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Silicon Graphics

SGI Steps out of the Visual Workstation Market 90

Lars Bergstrom writes "Well, SGI's finally given up on their Visual Workstation product line -- check here for the details. " As many people have noted, the technology was pretty sweet, but people won't pay the huge premiums for that. At least the flat panels are great.
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SGI Steps out of the Visual Workstation Market

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  • Their options are getting pretty limited. Maybe they should rename themselves to SGILinux and start an IPO ... wait they're already public ... nevermind.


  • Sexiest hardware in existance. I suppose that's the problem with pricing yourself up in the high end though, no decent market share.

    Mind you, from all the VARs and such I know and hear complain, margins on hardware are slim going on nonexistant right now for just about everyone aside from maybe Intel and... uh... Intel.

    -- (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

  • Hey grits guy... at least take a page out of the history of the Meept and actually create an account.

    -- (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)
  • How do you know it's not a whole conspiracy?


  • by BJH ( 11355 )

    Don't be so quick to count SGI out. They have many very valuable technologies (cc/NUMA, XFS...), great hardware (look at their clustered stuff sometime; also, MIPS is about the cleanest chip architecture you'll ever see), and while they seem to be clutching at straws by jumping on the Linux bandwagon, you never know where that bandwagon might take them. Let's just wait and see.

  • "SGI will try to give Linux a boost by releasing some of its OpenGL graphics software into the open-source community, Stedman said."

    Like GPL-ing it? While MesaGL is a worthy alternative, it would be in SGI's best interests to get OpenGL into wider usage. I suppose there may be licensing implications if they were to try and GPL the whole shebang, as many companies have already *purchased* licenses. So perhaps we'll see an open source 'official' OpenGL when those licenses expire ...

    Chris Wareham
  • "Sexiest hardware in existance ..."

    Personally I've got a soft spot for Sun pizza style cases, and improbably huge 24bit framebuffer cards. Must be a nostalgia thing I suppose. Although someone claimed to be able to get hold of recent Ultra workstations in Pizza boxes instead of those boring mini-towers.

    Chris Wareham
  • 1: Figure out your core strength. In this case delivering a _compleat_ high end workstation.

    2: Abandon projects that are loosing money. In this case Cray, and Visual Workstation.

    3: Cut expenditure as much as possible without reducing production. In this case adopt Linux for as much as reasonably possible. at SGI that's low end servers and eventually most workstations ( once the software ecosystem has grown up a bit ).

    4: Market like crazy. notice how many SGI stories are appearing in papers of late ?

    5: Make deals with anyone who can give you money and / or grow your market. In this case SGI has invested in VALinux and has joined Linux international. They are also a partner on the retail Debian.

    Only time can tell how well this will work but since it was such a good strategy for Apple, why not SGI ?

  • 2: Abandon projects that are loosing money. In this case Cray, and Visual Workstation.

    And what about Irix? See this quote:

    SGI, while planning eventually to move to Intel chips and the Linux operating system, is keeping its MIPS chip line and Irix version of Unix around through at least 2006.

    They seem to transform into a totally different company - selling Linux systems running on Intel hardware.

  • Ultra 2's are very fat pizza boxes and U5s are kinda fat pizza boxes. I've yet to see a mini tower Ultra outside of the Enterprise stuff that's tardis-like.

    The newest Netra series are 1U high rack-mount pizza boxes - they look to rock too, especially for colo space where size is money. They're a cool charcoal color too.

    SGI had a lot of early high-end Web business with the Challenge S, but Sun came in and spanked them, especially on the software side.

    Probably the main failing of the Visual Workstation line is that it was too early. The lifetime on older workstations is a lot higher than on PCs, and I don't think SGI had the line funded to go out on much shorter than a PC cycle.

  • by eshefer ( 12336 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:05AM (#1505762) Homepage Journal
    The SGI investor page says it all []

    (press reload a few time for maximum effect)

  • Regardless of where they may stand right now, the truth is that to the public sector SGI has always ment design quality and superiority. SGI has a relatively small market cap - 1.49 billion. Regardless of that a billion dollars is a billion dollars. What happens if SGI makes smart investments - what happens if the company downsizes, what happens if the company does this or that. There are so many possibilities it's frightening. This has partially their problem - they have so many possible outcomes and variations to what they currently do that they could go one of a number of different ways. Unfortunately they do not have the fanaticism that the average Mac user has. SGI has the right idea though. Embrace a fanatical group of people - Linux geeks. Now we have another company trying to make a buck off Linux - giving Linux commercial support (which is important for enterprise and end user systems) -- the only difference here is that SGI is trying to save their ass w/ Linux. If they pull it off they will definately come out better in at least the server market then the Windows NT sellers will. Hell look at Sun Microsystems and what happened to them over the past few years -- SGI may not be a bad investment once they start honing what they want to do...

  • This may say more about the high-end wintel graphics workstation market than about SGI in particular. 'Consumer' 3D accelerators are available now that can give a Celeron-based PC comparable performance to 'Mid range' (SGI Visual workstation, Intergraph, etc.) systems sold _today_ for a order of magnitude more money. Could it be that there simply no longer exists a middle ground between the real high end dedicated graphics development systems, and the lowly PC?
  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:13AM (#1505767)
    I'm surprised people here are so ignorant about the realities of the marketplace.


