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Silicon Graphics

NVIDIA and SGI Align 74

Alowishus writes "Another nail in 3Dfx's coffin? NVIDIA and SGI team up - as a result, SGI drops their pending patent infringement suit and both companies swap patent portfolios. Press release is here. " I'm not really sure what to think of this - I can't see SGI giving technology to nVidia that would let us x86 users all have the same cards as their users...Is it just a way to get rid of the lawsuit? Maybe NVIDIA's manufacturing capabilities?
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NVIDIA and SGI Align

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  • I can't see SGI giving technology to nVidia that would let us x86 users all have the same cards as their users.

    SGI's workstation architecture is completely different--it goes beyond a fancy graphics card. So they may be able to swap technology relating to the graphics chips and still set themselves apart. SGI with their "unique" architecture and nVidia with PCI/AGP-based cards.

    I'm just glad to hear that nVidia won't be bothered with the lawsuit anymore. SGI still has much bigger problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I also can see SGI sharing technology with nvidia, but on them agreeing to split the markets between
    consumer and high/end professional. SGI has never addressed the consumer market (except with their deal with nintendo on the N64) and isn't set up to enter it. So they license technology to nvidia for the next generation of consumer cards with
    geometry acceleration etc and collect licensing fees. Maybe they get some goodies from nvidia for
    the next SGI nt machine as well. Makes a hell of a lot of sense.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Kind of reminds me of when Digital wanted to unload the Alpha (and related expenses)... They sued Intel with a ridiculous claim about Intel copying Alpha technology in the P5-class machines. That brought Intel to the bargaining table. Maybe there was something in nVidia's patents that SGI wanted, motivating the original lawsuit?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    they only design the chips. Some company in Taiwan actually make the chips, (forgot its name) and then they send the chips to say, Creative so Creative can build a board.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    most apes do seem to think they are the center of the universe, or at least everything that matters
  • nVidia's cards might be better for games, but SGI are certainly not targetting the games market...
    Fill rate is not everything. High end cards has most of the OpenGL pipe on the card.. as far as I can tell from the TNT GLX driver, the TNT only accelerates triangle setup.

  • I can see SGI sharing tech with NVIDIA that will allow x86 users the same cards as SGI users. Why? It's not just the video card that makes SGIs good boxes, but the rest of the hardware as well. In fact, I wouldn't be at all supprised to see full specs and/or supurb Linux drivers come out of this. Hardware sales is hardware sales. I don't think it really matters who thier customers are so long as they exist in the first place.

    Of course, I could very easily be wrong (cf my CPU speed post in the quake discussion:) as I have never used (or seen? there were some interesting boxen at my previous employment) an SGI box.

  • SGI gets faster 3dAccellerators

    Um, I doubt it. Maybe games are everything for people who play them, but for those of us who want to get any work done, these cards are worthless.

    SGI still has far, far better hardware for OGL accelleration when it comes to geometry performance.

    This is similar to Tim Sweeny's naive comments on his Unreal website concerning el cheapo gfx cards for gamining eating SGI's high-end ('real') market...
  • I know this isn't really the time, but it's as relevant as you get... With M$'s Direct3D API morphing slowly into something very OpenGL-ish (from what I understand, with every release of DirectX the D3D API looks more like OpenGL) there may be no NEED for Fahrenheit to even happen. Besides, I've heard no recent mutterings about it anywhere. In my (admittedly non-insider, totally unscientific, yadda yadda) opinion, I think Fahrenheit's just plain dead.
  • At work we were hearing from Engineering and technical marketing folks that they had Intel dead to rights on the patent violations. The suits in upper management had been interested in finding a manufacturing partner for several years and saw an opportunity to sell their fab, grab some quick cash and get a stable manufacturing partner.
    The suits apparently never intended to engage in a long battle with Intel, they just wanted to dump the expensive fab so Digital would be a more attractive buy for Compaq.
  • I thought SGS Thomson had made the move away from defense and into consumer and entertainment markets, but I could be wrong.
  • They may be looking to the low end to shore up stability. The high end market is a big money maker because of the margins there, but sales are sporadic and volume is low. The low end makes less money for the same amount of work, but the higher volume makes for a more stable income.

