Silicon Graphics Debuts Linux Servers

New models offer global shared memory across cluster nodes.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 7, 2003

2 Min Read

Silicon Graphics Inc. threw its hat into the Linux arena Tuesday with the introduction of its own distribution of the open-source operating system, management software, and a new line of servers powered by Intel Itanium 2 processors. What makes SGI's Linux Altix 3300 and Altix 3700 servers different from scalable Linux clusters from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and others is SGI's ability to provide global shared memory across cluster nodes.

SGI is aiming the Altix servers at companies in the physical and life sciences, manufacturing, oil and gas, and government and defense markets. Each node in the cluster runs a single Linux operating-system image with up to 64 Itanium 2 processors and 512 Gbytes of memory. SGI uses its NUMAlink system interconnect fabric to provide memory and communication between cluster nodes. An entry-level Altix 3300 server, available by the end of the first quarter, will be priced at $70,176 with four processors but scales up to 12 processors. The Altix 3700, also available by the end of the quarter, will scale to hundreds of processors and more than 1 terabyte of memory. A 64-processor system will start at $1.2 million.

Along with the servers, SGI is also offering ProPack Linux-compatible software that provides data, input/output, and systems-management and performance tracking. The shared memory capabilities are designed to let the Altix servers be configured like a cluster but operate like an integrated supercomputer.

SGI's move to embrace Linux while at the same time creating its own Linux distribution is reminiscent of a similar move Sun Microsystems in August. SGI and Sun are being pressured by the market to accept Linux, says Shahin Naftchi, a senior Gartner analyst. IBM, for example, is attracting many new customers with its Linux offerings, so it's likely that IBM's competitors are looking to farm the same field, she says.

SGI's Linux strategy has two primary strengths, Naftchi says. Because Linux is open source, inexpensive, and fairly autonomous regardless of the distribution, it levels the playing field among vendors from an operating-system standpoint. "Also, SGI's customers are mostly government and research facilities, and Linux is well accepted there," she says. Still, Naftchi adds, SGI's Linux strategy isn't likely to help it take significant market share away from high-end competitors HP and IBM.

In other Linux supercomputing news, ClusterVision BV on Monday introduced Linux server, storage, and database clusters that come preconfigured with ClusterVisionOS, the Dutch company's Linux-based operating system. The clusters are available in a variety of Intel or Advanced Micro Devices processor configurations.

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