    1) If a company doesn't have a competitive advantage, then sooner or later it will lose marketshare. The NT based Intel line (idea of the previous CEO) was targetting a niche which has been eroded by Dell's just-in-time assembly and creating a gap until HDTV standards become mandatory. SGI is being smart cutting their losses when they can. Unlike the disposable mentality that Wintel is trying to foster, SGI machines are designed to last for a long time (10 years+) which if your amortise the higher upfront costs, is actually cheaper in the long run.

    2) SGI still has 300 odd engineers working on Irix and a growing pool of Linux developers to progressively shift their core competencies (multiprocessor design, low-latency memory subsystems) into value-added components. 10% of the market is seriously interested in high performance vs good enough.

    3) Processors take a long time to die. Their MIPS line still has got excellent cost per application performance and decent data bandwidth (running a gigahertz Intel chip with IDE drives to surf the internet sounds a little fishy). As an embedded processor, the x86 is dwarfed by sales of MIPS cores cross-licensed to multiple vendors and their high-end stuff (R16000, etc) goes out to another 7 years.

    4) The world market has been very very lucky in the Asian crisis has depressed global supply to such an extent that firms are willing to sell subsystems at near cost just to keep the cashflow up. In my opinion this has distorted the market and once things start bouncing back (as with the recent hike in memory prices) then their offerings will be more competitive.

    5) Intel is becoming more like a venture capitalist than chip maker by throwing advanced designs at anything that looks, walks and talks like a high-growth startup. SGI is sorta doing the same thing by developing high-end, then flowing the tech to NDIVA (graphics), Cray (memory subsystem) and MIPS (CPU design).

    6) Forget hardware, the value is now concentrated on the services. Even IBM are finding it difficult to move their big iron. Ultimately you will see companies becoming coordinators assembling components and software bundles to targetting specific market categories and capturing benefits from after-sales support and in the life-time money stream. You'd might be surprised how little car manufacturers make from sell the initial wheels compared with gouring consumers with repairs and add on knic-knacs.

    7) Linux is shifting the competitive landscape in that every processors has an equal chance as the source is available to all players. Intel is recognising this and is dumping money to maintain dominance. If IBM can offer a PPC reference design, then perhaps SGI could do something similar for their MIPS, OpenGL and other graphics libraries (ie OpenAPI but retain implementation IP). Don't rule out the Koreas with their Alpha licensing and the Japanese with MIPS variants (e.g. Sony Playstation2).

    8) Lighten up, markets go up and down in the short term. If anyone recalls the dumping Apple was going through several years ago, SGI is going through a similar patch. With a new CEO on board and some good Linux buzz, they have opportunities to catch the next wave. From a professional point of view, it would be interesting to see if their boxes could be adapted to keep the same fast memory subsystem but accept MIPS, Cray, Intel or Alpha processor node cards and just absolutely dominate the SMP and Beowulf market.

    9) High end graphics is tough with very few firms having the capability to tackle complex real-time graphics and simulation. Today's multiplayer games are a shadow of hosting real-time thousands of players. If SGI could shift some of their talent to exploit the gaming niche, then they could gain more revenue streams from selling their IP. Admittedly they do have problems with delayed supply of third party boards (sigh ... the XIO bus still beats the wet dreams of FutureIO and is here now) but then they do certify and guarentee the performance of the ones that do make the effort. If SGI was smart, they'd license the XIO technology to foster a vibrant alternative.

    In short, SGI may be down at the moment but certainly not out. You don't have to be big so long as you can be profitable in your own little market niche, afterall BMW and Rolls-Royce still survive despite the Fords, Hondas, etc of the world. If people stop fixating on pure clock speed and look at real-world performance (e.g. broadband systems) they might be pleasantly surprised.

  • Only time can tell how well this will work but since it was such a good strategy for Apple, why not SGI ?

    I thought Apple's strategy to save the company was more like let's-make-this-really-cool-looking-machine-so-tha t-nobody-will-care-what's-inside... :)

    SGI's Visual Workstations looked cool and it didn't work though... :))

  • I think the key comment is this:
    The reality is that you don't have to totally redesign the wheel in some markets," Stedman said. "The new approach going forward will be to embrace more of a standard platform and add value on top of that.

    It seems to me that there wasn't much added value in SGI's "nonstandard" approach. The company I worked for benchmarked Visual Workstations against their competition and, not only weren't they on top, but they frequently were the worst or close to it. This surprised (and disappointed) me, but I'm told others have had similar results.

  • to fall?

    It seems the companies who helped Microsoft to grow are doing OK.

    But the companies that had competing products, like VMS or Iris who decided to partner up with Microsoft have suffered.

    HP backtracked on the 'unix is dead, NT is the future' of a few years ago. (Wonder how much they lost....)

    So: Who's next? (Who is left???!?!?)

  • yup..

    this one [] is my favorite.. :-)
  • don't you get it? SGI is desperate. They went downhill when they decided to do NT and intel and that new logo and even that didn't work. If you want a server, go with Sun. SGI was never known for servers-it was always about hot graphics.
  • Just wanted to make that clear.
    CmdrTaco: was that headline your idea?
    You are certainly becoming a journalist by all measures....