    Your second point is right on IMHO. With GHz PCs due by Q4, the manufacturers will be looking at bus archetecture next. SGIs primary advantage right now (in workstations) is their bus archetecture. Their high end is cluster technology (which in a sense, goes back to bus archetecture!). That advantage is being eroded slowly but surely by commodity supercomputing.

  • A high end Riva card with the digital output
    nesssary to use one of SGI's flat panel monitors.
    That is currently what is holding me back from
    buying one of them.
    Also it would have been nice for SGI to aquire
    AMD. AS far as I could see it everyone would
    profit by the results that could come about there.
  • Be careful about discussing "splitting the market". This is a BIG no-no according to anti-trust regulations...
  • Except that the new SGI logo sucks, unfortunately...
  • If a Linux port of Maya ever happened, that would be sweet. Maya under IRIX is delicious, and since you are still forking out a bunch of money for the x86 version, it's a shame to mar the whole experience by having to run it on top of (blech) NT...
  • The RIVA-128 was originally fabricated by SGS-Thompson. They were also involved in the design, if I remember correctly. (The initial RIVA support in XFree86 came from some SGS-Thompson folk too).

    Later they added Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to their manufacturers. I don't about the present role of SGS-Thompson.

  • by mvw ( 2916 )
    The most important bit of the n-vidia/SGI story is that two former rivals went from competition to cooperation. It was not one of those '[open source] company XYZ goes IPO - quelle surprise' stories. => off topic.

    Two remarks about the n-vidia/SGI competition:

    1. PCs got a foot in the workstation market:
    A former colleague of mine, he is mechanical engineer, contracts in the realm of Finite Elements simulations (thermal stress analysis of turbine blades mostly). He owns some SGI workstations but switched to PC boxes (under NT) equipped with standard graphics boards because he got sufficient visualization powerfor less than half what the SGIs costed. This was the situation in 1997, I would not be surprised if PCs are even more attractive today.

    2. I remember having read on riva zone [rivazone.com] that some of the n-vidia developers were former SGI employees. So it is likely that they brought some trade secrets er.. expertise over. So we had kind of a personal relationship between both companies already.

    I believe we end user will benefit, after all this still is one of the most competetive markets.

  • Plus, you offer a view of what a REAL SGI system can do, because 3D modeling isn't just about the speed of your 3D accelerator, it's chewing massive amounts of data in RAM and doing lots of FP. SGI's VirtualPCs have that 3.2GBps (IIRC) memory bandwidth.. That could make for a seriously heavy-duty webserver/DB server, let alone mediastation..

    Now if only BeOS could fully utilize the SGI memory architecture..
  • Maybe they find come up with some neat ideas and make some money, maybe they toss it all in the shredder... Either way, no more legal hassles, fhew..

    Both companies are very legally sensitive with tech stocks the way they are..

    I'm thinking SGI could make anything nVidia does make if they put their mind to it.. After all, video cards aren't really that high tech.. Hire a pile of engineers, use the fastest chips available, done deal... What makes a nVidia or 3dfx is marketing and managment skill/luck..

  • Okay, I could be wrong.. :)

  • Nvidia has cards that are as fast as if not faster then SGIs cards... Nvidia is made up of people who left SGI to move into the PC world... So I could definatly see SGI and Nvidia sharing... SGI gets faster 3dAccellerators... Nvidia gets kick ass OGL and *nix support...
    "There is no spoon" - Neo, The Matrix
    "SPOOOOOOOOON!" - The Tick, The Tick
  • Fill rates and such may not be everything but it helps alot... for consumers games are all that matters... who can afford a $5K 3d amination software package even if you want it...

    And SGI can use the TECH if you take SGIs cool cards and add the proformance of nVidia's cards you would have an even better card... Think about it...


