October 11, 2004 11:16 AM PDT

SGI brings visualization to Linux line

Silicon Graphics has brought high-end graphics abilities to its Linux- and Itanium-based computers, an important step in the company's expansion from its more proprietary equipment.

The Mountain View, Calif., company sells two classes of computers--some models for general high-performance computing and offshoots with advanced graphics abilities. Until now, the graphics abilities were only available on the company's older line using its own MIPS processors and Irix operating system.


The Silicon Graphics Prism is an
Itanium-based visualization system.

The older products still has some advantages--the chips run cooler and Irix has features Linux still lacks--but the Itanium line is less expensive, said spokeswoman Ginny Babbitt. Prices for the new Itanium-based Prism line start at $30,000, compared to $45,000 for the MIPS-based Onyx system, and the Itanium machines are faster.

The systems are important to financially struggling SGI: The Itanium-based products have attracted new customers and shown increasing revenue.

Lower-end Prism systems cost $30,000 to $150,000 with two to eight processors; midrange models range from $75,000 to $150,000 with eight to 16 processors; and high-end models begin at $200,000 for 16 to 512 processors.

Like the MIPS-based Onyx line, the Prism systems use mainstream ATI FireGL graphics chips.

Software is a sticking point for SGI because there's little available for high-end graphics systems running Linux, Babbitt said. However, a new partnership could help out: Software from a company called Transitive lets programs for MIPS-Irix run unmodified on Itanium-Linux systems, she said.

 

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