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Silicon Graphics

SGI Visual Workstation to run Linux by Year End 57

Caballero writes "This article on news.com says that SGI will be supporting Linux on their visual workstation products by the end of the year. " The real key is that while current workstations can boot Linux, they aren't really optimized for it. SGI is putting the effort in to let Linux shine on their hardware. We hope.
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SGI Visual Workstation to run Linux by Year End

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  • I'm actually starting to wonder whether SGI's true purpose with their new line has been to use Linux as the operating system as opposed to using NT for a longer period of time...

    If the IRIX-Linux convergence runs really well, I guess we can expect to see some of the high-end animation software getting ported over to Linux. And boy would I like that!

    Ooo... Maya...
  • That's what I would really like to see. After all, BeOS is the _Media_ OS, made from the ground up with large files, multiprocessing and streaming media in mind. Video editing, rendering, and other visual effects applications using BeOS on an SGI Visual Workstation would be a hard to be combination, don't you think? Are there plans to port BeOS?

    I mean, Linux is great and all, but the only thing I think it has on BeOS in terms of suitability for multimedia type stuff is more applications and better hardware support. (And that is the same one thing that Windows has on Linux for any use.)
  • The SGI developers responsible for XFS have been very active in the kernel list, so I suspect it will work just like any other large subsystem.
  • Actually, Be, Inc. is a very easy company to work with. A year or so ago I contacted them about doing a port to the Alpha archtecture. If I'd had a real business plan, instead of being some shmo who thought it would be cool to see the BeOS running on the Alpha architecture, I'm sure Be would have let me do the port.

    If SGI contacted Be, and was willing to provide an engineer or two to help with the port, I bet Be would be more than willing to support the Visual Workstations.

    Even though I can't afford it, if the Visual Workstation ran the BeOS, I'd buy one.

  • Two words: low cost.
    Unfortunate translation: cheap.
  • On SGI's support hot line (800-800-4SGI), it already asks if you are calling about support for NT or Linux. That was a surprise.
  • Both of you are wrong. I suggest you examine the specifications on the Visual Workstations before jumping to the erroneous comclusion that they are anything like Dells or Compaqs.

    The SGI VWS outclasses anything produced by traditional PC manufacturers.
  • Posted by sUbZ3r0:

    Yeah, that would be great. But SoftImage and Maya aren't SGI's properties, and therefore the companies have to be nice and port it to Linux. Houdini will be ported to Linux, probably other companies will follow. Incertainty is the bottleneck for a lot of companies. Porting is serious business, but seeing hard- and software going in Linux's direction makes companies believe they invest in something that will last for the long term. After all, companies are commercial and will do things that they can benefit of.
  • SGI can help Linux out a great deal by providing dedicated hardware which supports some Linux nicities. First on my list would be support for full configuration via the serial port, similar to the SPARC systems from Sun.

    Of course, it's also gratifying to see another vendor promising support for IA-64. This is enough of a radical departure from IA-32 that compiler support will be very tricky. IA-64 requires the compiler to properly order the instructions in order to gain any performance over IA-32. Without a very thorough optimizer, Linux on IA-64 would likely run slower than on IA-32. Since SGI is banking on high performance, it seems likely they'll contribute to EGCS or GCC.

    I'm also looking forward to using XFS on linux. Imagine a logging filesystem with no 2GB file size limits...

  • Can we say "recode for LIntel"? Can we say "Needs a special X-server AND Windowmanager"? Sure, I knew you could...

    And, when I talked with both tech-people and development-people at Alias|Wavefront(Having worked as a trainee for them has its advantages contact-wise), their answer was that they werent intending to develop Maya or any other tools for Linux, since it isnt as standardized and united as they want it. It would be more realistic for them to port Maya for BeOS for example.

    Anders W - Inquisitor CoJ, Champion of Lady weeanna
  • Hmm,
    Don't we need special name for the Linux on SGI?
    Yes, maybe
    it may be called 'Rinux' if Linux is beneficiary,
    'ILix' in the opposite case. :)

  • Actually, Alias|Wavefront is a division of SGI, so it would make a lot of sense for them to have a Linux version - at least one that ran on the visual workstation.

    Is BeOS likely to run on the VWS at some point? If it did, I'd be a lot more interested in getting one, since Be multimedia applications (and the overall smoothness of the system) show real promise.


  • The promo material says that this thing ships with a USB keyboard and a USB mouse. How do they get them to work under NT? Anyone have one of these boxen?

    Overall, they're pretty sexy as PCs go, but nothing like other sgi boxes. :)

  • They don't talk about it too much, but I believe that SGI is funding PI in their DRI effort. Also, SGI open-sourced GLX (their layer between GL and X) back in February, as part of the effort to help Precision Insight (and everybody else) write good Linux OpenGL interfaces.

    So, I suspect that SGI is working with PI closely and will use the DRI.

  • How many will you buy if they do? :-)

    Me? Probably none -- most likely the closest thing I will do in the next two years to what this box is designed for, is some simple work in mechanical CAD, and I'm afraid, it will be an overkill.