    "There is no spoon" - Neo, The Matrix
    "SPOOOOOOOOON!" - The Tick, The Tick
  • That has aboslutely nothing to do with Direct3D but rather the card itself. Actually, Matrox G400 is the king of Direct3D right now. Nvidia has some nice OpenGL drivers...
  • The TNT processor has more transistors than the P2 does, and the upcoming NV-10 will have more than the Merced. But 3d chipsets are a very competetive market so the profit margins are much lower... that's why we're seeing all this consolidation.
  • by The Dodger ( 10689 ) on Tuesday July 20, 1999 @11:58PM (#1792807) Homepage

    It's not just the video card that makes SGIs good boxes...

    Exactly. One of SG's strengths in the workstation market has long been their ability to shift data around the motherboard at very high speeds. Have a look at Ars Technica's article about the new SGI NT machines [arstechnica.com] for some information on the sort of approach SG have to designing boxes.

    Best of all, they're planning to support Linux on this range of beasts!

    The Dodger

  • they're looking for a better provider of video cards to go along with their LCD displays other than Number 9. Number 9 cards were the first with 32 megs of video memory...but their chips suck, they don't even begin to compare to 3Dfx and nVidia's chips at least to me they don't. I like the fact that both companies are supporting linux at least in some small way, and something is usually better than nothing.
  • This is quite the false statement. SGI has no reason at all to over use nVidia chipsets in their lowend workstation at all. Look at the people that buy SGI workstation: High-end graphics professionals. Now look at whop uses nVidia-based graphics cards: Gamers. Comparing SGI-graphics to nVidia-graphics (or any other "Gamer" chipset) is fruitless. Gamer chipsets are designed for high framerates. Professional graphics chipsets are designed for a completely different purpose. The Visual Workstation Cobalt chipset can do things that no NVidia card can do. Try firing up Photoshop, loading a 500-1000Meg image and rotate it...quickly. Just an example of how vastly different they are. Anyway, my point is: SGI wants to use its own chipsets, SGI has to reason to switch, SGI's are not for gamers.

    -Noehre

    >So, what does SGI get out of this: A great deal with the best video card manufacturer around and the freedom to develop their own custom chips for the higher end of the market. The low end cards (nVidia, ATI, 3dfx etc) have been creeping up farther in performance in much the same way the desktop PC market has been creeping up in performace. Without moves like this, SGI faces a rapidly contracting niche market with no room to move in the future.
  • Both companies have embraced Open Source (even if somewhat reservedly, which is to be expected of long-time commercial organisations anyway) and look what benefits the end user is getting already - drivers with source for some of the best 2D/3D cards on the market, GLX, and now these companies are putting aside their differences and working together to create something great for the end user in time to come. Perhaps a cheap SGI Visual Workstation with a 96Mb TNT3? :-) Well, I can dream can't I?
    This is The Way It Should Be (tm) and these companies deserve our fullest support.

    United we stand, divided we fall. Total World Domination is achieved through the uniting of hardware vendors and software authors to produce IT solutions that are powerful, flexible and free. Free in the sense of freedom, not monetary cost.
  • jokes are fine on /. as long as they are some what on topic ... if the first poster had posted that joke on the Be inc story it might even had been moderated up....


  • I just got it the wrong way aroudn SGi has the manufacturing capabilities... ooops

  • Nvidia has always loved directx bnecuase their cards beat arch rival's 3dfx at direct3d.

    I doubt they want direct 3d gone
  • Ive used Maya on both platforms, and with small scenes, the Intergraph rocks, but as soon as you get over a certain scene-size,in my case 45Mb, the Intergraph becomes SLLLOOOOOWWWW, while O2s and the new NT-machines just happily speeds along. And the SGIs have higher memory-bandwidth to the system-memory than the Wildcat 4000 has onboard. And its less cost-prohibitive to upgrade with more memory.

    Shinobi - Champion of Lady weeanna, Inquisitor Cult of Jolt "Why despair? We are all going to die anyway!"
  • > The most important bit of the n-vidia/SGI story is that two former rivals went from competition to cooperation.

    As opposed, say, to companies that "accidentally" sue their new business partners.

  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Wednesday July 21, 1999 @12:32AM (#1792817)
    To understand the move, you have to realise what business SGI is in. Their customer base is
    a) Big Data (Federal/Banks/Servers)
    b) Complex Graphics (Entertainment)
    c) Raw Science (Universities/Medical)

    Finito.