  • Personally I've got a soft spot for Sun pizza style cases

    Yep, the SS4/5/20 form factor is not far short of ideal. I was very disappointed with the bloated Ultra 2 design (nice machines, though, other than that!).

    improbably huge 24bit framebuffer cards

    And equally improbably priced. Mind you, even if I could afford one, my poxy SS4 only has one SBUS slot, so I couldn't use it anyway. Oh to have my SS20/HyperSPARC back again. I'm writing this on a crappy little IPX :-(

  • by rsidd ( 6328 ) on Thursday November 25, 1999 @05:23AM (#1505776)
    Where did you read that? They are dropping some lines of workstations,
    not "stepping out of the market". Their MIPS roadmap extends, it says,
    to 2006 and their Intel plans are very much in place.

    Slashdot could do with editors who actually read the subject matter.
  • The headline talked about Visual WorkStation line. Not the Workstation market.


  • by vr ( 9777 )
    I agree. SGI are still going strong.

    Actually, I'm not surprised that it didn't work out with the "Visual Workstations". If I would want to spend a lot of cash on a workstation for 3d graphics, I would by an O2 or Octane or something.
    Why settle for an intel machine when you can have the power of MIPS ;-)
  • I think it's important to note that their MIPS line of workstations, such as the O2, Octane, etc is still being sold. They're out of the NT workstation biz, but not out of the workstation biz period.

    About a year ago when they introduced the NT line, I predicted that they would be unable to sell into what is largely a commodity market. Clearly, I was right.

    Personally, I think they should abandon their plans to abandon Irix, which makes their high-end hardware feel distinctly orphan-ish. Either do that, or port Linux to the old machines so they won't become obsolete quickly.

    Of course I'm still using my circa 1994 Indigo2, and I still love it. If SGI depreciation in the marketplace continues at this pace, I'll be able to afford a dual-processor Octane soon. But I'll cry for the company as I sign the check.


    PS Happy Thanksgiving, Slashdot!

  • In order for Linux, MIPS, Cray, and NVidia efforts to turn out, lots needs to happen:
    • SGI needs to actually get revenue streams from selling Linux-oriented hardware, or from selling training programs. On the training side, they seem to truly be putting in some real effort; the hardware side is far less clear.
    • It would be a cool idea to have cheap MIPS-based Linux boxes; I'd love to see a Linux for Nintendo 64 [] much like the IX "April Fools" article of 1997.

      Unfortunately, this isn't a substantial profit centre for SGI, as they probably only make a few bucks per farmed-out MIPS CPU. To turn this into significant help, there need to be millions of CPUs being sold for this purpose, and I just don't see that happening.

    • What to do about Cray?

      This looked like a useful synergy; Cray didn't have the quantity of sales to allow development of all the hardware they needed, and if SGI could use some of it in other product lines, that could make the costs more readily amortized, and even improve performance on SGI's "own" product lines.

      I suspect Cray holds a bunch of critical patents on computer hardware for HPC; killer question is who's going to want to buy, when SGI couldn't make the synergies work...

    • NVidia looks a whole lot more like an organ donation than anything else; there's only just so much money SGI can get out of the deal, and if it makes NVidia hardware more competitive with SGI hardware, this can diminish the deployment of SGI's hardware. Looks dangerous to me.
  • Sexiest hardware in existance.

    Yes, if your salesforce knows about its existance and does not try to sell you Origins and Octanes.

    Happened to me, happened to other people.

    I would suggest that SGI instead of dropping products do a decimation on their salesforce. That will be a much better thing to do.

  • would be interesting to see if their boxes could be adapted to keep the same fast memory subsystem but accept MIPS, Cray, Intel or Alpha processor node cards...

    Agreed. SGI's strength has always been their technology innvoation. I was seriously hoping that SGI would take the lead in developing a new physical architecture for PCs. The current PC design is years out of date and it requires updating. I think that a modular approach could be the key - not that different from how Sun's enterprise servers are built, for example.

    I don't think SGI is capable of being a box-shifter. It ought to be concentrating on what it does best - pushing the barrier with innovative, cutting-edge technology and selling it to other companies to use in their boxes.

    Unfortunately, it'll be competing directly with Intel, more and more.

    D. for Despicable!

  • according to some people I know, SGI will come out whit a new line of machines early next year. They will be linux only and have the same great IO as the NT machines possibly whit, firewire and USB, they will feature NVIDIA 3D graphics chip set (most likely some type of Gforce) Since it will be a linux only machine It doesn't have to be a x86 processor, it may even be a risc.

    I think it is fairly likely that we will see some thing like the above, and I even think it may save SGI if the pricing is right. SGI is the best when it comes to IO, and whit the help of Nvidia and linux they could survive.
    What is "MesaGL"? Oh, I see, you're talking about Brian Paul's Mesa [] project? I suggest you get over there and read the first paragraph, the one titled Introduction... The last line of that paragraph is instructive.
  • SGI has been going down hill since atleast 1996. It is around that time they tried to get into the web server market with the Origin 200. The Origin 200 was a cool machine. With its CRAYLink you could connect two machines and nearly double you performance. However it was much more power then you needed and IRIX never had a reputation for security.

  • SGI came to be a hardware company because they needed specialised hardware to run their very cool graphics software. Their hardware did amazing stuff and people who did 3D graphics were willing to buy SGIs. Many cars were designed on SGI's. Even a little custom machine shop back home had an SGI running Engineering Pro. But that was yesterday.

