the kernel.
    Sgi(should this be capatilized now?) or IBM could
    bring this to the table. No journaled LARGE file
    support. ext2fs and xiafs,et al are all well and good, but something like SGI's new cxfs would
    be absolutely phenomenal for beowulfs!! clustered
    file systems are the future. Especially with
    larger sites moving to SAN and failsafe solutions.

    "But XXX!" you say. "There are plenty of places
    using Linux in production work!" Yes, but where is the money for an IBM or an SGI? SGI's big install base was the Indigo2. A kickass desktop 10 years ago. Now they do scalable FAST servers and cling to the remnants of super-computing, while trying to revive the low end with NT and Linux. No margin, what value-add with a linux
    box? Has sgi EVER been easily affordable?

    Sgi has a lot of cool products I'd LOVE to see
    go OpenSource. (performer, cxfs,failsafe,nqe,
    4dwm,etc... But I bet we'll only see older
    versions like xfs instead of cxfs. That'll still
    rock! Sgi backed out of selling the secrets of
    Cellular Irix to Mr. Gates & co. perhaps
    they'll bring decent SMP and excellent scalability. (ala' ASCII Blue Mountain anyone?)
    They are planning 256p machine sales now. Why
    not make their future clusters on Intel with Linux? Granted a lot of kernel work will have to
    go on again.

    A buddy of mine sez that the first Linux only
    boxes from SGI are ALREADY out in the field!!
    the 1400L or somthing. IBM is still trying to
    get their first linux only up and going...
    And where is SUN and HP?

    And yes I do know WAY more about this then I'm saying, but I am covered by a DEC, an AT&T, a
    SUN and SGI non-disclosure agreements. This stuff
    is all public or conjecture.

    A unix guy..
  • Is anyone thinking about an "Enterprise Linux Distribution?

    I wouldn't hold your breath. Linux is largely developed by volunteers, many of them college students (and most of the rest under 30). I seriously doubt any of them can afford to buy a Cray to play around with in their spare time.
  • Posted by OGL:

    Question: what's stopping SGI (or anyone else for that matter) from enhancing Linux? I can't think of any reason why a cxfs patch wouldn't be integrated into the kernel proper.

  • by jabbo ( 860 )
    Well, yeah, but then the FreeBSD guys believe that all the SysV folks will See The Light and switch to a simpler (but nonstandard) initialization sequence.

    Again, the world keeps spinning. The great thing is that with Linux, we can pick up after SGI, fix the bugs, and still have a better system than when it started. I don't really think that the BSD folks would mind that, either, if SGI wanted to use FreeBSD or NetBSD as the in-house OS of choice.

    There's a lot that I hate(d) about Irix, and when I saw the CERT advisory about "4dgifts" and other unpassworded default accounts I decided that security wasn't top priority on Irix.

    Still, their I/O has always been top notch. If we can have better, fully reentrant I/O in Linux and ditch the crufty old bits of Irix, why not?

    Incidentally, the crabby old men are usually right, as I'm sure you were implying. But sometimes they don't see the big picture.

  • by jabbo ( 860 ) < minus berry> on Tuesday May 18, 1999 @04:16AM (#1888588)
    >>...if SGI decides to hold close it's dead IRIX >>technology the community will lose a very good
    >>scalable operating system.

    With sieve-like security and a tiny user base. I used to use Irix and loved it, but come on... the world keeps on spinning. Cellular Irix will probably show up on the ultra-high-end; go get yerself a O2K, maaan. As for the midrange, who cares? Linux scales as well as Irix on an O2...

    I'm overjoyed that SGI is bringing in the heavy I/O artillery for Linux. Unless you really despise all us unwashed Linux users, you should be too. AOL will probably be enough (by themselves) to drive Irix *support*, but maybe not *development*, especially on the low end. (AOL runs AOLserver on O2Ks with Sybase as the main backend; they're keeping all 3 of these in business by my estimation ;-))

    Incidentally, Irix goes to 128-way on the big CC-NUMA systems. It effortlessly did 20-way on our (straight SMP) Onyx when I was at Cornell... I don't disagree that it rules, but try explaining that to a PHB that thinks GUI hooks in a server OS kernel are Modern.

    They OSS'ed OpenVault, why wouldn't they do the same (or similar) with XFS? Well, methinks they may take the opportunity to engineer something better. I went and bought the Be book on Filesystem Design when I realized the level of flexibility the VFS gives you. It's pretty cool.

    Anyways, SGI == I/O and we should all rejoice. The chances of NT retaining a lead in brute-force I/O (which is a big, big hangup for Linux in the scalability/multithreaded department) should now be slim-to-none. Hah, Hah... and we all thought SGI had sold out. Maybe they just pulled an IBM.