    Selling piddly graphics cards (that is compared with Infinite Reality Engine++ !! ... drool) for a high volume, fad-driven market is most definitely not their market.

    What they are doing with their Linux strategy (and to some extent ditto for BigBlueIBM) is creating a scorched earth policy by releasing source code in the low-end server/workstation market to prevent certain software/hardware companies (you know who) from cutting into their margins and preparing a migration path from their proprietary Unices to value-added Linux components/tuning. You can see it in their MIPS processor strategy, developing for high-end then migrating to the embedded market (guess what's in your routers and printers?) once the R&D dollars are written off.

    Anything that is a distraction at this point in time when their CEO is still turning the company around is a waste of energy. Despite this forum's fascination with technology, you have to understand that companies are hard-nosed businesses with zero tolerance for sentimental gestures. You get paid money for doing the things that are hard and other people are willing to pay money for, not sexy 3D games which take up a disproportionate amount of space on freshmeat.

    When you understand the difference between work and play (or are rich enough not to care), then you can pontificate to your heart's content.

    LL
  • Don't forget to add simulation. We have a ton of SGI boxes doing everything from being workstations, to powerhouses that run full-sized flight simulators. SGI boxes pretty much kick.

  • Would SGI want x86 users to have SGI quality graphics? I would say yes because...

    There's more money in selling a million cheap x86 cards than a couple of thousand expensive worstation cards.

    Specialised hardware is a bad bet in the long term. Eventually you'll be put out of business by someone selling a consumer version that does everything you want at 1/10 the price. To win long term you've got to go mainstream and get maximum market share.

  • Together they might completly dominate both market segments. If this happens we might as an added benefit enjoy the downfall of Microsofts DirectX.

    These two companies have been rather Linux friendly lately so if they get strong market dominace this could be a very good thing.

    To get the picture perfect I would like to see Matrox doing a similar patent portfolio swapping with SGI and Nvidia. Matrox might of course have to sue SGI and Nvidia to make that happen. The lawsuit seems to be the way companies start courting and getting into deeper relationships.

    //Pingo

  • Since when have video cards not been that high tech? Most 3D cards have more computing power than the CPUs that run them!

    The TNT2 runs at up to 175Mhz (128 bit processor) and can access memory at up to 200Mhz. This gives a memory speed of 4 Gig/sec!!!

    Consider the P3 has a memory access speed of 800 Meg/sec and even Camino doesn't look much better than 1.6 Gig/sec I would consider that a 3D processor is a fairly serious undertaking!

    jw
  • I've seen the Cobalt chipset and have been very impressed with its features, most of which are enabled from its high speed access to main memory (3.2G/sec). Now the "Gamer" chipsets (as you call them) have gone beyond this in their access speeds to local memory, and switched fabric motherboards with K7/Alpha buses or the Rambus DRAM on Intel's side will enable much higher speed access to main memory from the "Gamer" chips.

    The TNT2 already accesses its local memory at 4G/sec and can pull in textures from main memory at 1G/sec to a 32M local buffer. This is on a chip selling for around the $100 mark. How long do you think it will be before this sort of technology starts putting the squeeze on the professional market? The "Gamer" chips of today have far more power than the "Professional" chips of a year or two ago. It won't be long before the "Gamer" chips have at least the raw power of the Cobalt chipset today. Sure, SGI will have a bigger and badder chipset by then but the point is that the *industry* will leak off to the lower end computers which are a third of the price!!

    SGI has taken the initiative and invested in a company that is providing the best of the low end market. By doing this they are protecting themselves against the future in the same way that investing in NT and Linux is protecting themselves against the future.

    Irix is the powerhouse today for 3D work. Does this mean SGI shouldn't be investing in NT or Linux? It is exactly the same argument.