    Today the little machine shop is running AutoCad on a cheap but overpowered Intel box. A local 3D animation studio is using dual P2s with 3DMax. They looked at an SGI. It was sweet. It was faster. But not 6 times faster and that is how much more it cost. The Wintel stuff is dirt cheap and quite powerfull. SGI dosen't enjoy the nearly same performance magin that it did less then 5 years ago. The auto makers may still be buying the SGI stuff, but for how long?

  • SGI is suffocating on the consequences of Moore's law. Every nine months the commodity market doubles its performance. How in hell can one single company outpace that race?

    I'm sure the next ones will be Sun. Unlike IBM, with MVS, CICS, and so on, Sun has fewer proprietary APIs and other hooks protecting it from customers moving to the cheaper end of the market.

    Oracle, on the contrary, has always embraced and extended its proprietary APIs, beyond the reach of competing ODBC databases. You won't see Oracle submerged that fast in the sea of rising commoditazation.

    Another strong API in the market is SAP R/3. No way customers who have implemented those APIs will ever be able to get rid of SAP Inc, without forfeiting a huge outlay in implementation costs.

    The strongest hooks are of course the ones in Win32.

    Since there are no significant proprietary APIs tying SGI to its customer base, customers incur no cost in moving to whatever they want. The same holds true for Sun.

    Five years from now, there will be no SGI and no Sun to speak of any longer. Ten years from now, I guess most Unix vendors will have disappeared. I think Microsoft is right to say that Linux will, in the first place, eat into the Unix market.
  • SGI has a lot of other things going and some we know are dragging them down. Irix on big workstations and humongus servers isn't one of those "problem areas".

    It's just that the Irix market is very very small so it alone won't hold up a company the size of SGI.
  • are the obvious ease of use, desktop publishing and to some extent doing pretty machines.

    The iMac fit in the core ease of use market since it was the simplest machine on the market to get up and running after opening the box. Now they have an iBook, not so people can do stuff on the road but rather so you don't have to plug in a keyboard.

    PS: That was a joke :)

  • The more we hear from SGI, the clearer it becomes that massive and fundamental changes have taken place inside the company, not just in public policy but in their understanding of their market and future prospects. Corporations of that size don't change direction on a whim and at a moment's notice. Like an oil tanker, there is a delay between cause and effect, so changes have to be well considered.

    I don't have any involvement with SGI, but from the outside it seems to me that they've reached the following conclusions: (i) only their bigger machines are sector leaders and possibly still make a profit; (ii) their earlier preeminence in workstation graphics has been decimated by the collosal improvement in the capabilities of PC graphics cards; (iii) workstation-class CPUs and large memories are now commodity items, so SGI workstations can no longer claim that niche; (iv) SGI have excellent hardware techies but they cannot compete in this new commodity market because margins are far too small; (v) it is very difficult to compete against free software / open source in a market like theirs where users are technically competent, and "if you can't beat them, join them"; (vi) not all is well with the Microsoft titanic, and seats in the lifeboats are starting to look inviting so they are playing down their involvement with NT; (vii) in contrast, things look very rosy for Linux, in particular the wide acceptance among developers that this is A Good Platform, so they're playing that up to be developer-friendly and clearly "with it"; (viii) the synergy among other relevant corporates is massive in this area, and no way can SGI afford not to be on the same boat as, for example, Oracle; (ix) no major computer manufacturer has yet capitalized on the potential of Linux (nor the BSDs), and SGI could be The One that makes it "their own" if they genuinely adopt the ideals of the community; and finally, (x) software development (particularly maintenance) is incredibly expensive to provide, so making the most of open development on the Internet makes huge economic sense, ie. their overheads in that area could plummet.

    All this adds up to a major shift, both internal and external: bye bye to the low-end proprietary stuff as per the announcement, leave computer basics to the commodity suppliers, at most customize PC workstations with high-end accelerators where margins still exist, leave Irix to their big systems where development costs won't decimate the spreadsheet, develop synergy with the free/OSS community, both as excellent value-for-money PR and as an essential component of their open support strategy, assist technically to give Linux some of the scalability that Irix has on their bigger machines, add in enterprise-critical facilities like a journalling filesystem, and in general hype up the whole scene so that they register in the books of PHBs as potential customers and shareholders.

    The only thing that isn't consistent with this is their statement about continuing to support their MIPs systems at least until 2006, but I suppose that can be put down to not wanting to abandon their old customer base. That makes sense, as long as they don't spend too much money in this area of diminishing returns.

    All in all, if their thinking is anything like the above then I reckon they have a good chance of making a success of it. They certainly can't be accused of doing nothing as the wind changes direction.
  • As far as I'm concerned, SGI bowed out of the workstation market when they began offering intel CPU's running Windows. Like Packard Bell.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • Mmmm.... candy colored computers.

    Steve Jobs did save Apple, no doubt about it. And he did it by cancelling projects that didn't make money. Apple had a lot of really really cool technology before Jobs. Cyberdog, Darwin, OpenDoc... all of it got "Steved". SGI needs to do the same thing to save itself. FOCUS. Now Apple is focused on producing great professional computers (G4's, PowerBooks), great consumer computers (iMac's, iBooks) and a great OS (Mac OS X a.k.a. Rhapsody). They even open-sourced the core technology of Mac OS X. Sweet. SGI needs to focus on high-end workstations, Irix, and MIPS. And they could join the party and open-source openGL, which would be cool of them.

    that's my story and I'm stickin' to it

  • You know, when these things where released I said hey cool, that would rock!! But when i found out it ONLY ran NT, I looked else where. It's little wonder why people didn't buy these.