    Long Live SGI.

  • Oh well, even though they're not announcing it, I guess we should assume that IRIX is officially dead.

    If they didn't officially announce it, why should anyone assume this? I mean, given the MIPS processor line has been extended at least through the R14000?

    Personally, I prefer IRIX to Linux. Free or not.
  • According to the press release, they are moving technology from UNICOS to Irix, so I guess Irix is not _quite_ dead yet, but it might be reserved for high-end systems.
  • They are not porting Irix to IA-32 (x86), which was NT only and is now also Linux, but they intend to have all 3 of them on the IA-64 (Merced).

    Makes sense. Apparently one of the main reasons that they don't just port IRIX to IA32 is that they want to take advantage of all sorts of 64 bit stuff in IRIX, and porting to a 32 bit platform now would disturb that.

    I wouldn't discount IRIX yet. Let's see how it does on IA64/Merced/McKinley. Could well beat Linux, since gcc is likely to suck on IA64.

  • EEK!!

    I'm working on moving away from them currently.
    try fingering my account sometime. Only time i've ever seen a load balance of 16 on a Unix machine. Before that, the highest I'd seen was a 6.0 on a heavily used mailhub/proxy server/Netscape Calendar server at my old job.

    Not to mention that when I dial into the World, I get 500ms ping times to When I access the internet in any other way, I get 100ms or less. The server responds quick unless you're directly connected to it. :/
  • I tried traceroute, but it didn't help.
    I was dailing into the server, so it showed 1 hop.
    Someone suggested it could be whatever is connecting the modems to the server itself.
  • IRIX and Solaris are the only serious scalable UNIXen on the market.

    Not quite. DG/UX scales to 128 processors, and I believe Dynix/ptx and NCR's Unix are similar in that respect. Sure, none of them are major players in the Unix world, but they certainly do scale.

    Oh, and isn't OS/390 technically classed as Unix these days? :-)

  • Modern filesystems are extremely complex. Once I put together a very simple filesystem -- one less complicated even than DOS's FAT -- and it was a *nightmare* to write. Implementing extensible files, process synchronization and caching dealing directly with inodes and raw sectors makes for some very ugly code.

    If a new filesystem is very similar to an old one that is already in the kernel, things are much easier as quite a lot of code can be reused. Howevre, if cxfs is a journaling system (I don't know too much about it), then we are almost starting over.

    I imagine that putting cxfs support into the Linux kernel would be a Big Deal. SGI would have to open source a lot of IRIX code that presumably cost them a great deal to develop, or there would have to be an extremely large Linux development effort.

    If we are lucky, SGI will decide that Linux really needs a cutting edge, high performance (better than ext2fs), file system and that they might as well just give us the filesystem code out of IRIX.
    One way or the other, I'm liking SGI more and more.

  • R12000 is out
    R14000 is on the way

    The interesting stuff (Beast) was killed,
    but I pray they'll resume as:

    1. Merced is delayed
    2. EPIC will show how wasteful of resources it is

    SGI/MIPS has always shown how it is not just about
    MHz. There's one very good BINARY COMPATIBLE opportunity open:

    a THREADED processor

    Of course, for O2K/Cray style machines, a low-volume, expensive VECTOR processor would
    be a better match for most nodes in most applications.
  • by maynard ( 3337 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 1999 @03:58AM (#1888597) Journal
    Oh well, even though they're not announcing it, I guess we should assume that IRIX is officially dead. If they're not porting IRIX to Intel, and they're certainly not going to continue developing their MIPS hardware line after spinning MIPS, Inc. off last year, then what's going to happen to that IRIX source tree?

    What a shame. IRIX and Solaris are the only serious scalable UNIXen on the market. HP-UX and AIX really only scale up 16 processors, Digital UNIX even less so, while IRIX and Solaris can handle a good 64 processors with a reasonable backplane. This means that if SGI decides to hold close it's dead IRIX technology the community will lose a very good scalable operating system.

    Betcha the admins over at are frowning over this... A good consolation prize might be freeing the source for XFS. Who thinks SGI might be willing to take such a drastic course of action?
  • Why does it make me nervous that all the financially troubled companies (ie. those who get beat up by MS) turn to Linux? Ok, so there's IBM and Oracle too.

    Hmmm: "The more you tighten your grip, the more they'll slip through your fingers".

    Perhaps if we all boycotted Cavedog... nah.
  • The highest I've ever seen was on a RS/6000 model
    370 doing Sendmail 8.6.x duty.. The box got up
    to a load of 160 before crashing.... Granted, it
    was because of a nasty tight script loop (which wasn't mine, honest!!) and didn't reflect a realistic situation, but lord knows if I wasn't on a 3164 I would have gotten a screenshot (had to go terminal because everything else went to shit)..