    And unless I am terribly wrong, this box is not supposed to be a competitor for x86/alpha/sparc/ppc servers that are already present at the market. This leaves its original target -- high-performance graphics workstations, just not with NT. But to get any advantage over a thing, I can build in an hour from parts, bought in the nearest store for pennies (compared to VW cost) it better should be Really Good with graphics. Otherwise all its expensive hardware will be useless without NT, and the whole effort of porting Linux to it will give no result -- people who need a Linux box with lousy graphics (server, not-really-graphics-oriented desktop -- I am in this category) will get something else because it's cheaper, and people who need high-end graphics, at best (for you) will get VW with NT and at worst will get anything else with more standard or better supported by vendor hardware.

    OTOH if it will be something outstanding as graphics desktop with Linux, people who want high-performance graphics and unixlike OS, will have a choice other than IRIX on MIPS box, yet still produced by SGI, and with all software there.

  • Does this mean that SGI promises that at the end of this year they will have production-quality X and OpenGL with hardware acceleration support on them? Without that those boxes will be kinda pointless to use -- they are graphics-oriented workstations.

    Also is SGI going to do something to get third-party IRIX-based software ported to Linux for those boxes (developers' porting support, conversion library kits)?

  • I'd buy one in an instant if I knew it would run.

    How much effort would there be in porting something like this, since it seems to be pretty much up to Be to do it.

  • > Does this mean that SGI promises that at the end
    > of this year they will have production-quality X
    > and OpenGL with hardware acceleration support on
    > them?

    How many will you buy if they do? :-)

  • BTW, people interested in Linux on SGI hardware may want to take a look at the SGI employment page [sgi.com]. In particular, position #36505: "Linux OpenGL Software Engineer". The manager responsible for this position (it's in a group closely related to the group I'm in) is on vacation for the rest of this week, but if you're interested and have the right skills, please submit a resume now.

    Jon Leech
    SGI Core OpenGL Group

  • > Imagine Linux running 128 CPUs in the same box with a massive amount of memory.

    As Linus noted, support for more than 4 processors would add unnecessary kernel overhead for uniprocessors. I suspect SGI would include this as one of their value added features of Linux + Irix (somebody better think of a better logo for this rather than a rainbow colored penguin).

    SGI exec team are not stupid (although their marketing guys seem to be rather flat-footed), if OS innovations are being generated faster by an external group (which Linux appears to be at the moment) then it is better to harness the external momentum and build on top of it and reallocate precious staff resources to where it is really needed. Personally I would see great benefits in tuning the GNU compilers to be more aware of the underlying cache systems and their souped up bus (those cache-lines, false sharing, etc) are a pain to manually exploit and also makes the standard code base rather unportable. SGI also has got some nice memory subsystem hardware which could benefit from going mainstream to really sort out that kfluffle between NGIO and FIO.

    Imagine the CPU grunt of an Alpha, the I/O, memory and graphics of an SGI, peripherals of IBM, the pricing of Dell, and the software stability of Linux as your dream box.

    Let each vendor concentrate on their strengths and allow the free market to decide on the worth of their products based on a unencumbered and informed choice!

  • Sounds like incentive to help the Linux USB guy to me... :)

  • As a previous post here said, how does NT works with the USA mouse and Keyboard.. well, how will Linux run ? I belive currently Linux doesn't suport USB (right ? I might be wrong), maybe it's another contribute that will come from SGI, USG for Linux :)
  • it's nice to see that sgi is making a fuller commitment to linux than was "announced" by so many people. it's one thing to hear a rumor that certain companies are "switching efforts to linux," but it's a lot better to actually see this. Sometimes both sides of the win/linux platform war are guilty of 'vaporware,' but usually linux has no problem with these seemingly empty rumors or announcements..
  • by Straker Skunk ( 16970 ) on Tuesday June 22, 1999 @09:31AM (#1838642)
    Does anyone know if SGI plans to use Precision Insight's direct rendering pipeline (XFree86 4.0, IOW) on the VW's, when the Linux support is ready? Or will all the work be done through a custom-built X server?

    Without the pipeline infrastructure, it wouldn't be possible to render [as fast as possible] to an X window, wouldn't it?
  • The article mentions that Irix and Linux will converge in the future. Is it just me, or is this a really good thing? Irix has a lot it can bring to Linux. Hopefully this starts catching with all the other major Unix vendors and they start looking to it as a common ground for technology.

    Imagine Linux running 128 CPUs in the same box with a massive amount of memory.

    /me drools

  • As much as I like NT (like a rash where the sun dont shine), Linux would make the SGI VisualStation an awesome tool in many UNIX-based development environments. We have one in the office im at, and despite its simply awesome graphics capabilities, its not used very much as the current SGI UNIX machines are the perferred choice of my fellow developers (and Im sure sysops would find this a blessing, as our sysop can attest to, getting our NT and IRIX networks to blend well consumes most of his time).

  • I think SGI has their own technology for rendering quickly to an X-window, since that has been a lot of their business.

    I think though that they have opened a lot of this technology and it may actually be part of the Xfree effort.