    1) It's only NT... Who want to run ONLY NT without a option to run anything else?!

    2) If you are going to spend 6-10k on a machine Do you want ONLY NT on it?!?

    3) Other then cheap 500 buck to 2k software (that non-pro use) what run on NT that is used by people that have 10k to spend on a machine???

    The only person I know that had one picked it up through a designer that worked for a company that bought this machine so he could do "something". Well it did want you expect of NT and since it only supported NT, they sold it for 1k to my friend after buying a UltraSPARC. My friend went through HELL to get to even to boot Linux!! Not to mention *BSD or any other UNIX version!! It's just another case of bad stuff not selling that well. It's not a surpise at all!
  • I think my dozen dual Alphas that'll arrive tomorrow are far sexier :-)

    Seriously, you can't distinguish yourself with yet another Wintel desktop machine. Those might be cool the day they come out, but who wants to shell out the $$ if you can buy a box with the same specs at Aldi* two weeks later. Or any other box that does your work equally well immediately.

    IMHO SillyGraphics should stick to what they were good at and cater to graphics professionals

    *Aldi is a German general retail chain which about twice yearly sells a shipload of el cheapo PCs in a single day.
  • SGI are giving up on two things neither or which is the line itself:

    1) They are giving up on selling off the Visual Workstation business

    2) They are giving up on making the Visual Workstations with SGI value-add features added in that drove the prices higher, even though that was the only thing that differentiated them in marketplace.

    Read the article it states:

    Now SGI plans to keep the product line under its own roof, but will drastically reduce the refinements it makes to higher-end desktop systems running Intel chips and often Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, Geoff Stedman, SGI's Visual Workstation marketing director, said in an interview.

    Essentially SGI will just make plain-old NT Workstations ala Compaq or Dell.

  • The new MacOS X is BSD based..... Actually the OS team is using FreeBSD as a reference platform. Go figure.
  • not even close..

    Apple got saved becoase of these reasons:

    1) killing of the clones - apple got monopoly of the mac market again = no mac competition = higher revenew streams + higher profit margins.

    2) Killing non-esential projects: newton, 6 slot motherboards.

    3) making SMART tech design decisions - embracing USB is the biggest one, imho since it forced all USB perifiral vendors to seriously concider developing mac drivers.

    4) FINALY fully capitalizing on one of apples majors advantages: a Kick ass Industrial design team, probably the best in the industry. (the emate and 20th mac, are not mainstream products).

    5) last but not least: the mac comunity and Apples STRONG culture - which in turn means that a bunch of people who will NOT convert to other platforms if thier life depended on it (not a bad thing..) And most Geeks have fond memories of Apple products, if not the Mac then Apple II.

    Look at SGI and tell me if any of this things might apply...

    non of them do. the only two things that resemble this are the industial design (which isn;t internal in SGI - they usealy hire Frogdesign), and they might theoretcly take a lead in graphics if they cancel OpenGL... But it's a little too late for that, isn't it..

    SGI does not have much culture, the little they has was KILLED when they changed their name to SGI and scratched the 3d box LOGO. IMHO the stupidest image move a company made this year (tied up with ArtX..)

    I personaly can't see how SGI might find a way to stage a comeback.. unless they make a very bold move. They do have some nice tech even leading tech in some ereas (Maya being the most obvious, IMHO). but nothing that I can see that might make them a power player again.

    Sic transit gloria mundi.

  • No SGI and no SUN to speak of in 5 years? What are you smokin'??

    I love Linux and the other free OS's, but I think that you are a little too confident of Win32's success. Also, SUN makes much heavier duty hardware than there is in the Intel world. In spite of the rise of Linux, a rise I mostly welcome, I don't see BSD shops giving up on that to go with Linux, or SUN/HP/AIX shops dropping their high end datacenter boxes to go with either Linux or W2K. Sorry, I just don't see it. As much as I love Linux, I wouldn't want to see that.

    Also, I'm starting to hope that Linux doesn't become the most popular OS, b/c then there will be a flood of those with admin skills and salaries will plummet when any company can get a combo Linux/Windoze guru out of high school. Not good, methinks.

    I don't know how many of you follow the financial news, but SUN is doing phenominal, and in spite of all of these claims about the impending fall of SUN, they are selling a record number of heavy duty Internet servers, and are in the midst of a very successful "" ad campaign. ...and their stock is doing very well too, wish I could afford to buy some, but my money is tied up mostly in CISCO right now....

    SUN isn't going anywhere but up.

    Windows NT has crashed,
    I am the Blue Screen of Death,
  • One thing both companies have in common is a large installed base of loyal users that aren't cracking the wallets open as often as they "should" to upgrade. Both SGI and Apple have made some great machines, and they typically have a much longer lifespan than your typical PC, and people tend to hang onto them longer.

    The genius of the iMac and the G3 is that it got many of the old Performa and Quadra users to buy a new Apple. SGI needs a similar product for their installed base, and the NT/Intel workstation wasn't it.
  • No, I think he has a point. Sun has done well, but they've been running for the high end as fast as they can. They're ditching the workstation and low-end server market, and are covering their Sparc bet with full support for the IA64 commodity platform.

