January 12, 2004 6:30 AM PST

SGI releases midrange Linux server

Silicon Graphics Inc. expanded its Linux computer line into the midrange area on Monday, unveiling an Altix model with as many as 16 Itanium 2 processors.

The maker of high-end computers and storage systems introduced its Linux server line a year ago with the release of the 64-processor Altix 3000. The new 16-processor Altix 350, which can be assembled from four-processor modules, could appeal to customers with more modest demands and budgets.

A four-processor Altix 350 costs $21,599 and supports as much as 192GB of memory, according to Mountain View, Calif.-based SGI.

The Altix line is strategically important for SGI, a technical computing specialist that has been struggling to recover for years from a failed bid to expand into the mainstream server market. Its core customer base typically uses computers with SGI's own MIPS processors and the Irix version of the Unix operating system. Moving to Intel's Itanium chips and to Linux offers the company a chance to reduce its research and development expenses.

Among the Altix 350's competitors are IBM's p650, an eight-processor system with a starting price of about $27,000 for a dual-processor configuration; Hewlett-Packard's four-processor rx5670, with a starting price of about $22,000; and Sun Microsystems' V880z, an eight-processor machine with a starting price of about $60,000.

The higher-end Altix 3000 comes in 64-processor configurations today, with a 128-processor model expected in the spring of 2004. Customers can special order Altix 3000 systems with as many as 512 Itanium 2 processors.

SGI has been under a financial cloud, but its stock rose recently after it restructured its debt and reported financial results that have shown it nearer to profitability.

 

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