    >This is quite the false statement. SGI has no reason at all to over use nVidia chipsets in their lowend workstation at all. Look at the people that buy SGI workstation: High-end graphics professionals. Now look at whop uses nVidia-based graphics cards: Gamers. Comparing SGI-graphics to nVidia-graphics (or any other "Gamer" chipset) is fruitless. Gamer chipsets are designed for high framerates. Professional graphics chipsets are designed for a completely different purpose. The Visual Workstation Cobalt chipset can do things that no NVidia card can do. Try firing up Photoshop, loading a 500-1000Meg image and rotate it...quickly. Just an example of how vastly different they are. Anyway, my point is: SGI wants to use its own chipsets, SGI has to reason to switch, SGI's are not for gamers.

  • Perhaps you could explain why 'large technology companies' like Intel have tried to make a decent low-cost 3D processor and failed to achieve the same results as nVidia, 3Dfx and ATI? Chipsets get delayed all the time - hardly an indication of ease of development.

    How does 'software support' affect the production of a 3D chipset?

    Isn't money a good motivation? 3dfx and nVidia seem to be making a little bit now.

    jw
  • by throx ( 42621 ) on Wednesday July 21, 1999 @12:39AM (#1792824) Homepage
    This deal makes a lot of sense to me. SGI is moving down into the workstation market (look at the Visual Workstation as the first of many) and have been pushing the idea lately that they are going to embrace x86 systems as their low end solution - running both NT and Linux.

    So, what does SGI get out of this: A great deal with the best video card manufacturer around and the freedom to develop their own custom chips for the higher end of the market. The low end cards (nVidia, ATI, 3dfx etc) have been creeping up farther in performance in much the same way the desktop PC market has been creeping up in performace. Without moves like this, SGI faces a rapidly contracting niche market with no room to move in the future.

    nVidia gets out of a lawsuit which would have been very costly, and gets to be associated with the 'best' name in the business - SGI. nVidia probably gets a hand in on the Farenheit project which is likely to be a prettly big thing.

    All in all, it sounds like a win-win situation. I was concerned about SGI's future about this time last year, but with their turnaround into the x86 market and their embracing of the best OSes in that market (NT and Linux) followed by their capturing a deal with the best 3D chip manufacturer (nVidia), I think they have a very bright future across the spectrum of 3D visual computing.

    John Wiltshire
  • Despite this forum's fascination with technology, you have to understand that companies are hard-nosed businesses with zero tolerance for sentimental gestures. You get paid money for doing the things that are hard and other people are willing to pay money for, not sexy 3D games which take up a disproportionate amount of space on freshmeat.

    Amen and hallelujah!

    Every SGI user/administrator/engineer I've ever talked to has boasted that SGI makes money off of *their* industry, be it vis sim, games or computational fluid dynamics. And none of them have ever read a balance sheet or quarterly report. If they did, they'd be unpleasantly surprised.

    Anyway, just to add to the SGI watch. Today is the day they release their end of FY earnings. Or losses, as the case probably is. If you really want news that matters, watch for SGI *financial* reports.


  • That's always something i've thought would be cool. Having the SGI logo in my box. That can't really be a bad thing, seeing as how they've done in all cases. I expect nVidia's OpenGL ICD to become REALLY GOOD, for both windoze and *NIX.
  • That's why SGI could create a chip with nvidia, then nvidia could sell it like, "The nVidia RealityVis+, with Silicon Graphics Technology". Just the SGI name would get attention, and anything SGI could contribute can't be bad. Besides, they started the whole 3D acelleration mess. Them and their triangles...
  • Actually shared memory architecture, (the SGIs trick for moving stuff at high speeds) does didly for 3D. Becuase the graphics card needs very fast access to video memory, the fact that video memory is in RAM hurts performance. An SGI is half the speed of an Intergraph GX1 with Wildcat 4000 gfx card in the Awadvs-02 test. Face it, it IS the graphics card
  • DirectX's downfall would suck for gamers everywhere. Direct3D made 3D card more prevelent at a time when the only APIs were Glide and OpenGL. Glide cards were fairly expensive, even at 1.5 years old they cost $150. The 2 month old Voodoo 3 2000 now cost $100. D3d helped bring down prices. As of now, it support some of the cooler effects such as texture compression. Besides Direct3D is not the only DirectX API. Their are APIs that accelerate input, 3D sound APIs, etc. Besides there is nothing that CAN make DirectX fall. OpenGL, ha, it is still a small player in the game market, and the difference in power between it and D3D is getting smaller and smaller. (Its at about 20-30% now.) Glide is already dead, being limited to one company.
  • I was talking about High end rendering. The Awdvs-02 test is for 3D modeling. On another test that stresses textures, the Intergraph is only 12-15% faster. In addition the Intergraph Wildcat is an OpenGL high end card. As such it can't beat a RivaTNT in Quake gaming fps. Besides, most texture data for 3D modling (what else do you use an NT workstation for?) can fit into 64 megs of texture RAM. The kind of cases where it won't aren't the same cases where you would use and NT workstation.
  • A lot of SGI employees left SGI for Nvidia, which was one of the original reasons for the lawsuit; to intimidate Nvidia and put them on notice that they couldn't take SGI's intellectual property for granted.