    Sun and SGI can survive sitting on the high end (look at IBM and it's insanely profitable mainframe line), but eventually they're going to get cut off from the mainstream user base, and Solaris/Irix are going to get pegged as exotic and expensive server operating systems (much like OS/400 has). People will only want to use it if they absolutely have to.

    In the long run, they're losing mindshare which will lead to the loss of marketshare. (Look at people who try to implement NT in midrange situations just because NT is a familiar quantity.) The fact that a commodity Dell box running Linux|NT|Solaris is even comparable with a custom Sun or SGI box is bad news in the long run for custom UNIX hardware.

  • I don't think you can put Aldi Pc's on the same ground as SGI machines (or any other well build power machine). Ever opened an Aldi PC? Well I sell you the same stuff even cheaper. Indeed, SGI is priced endlessly high, but it isn't ment for everyday home/hobby use. It seems to me some firms are forgetting that a home pc does not equal a workstation/server client. (and not at least some small self-employed people who have the nerve to say the PC you sold them suxs because they played some copied games and got themselves some virusses)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1800 on the 540 No other PC can touch this. Among workstations, only O2. It just happens that YOUR application does not need this feature. Others can't live without it. They ARE impressive machines, if only you knew how to look at them.
  • At that price I'd consider getting them shipped over (my girlfriend works for an international courier, so it wouldn't be too expensive :-) Where are you getting them from?
  • SGI does not plan to abandon IRIX. This is pure FUD spread by competitors. The future for SGI [] is IRIX on MIPS, Linux on IA-32 and IA-64, and adding highend and scalability features to Linux so it can do more and more of what our customers do on IRIX today.
  • This is absolutely not true. Even the latest and greatest 3dfx or nVidia cards do not come even close to the performance of year old SGI Visual Workstations. I was lucky enough to use a simple (only $4000) 320 model. It did real time 3d rendering like nothing I've ever seen. Not to mention even the most complex Photoshop filters(yes the Kia's included) in only a few seconds. I watched as it operated on a 15MB image file and applied filter after filter with the operator not pausing.

    It still beats the latest G4's from Mac, which have been Photoship king for sometime. The really impressive piece of these Intel machines was 2 fold. One, they didn't have a BIOS in the traditional since of a PC, instead they had a ARC Console like the Alpha's that run NT. Two, SGI actually rewrite the NT HAL from source code obtained from Microsoft. This was key in the way thier machines worked, and they DID work.

    NT doesn't seem quite as horrible when SGI has re-written the Hardware Abstraction Layer and many of the Drivers for the hardware running.

    Now on a completely different note: The title of this Slashdot article is "SGI Steps out of the Workstation Market" which is entirely untrue. SGI is stepping out of the Microsoft Windows based workstation market. SGI is selling workstations right now with either MIPS/IRIX or INTEL/Linux as the platform.

    One should also realize that SGI's former CEO pushed SGI into this Microsoft direction. This former CEO was picked up by Microsoft after he left SGI in shambles, the new CEO seems to really be getting SGI back to its roots. Notice the moves away from Cray and Visual Workstation markets, much like Steven Jobs did for Apple when he dumped the Newton and other Apple projects that weren't related to core Apple fundamentals and directions.

    Just my humble opinions, and a little fact :)
  • Apple isn't selling a BSD platform, though. From a developer's standpoint, they want people to write to their proprietary NeXT-based APIs and windowing system.

    The BSD layer will only drive the filesystem and networking (Mach does the process management and VM), and may disappear completely as simply a layer underneath the real "Mac OS X" API.
  • sgi has lost its original founding vision, while one could argue that this isn't true, that it is still marketing and selling topnotch stuff the way it always did, nevertheless things are not looking good. time to put off the excuses and start turning in homeworks on time, study before the next class, and well in advance of exams. the pc-era has almost caught up to the workstation era. time to think and act differently. merge with nVidia,(what is nVidia, but a group of talents that were born and raised at sgi, matured at nVidia?) bring forth better graphics to the masses. mainstream convergence. good soul food for y2k. Quoting John Carmack, of IdSoftware(you know, the people that brought us castle Wolfenstein), "...a lot of trends are coming to the point where a "cyberspace" as it is often imagined is begining to be feasible." this convergence thingy is fascinating... the old vision: bring cool graphics computers to the graphics people. thus a new vision: bring cool graphics computers to the mere mortals. happy fraggin, --cornmuffin
  • Work with me a bit here, because as you probably know I'm a real SGI booster most of the time.

    But what of the announcement that they plan to keep Irix going until 2006? That would seem to indicate Irix is on the way out.


  • Yeah, except the Voodoo 4/5's will support up to 1GB of texture memory, and up to 100 graphics CPUs for professional applications. I'm sure NVidia has a similar product in the works to compete. SGI has nothing to compete with this, or at least nothing that will be in any way proce-competitive.

    The NVidia GeForce comes reasonably close on paper to outperforming an SGI Reality Engine (can't say for sure, i can't afford an SGI Reality Engine to test it)

    The 800MB of texture memory is also just main memory AGP-style (faster, of course due to the crossbar-switch architecture), but how long before the K7 with it's Alpha-style crossbar bus surpasses the speed of the SGI bus at consumer prices?