    Nevertheless, I wouldn't be suprised if full support for their display is only available in binary-only form.
  • There's a typo in the SGI URL. (oops my bad)

    visual workstation products [sgi.com]

    - |Daryll

  • by stryemer ( 34743 ) on Tuesday June 22, 1999 @09:25AM (#1838648)

    I just got one of these babies, and I hope that SGI will get going on the port! Right now there's a website under SGI's domain with info on Linux for their various systems.

    http://www.linux.sgi.com/ [sgi.com]

    The good news:

    It runs (Yea!)

    It will display on the flat screen (YES!)

    The bad news:

    It needs an IDE (no SCSI)

    No X acceleration

    No OpenGL acceleration

    "Very little" PCI card support

    I'm loading it when I get my next paycheck and I can pick up an IDE drive! I'll keep you all informed...

    We are the music makers,
    and we are the dreamers of the dream.
  • I just got one of the 320's. I won the one from COMDEX/Spring. It IS a sweet machine. With any luck SGI will eventually lisence the design for the bus and such to the rest of the world and perhaps they will start using this design. I feel that this is a MUCH better architecture than what we currently call PCs. IMHO.
  • ...but call me when it's more than "just running." If it ain't optimized, then there's no sense in buying an SGI Intel box for that kind of money. Go get a real workstation, like the O2/Octane.
  • This is just FUD pushed by competitors like Intergraph. You can buy memory for the Visual Workstations at Kingston and other 3rd party vendors. Much of the I/O, including things like Firewire and video, is built in so no addon cards are needed to begin with. The machine uses standard USB keyboards and mice, standard hard disks, standard monitors, etc.

    Yes, the VW are not standard white boxes using an Intel motherboard - the Cobalt graphics hardware precludes that. If all you want is a run of the mill PC, they're easy enough to find.

  • Now I haven't seen anything officially, but when I was at the SGI offices last week I could have sworn I heard something about moving the video support beyond the simple frame buffer. When I asked about it, something about a NDA was mumbled.

    I'm also pretty certain I saw it running in SMP mode, but the memory detection didn't appear to be correct.

    Holding your LUG meeting at SGI has certain advantages.

  • A lot of what we're doing in direct rendering is based on the work SGI has done in the past. Their hardware and software supports the equivalent of our direct rendering.

    sgi provided GLX to the open source community, and we integrated it into XFree. They are also funding some of our work.

    I don't know if they are using our framework for the visual workstation, but regardless, I'm sure it'll perform well.

    - |Daryll

  • by Oddhack ( 18073 ) on Tuesday June 22, 1999 @11:06AM (#1838656) Homepage
    > They don't talk about it too much, but I believe that SGI is funding PI in their DRI effort.

    That's right (jointly funded together with Red Hat, actually). I've also put together a group to define compile and runtime standards for OpenGL and Mesa on Linux, so that no matter what the underlying OpenGL driver (DRI, commercial from Metro Link or Xi, etc.), apps can run cleanly. This will be important in 6 months or so, as more hardware drivers become available.

    Jon Leech
    SGI Core OpenGL Group

  • One of the things that caught my attention in this article was all of the talk about SGI working with Linux, Irix and Linux converging, etc. When SGI released XFS, many people on different forums assumed that this code would drop right on in and become the new Linux file system. The reality, of course, is that much hacking remains before this goes in, if this goes in, to the Linux kernel proper.

    I've got to wonder about what will happen as code contributions come increasingly from corporations dropping large bundles into our laps, as opposed to small patches here and there, or a recognized kernel hacker, who already knows how things work, and how Linus prefers code, setting out to rewrite something.

    There was a lot of talk about the Linus burnouts during the 2.1.x process, and I don't know if large contributions like XFS would help or hinder this. Hopefully, we'll see corporations get better at contributing to Linux, as well as see our beloved kernel hackers get better at working with corporations.

    Ian Peters

  • The only hope of making the VW really useful is to get Linux fully working. With any luck Linux will actually provide USB support beyond the stinking keyboard/mouse combo.

    Of course even then the VW is only marginally useful. One empty 64-bit PCI (how many 64-bit cards are out there?), non-standard memory and bus all add up to make the VWs fun machines to play with, but an expensive nightmare to maintain and make usable.
  • I've got one of their boxes (something 6000 IIRC) with no memory. When I asked them about it, I was told I had to buy the memory directly from them (proprietary memory, pc stuff wouldn't work). Is this true (ie buying from IG), or can I use 36 bit memory (it takes 72 pin simms) like DECpc's seem to need (got to talk to my contact there)? I'ld like to get this beast working as a server/grunt machine (I don't have the keyboard/mouse/screen for it).
  • I believe the primary reason XFS hasn't "dropped right in" is because it hasn't been released yet, let alone with a license which allows use by GPLed code. If I missed the proper release, please let me know.
  • This is one of those examples where the GPL really helps Linux. It allows SGI to port the OS without having to deal with Be, Inc. Much more importantly, since I'm sure Be would be delighted to have SGI port Be, is that SGI needs to keep control over their platform's OS. With Linux, they can always just fork the tree if Linus does something detrimental to their product.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.