    My Linux laptop is regularly loaded > 2, but that's because it's usually doing a kernel rebuild at the same time as a KDE rebuild (or a GTK rebuild, or a wild attempt at a Mozilla build, or.... ;)

  • If SGI is truly interested in pushing interoperability, what they ought
    to be pushing, IMO, is open-standards, cross-platform interoperability
    mechanisms such as CORBA, Java and LDAP

    Several points. Corba is supported by several vendors commercial ORBs, as well as non-commercial OpenSource ORBs (Zope, et al). LDAP and crew are supported on IRIX as well, using commercial software or the LDAP software from UofM.

    Java is a moving target. This is one of the reasons that many companies have banded together to define standards for things like real time and other related technologies. It appears that the hype-meisters of the technology seem to forget that every subtle tweak, every existing standard they ignore (OpenGL, Optimizer, VRML, etc) means longer lead times to real product. Further, the API/spec d'jour is generally frustrating, and it has given Java a reputation for write many times to run everywhere.

    All that said, SGI is supporting 1.2 Java (relabeled as 2.0 by Sun).
  • check out the press release

    they're presenting a paper called:

    Scalable File Systems for the Open Source Community

    sounds like they might be open sourcing XFS [], cool!

  • My highest was around 120 on Linux on a dual 233 machine, our news server. This was all disk I/O though ... I was making INN cycbuffs (dd if=/dev/zero of=./buffer1 bs=1k count=500000) * (64 cycbuffs), set them all up and let the machine whirr for a hour or so. The system just kept chugging along til it got done. Granted, this is not an everyday experience, but it was interesting nonetheless.
  • The fonze doesn't do conga lines. But i'll tell you one thing, if sgi had any sauce, they'd start releaseing xservers with insane 3d support and not pull a mozilla and say, "here's the code guys, make it work on linux and we'll make more money from it."
  • this is really good news. it was refreshing to read a press release that mentioned more than just 'cutting edge' this and 'industry leader' that -- SGI seem to have a healthy attitude towards Open Source and hopefully we'll begin to see Linux become a realistic environment for running up a 3D workstation or Non-linear digital video suite. Some of us more graphic types would like a little more to play with than the Gimp and Xview.

    And I KNOW Bowie J. Poag gonna make some sweet Propaganda themes with a copy of Maya for Linux!
  • > I guess we should assume that IRIX is officially dead

    Or that it is really going to be relegated to high end stuff such as Origins. Linux has got quite a bit of way to go until it can do one of them justice (and NT is completely out of discussion).

    > If they're not porting IRIX to Intel, and they're certainly not going to continue developing their MIPS hardware

    They are not porting Irix to IA-32 (x86), which was NT only and is now also Linux, but they intend to have all 3 of them on the IA-64 (Merced).

    That is official, by the way, from the SGI representative who does our university.

    > What a shame. IRIX and Solaris are the only serious scalable UNIXen

    So it does seems they both will be with us for a while. Small stuff on Linux, big on Irix/Solaris. And hopefully nothing on NT :-).

  • HP-UX and AIX really only scale up 16 processors, Digital UNIX even less so,

    Golly, I guess that means the Compaq Wildfire project is in big trouble. Well, I suppose that's possible, but I would be surprised if scalability of the OS is the problem. For those not obsessive Q-watchers, Wildfire is an alleged large scale SMP Alpha box, yet to be introduced, with plans [] up to 72 processors.

    I concede the point that IRIX and Solaris have the most scalability street cred. And Wildfire is still in the labs, rather than the stores.

    ObLinux: Is there a well defined set of goals for scalability other than SMP support for large numbers of processors and not crashing (sorry NT :-)? Is anyone thinking about an "Enterprise Linux Distribution?"

  • I highly doubt that this will sound the death knell for Irix. It's a pretty powerful OS with some impressive capabilities. If anything this should help to promote the interoperability of Irix which should make it even more useful.

    I've got a server room full of Linux file servers and a small force of SGI workstations along with an Origin server and trying to get them all to work and play well together has been a chore to say the least. Which is a shame because the capabilities and engineering in these Irix machines is an asset we have not been able to fully utilize because of these interoperability issues we've fought with.

    I'm not frowning at all. I'm just hopeful this might lead to fixes for all those confounded NFS problems we've been fighting with for a few years now.

    And depending on how things work out, we might be able to breath new life into older SGIs we've got that don't run the latest and greatest OS since their processors are no longer supported by the OS.

    FYI - Irix can scale to 128 processors in an Origin. Check out for data. And they don't have backplanes anymore. They use a modular midplane system in the Origins.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"