    3dfx use the same core as the consumer part, so they can make their money off the gamers, and they aren't totally reliant on their (not so numerous) high-end customers.

    Yet for the first time their consumer cards will be part of an enormously scalable architecture which will most likely nail 3dlabs etc. to the wall.

    I predict 3dfx and Nvidia will end up being the two 'big boys' in 3D graphics into the next millenium, maybe for no other reason than computer games and consumer VR applications will be a far bigger industry than broadcast, film, engineering and scientific visualisation combined.

    It sounds like SGI does have the right idea, partnering with NVidia.

    And fair enough, as of right now, today, you can't get a consumer graphics card that will give you access to 800 MB of texture memory (although, I think the AGP bus does support exactly this type of thing, storing textures in system memory), but the number of applications that really do run faster on SGI hardware are disappearing at an incredible rate.

    And, on the other hand, there isn't any SGI hardware that can outperform even a TNT2 for fillrate.

    Even a TNT2 can put textures onto polygons faster than any SGI hardware that i know of.

    And show me an SGI machine that runs Quake 2/Quake 3 faster than an 500+ Mhz Intel PC + $300 Graphics accelerator for anything less than 5 times the price.

    Your applications may benefit from an SGI box, but mine positively suffer.

  • Not even that, the high end animation shops are no longer buying SGI workstations, prefering instead to build multi-processor NT boxes with powerful OpenGL cards. Shops like Digital Domain use software like Maya on NT and find that the NT box is faster than an equivilant SGI box.

    In the end, SGI did it to themselves. They thought what was special about their product was Irix and the closed system. But what everyone wanted was their graphics subsystem. If their management had a lick of sense, SGI would have used the opportunity offered by the sale of a couple of millions MIPS 4000s to Nintendo to enter the PC graphics chip market. If they had done it at the time, they would have owned it, and all these upstart chip manufacturers would have never had a chance, as well as insuring that all game designers would have bought SGI workstations for game design.

  • SGI has been going down hill since atleast 1996. It is around that time they tried to get into the web server market with the Origin 200. The Origin 200 was a cool machine. With its CRAYLink you could connect two machines and nearly double you performance. However it was much more power then you needed and IRIX never had a reputation for security.

    Yes, an undeservedly so. Security is more an issue with sysadmin completence, and less of platform.

    And I don't think its for you to say how much power is needed for a particular application.
  • O2=Oxygen
  • I am typing this on a loaded SGI 320.

    When it debuted, it was a very good all around performar, and it had the highest fill rate of any intel based system.

    Now, an Nvidia GeForce is just plain superior in almost every aspect. Higher fill rate, even in high res, 32 bit, trilinear modes. Faster, more capable geometry acceleration.

    Any remaining areas of SGI superiority are probably due to driver optimization rather than hardware architecture. Nvidia hasn't had much call to optimize stippled lines, for instance.

    The super-memory-system wasn't all it was touted to be. It worked well for sharing the load between the graphics and the cpu, but the cpu didn't actually see any better bandwidth than on a standard intel chipset. The cpu write bandwidth was actually about 10% LOWER than a consumer machine.

    I have used a lot of intergraph and sgi machines, and the bottom line is that the consumer hardware has just outpaced the workstation hardware because they were on different growth curves. The workstations are better than they have ever been, but the consumer systems are just orders of magnitude better than they used to be.

    I think SGI shot too low with the VW's graphics, somewhat out of fear of canibalizing their other workstations, and somewhat out of underestimating the consumer competition. Being quite a bit late didn't help, either.

    John Carmack
  • But what of the announcement that they plan to keep Irix going until 2006? That
    would seem to indicate Irix is on the way out.

    I think that's subject to interpretation. To me, it means the viability of IRIX will be reassessed come 2006, not that IRIX will be totally abandoned.

    A lot can happen between now and then.
  • And, on the other hand, there isn't any SGI hardware that can outperform even a
    TNT2 for fillrate.

    Even a TNT2 can put textures onto polygons faster than any SGI hardware that i
    know of.

    I wonder how extensive your testing has been, and how valid? Octane MXE? Onyx2?

    10,000 polys vs. millions?


    Your applications may benefit from an SGI box, but mine positively suffer.

    If Quake is it, who cares? You can't use Quake to build a world like Riven. Or even Myst.
  • ...until they restore the old logo. That's all there is to it.

  • I see Rob fixed this. Good thing too.
  • Such a pity. When these systems were announced only a few short months ago(what was it, the spring??)they seemed so incredible. The idea, bring x86 into the true graphical workstation business, with WINDOWS no less, what a concept.
    And then at the time, people yelled that the Visual Workstations should have been running Linux, not Windows, and perhaps SGI suddenly realized the mistake it had made, and then they started supporting Linux whole-heartedly, right?


    I think the truth is that these machines failed not becuase of SGI or anything they might have done....I think we might blame Microsoft for this one. Why? Well to start off with, the Visual Workstations were designed FROM THE START to use Windows 2000, and it shows too, with the machines having Firewire, USB, and a multitude of other features that Win2k supposedly supports(or will support). Unfortunately, in true M$ fashion, their product was late(so late, in fact, that it won't be around until February!), and SGI had to hack NT4.0 so at least the input devices would work under MS's operating system(both the keyboard and mouse are USB, which NT4 does not support). This still leaves most of the other high end features of the Workstations left to rot while SGI waited patiently for 2000 to be released.