    However, it seems unlikely to me based on the public record that SGI had a strong case. I suspect the existing settlement is a fig-leaf partially designed to cover that.

    For example, start by looking at the public parts of the deal -- patent cross-licensing. Nvidia has 12 patents currently (with others pending of course) listed on http://www.patents.ibm.com/ [ibm.com], while SGI has 294. Who gets the better end of that bargain? It ain't the plantiff.

    That said, there is room for fruitful technological co-operation. Nvidia guys can use all the tricks they learned at SGI (legally now), can potentially get access to Farenheit technology, and may be able to take advantage of SGI's brand name through some co-marketing of graphics hardware products. Certainly SGI would rather sell its flat panels hooked up to Nvidia graphics than Number Nine's, and vice versa. That's a slam dunk.

    Other options are grander and much more speculative. For example, potentially, the two could collaborate on a scalable graphics architecture that uses multiple Nvidia chips for high-end graphics, something that is too expensive and distracting for Nvidia to pursue alone, but interesting for SGI if they can leverage low-cost high-performance parts to meet the needs of the market niches of their traditional customer base. Nvidia engineers, having worked on various SGI products including high-end Reality-class graphics would have a better idea than anybody else in the industry on exactly how to make this work (and what the limitations of this approach are.)

    We'll see.
  • All that memory bandwidth is also good for video editing/compositing. It's my understanding that apps like Adobe After Effects really scream on the SGI NT boxen. So NT is also good for throwing big, hi-res images/movies around (tho not as good as some of the bigger SGI iron.) More than just 3d modeling. :)
  • Um, it sounds like you're mixing up chip set manufacturers like nVidia and 3dfx with OEM card vendors (like Diamond). Designing a modern 3D graphics chip set is probably about as difficult (in terms of sheer engineering complexity) as designing the latest x86 clone CPUs. But hey, maybe you think those are low-tech too?
  • No it's not. You're assuming that they "own" the complete, or nearly complete, market between the two of them. There's nothing wrong with sharing technology and having an agreement to compete with other companies in certain areas. Now, if between the two of them they "owned" 90% of the market then the situation would be a little more complicated...
  • 3D companies have long complained about lack of 3D hardware support under Linux, and thus, have not had any intention of porting their products. My though here, is that now, with SGI on the nVida bandwagon, and XFree pre4-betas appearing, Alias may soon come into the picture, as Alias and SGI are cut from the same stone, and do a line port (or line release, as there is rumored to be a port in existance already) of their products. Unlikely scenario? I guess time will tell..

    my .02$
  • Actually, it's still very much alive:)

    DirectX 8 is being billed as the main migration step towards farenheit. Keep in mind that project Farenheit won't be the actual name of the API, it's still being billed as DirectX, just another version.

    The very reason that D3D is looking more Gl'ish is that SGI really has had good input into Direct3d particularly with the upcoming Version 7.

    Nick
  • Of course, I'm probably wrong about this, but SGI may be looking to buy nVidia, to enter the consumer market. Or, they want to enter the consumer video card market by taking a look at what nVidia already makes, and seeing if they can improve upon it.

    I don't really see nVidia benefitting technologically -- just the legal issues and such being resolved, which, of course, isn't a small thing, but still.... That would be rather amusing, if SGI began marketing their own line of consumer video cards.

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