    But then May comes around(at the time of the Visual Workstations' announcement, Win2000 was slated for a May/June 1999 release), and MS delays shipment once again....they are left stuck with a half disabled system that is supposed to be their new Flagship! So what to they do? They turn to their only option, jump ship from Windows and try Linux.

    Over the next four months, SGI pours quite a bit of funding into Linux development and resources, but by August/September, they realize the Visual Workstation is a failure, with incomplete Linux support, a half broken Windows implementation, so they admit it is a failure and let their stillborn child go.

    What a shame...the Visual Workstation's could have been so much, had MS delivered Win2000 on schedule(like about two years ago!). I'd bet the Visual Workstations would have been released a year earlier too, and done MUCH better in that market than they did in the one of this year.

    R.I.P. Visual Workstations...we hardly knew you.

    Cliff Palmer, Jr.
  • >I wonder how extensive your testing has been, and >how valid? Octane MXE? Onyx2?

    Remember i am talking about *fillrate*, i.e the number of texels per second.

    I do not dispute the fact that a lot of SGI hardware can transform and display many polys per second, far in excess of a TNT/TNT2. However, it is interesting to note how well the games cards compare in terms of fillrate etc. Add geometry processing, like with the GeForce, and the difference between a Reality Engine (quoted as maxing out at 12 million polys per second) and a GeForce (which probably maxes out around 10 million polys/sec) is getting pretty slim.

    Also, Riven was built in SoftImage, which runs just as well on a cheap-ass Wintel workstation with a decent OpenGL accelerator (which some of the newer models of games cards will function very well as) as it does on an SGI O2/Octane for much less $$.

    Anyway, Even with the best SGI hardware the Riven ppl could acquire, they still had a lot of trouble with the system (granted, it was mainly software) choking on the number of polygons to be rendered.

    And for rendering horsepower, i don't think anyone could successfully argue that a network of SGI machines would outperform a network of Intel or Alpha machines, price-performance wise.

    An R12000 Octane may be fast, but theres no way its faster than the 5-10 P3/K7 processors you could get for the same price.

    I do a fair bit of 3D stuff with Lightwave and other packages, and my TNT2 performs pretty well for the money it cost me. I spose if you have twenty grand or so to throw around you can afford fancy gear, but personally i am extremely thankful to 3dfx and NVidia for bringing good quality 3D acceleration within the reach of the average user, or independent artist.

    Something that SGI seems to have zero interest in doing.

  • The only thing that isn't consistent with this is their statement about continuing to support their MIPs systems at least until 2006, but I suppose that can be put down to not wanting to abandon their old customer base. That makes sense, as long as they don't spend too much money in this area of diminishing returns.

    No one is going to buy a new Origin 2000 unless they feel confident that SGI will continue to support them for the lifetime of the system - thus the reassurance that IRIX will continue to exist until at least 2006.
  • We have made no such announcement. As SGI CTO Kurt Akeley says in the article I referenced:

    We have established IRIX/MIPS roadmaps, product schedules, and plans that extend out to a minimum of 2006. For us to accurately predict or make absolute statements about the state or direction of the industry further out than that-well, no one can do that. Even so, we have made three fundamental operational and operating systems decisions. They are:
    • SGI is an IRIX/MIPS and Linux/IA company.
    • IRIX and MIPS will continue for a long time.
    • SGI is going to get more serious about IA-32 machines. IA-64 isn't the only architecture of the future.
    On the hardware side of the IRIX/MIPS commitment, SGI has extended its MIPS/RISC processor roadmap through the year 2006, and beyond if demand warrants, through development of at least four more MIPS processors and through MIPS processors running at more than 1 GHz.
  • And I don't think its for you to say how much power is needed for a particular application.

    I appologise for not being more clear. For the target market as per promo material, at that time (1996), the Origin 200 was overpowered. There just wasn't that much bandwidth to begin with, and people were still mostly serving out static pages. These machines were more powerfull then what /. was running untill recently. I was part of a few sales pitches from SGI. They had no idea what they were selling and were pushing these machines as general web servers. The kind of servers that are single PIIs now.

    SGI just had no idea what to do with these Origin 200s and "WEB" was the latest buzz word.

  • SGI getting out of the visual workstation could also have something to do with many of the 3D applications being ported to OSX. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, SGI beat feet. Instead of the movies being made on SGI, It will be G4's running OSX. Right now Jobs is a very powerful man in Hollywood. He will grab the content creation in Hollywood, and with QuickTime and FireWire, the delivery. Wonder what the Apple Cinema Display portents? Read the Motley Fool Microsoft vs Linux article. Jobs is doing basically the same thing. He's doing an end run around MS.
  • Whoa... was that really John Carmack? It sounds like he knows what he's talking about, so i guess so. Of course, the companies which previously only made "consumer" graphics cards (read: nVidia and 3dfx) have themselves entered the high end grahpics card market. nVidia has the Quadro, and 3dfx (yes I know is actually Quantum3D making the cards) has the 8-32 vsa-100 chip implementation. Never mind that thse cards are simply outgrowths of their consumer cards; they are still designed for the high-end market. I guess it is for the greater good that consumer graphics cards with workstation performance are being offered in the workstation markets. After all, most innovation does seem to come from the consumer market. A [failed] attempt to sound as smart as John Carmack. :)

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor