September 8, 2006 11:05 AM PDT

SGI's Unix variant fading into history

Silicon Graphics will phase out its Irix operating system and the MIPS chip-based computers the Unix variant runs on at the end of the year, 18 years after the once-vaunted computing company introduced the technology.

"After nearly two decades of leading the world in innovation and versatility, the MIPS-Irix products will end their general availability on Dec. 29, 2006," SGI said on its Web site. SGI will still sell some systems "through special arrangement only" after that, and support will last through at least December 2013, the company said.

The move isn't a surprise. SGI has been moving its product line to Intel's Itanium processors and the Linux operating system in recent years. But it does mark the end of another chapter as the computing industry whittles down the list of hardware and software foundations in widespread use.

SGI rose to glory with high-end machines, particularly those suited to graphics work such as the creation of dinosaur special-effects for the movie "Jurassic Park." But SGI has struggled financially as mainstream computing equipment grew more powerful, and business-focused companies such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM turned their attention to high-performance computing.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company isn't the only one whose products fell victim to industry consolidation. Compaq Computer, shortly before its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard, decided to cancel its Alpha processors and bring its Tru64 version of Unix to Itanium. After the acquisition, HP decided to scrap Tru64 altogether. HP's version of Unix, HP-UX, is still actively developed, but HP is moving it to Itanium as the company phases out its own PA-RISC chips.

Meanwhile, Linux, an open-source alternative that closely resembles Unix, has risen to prominence in part because it runs on mainstream x86 processors such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. The three major versions of Unix that still are under active development are HP's HP-UX, Sun Microsystems' Solaris and IBM's AIX; of those, only Solaris runs on x86 chips.

Among other versions of Unix that have fallen by the wayside in recent years are Sequent's Dynix/ptx, which vanished after IBM bought the company; Data General's DG/UX, which disappeared along with the Aviion server it used after EMC acquired the company; and Fujitsu-Siemens' Reliant.

The SCO Group's two Unix versions, OpenServer and UnixWare, have been steadily dwindling in popularity, though the company continues to market the products. SCO's product revenue dropped from $7.9 million in the quarter that ended July 31, 2005, to $6.2 million in the same quarter this year, the company said this week. SCO is suing IBM, alleging that proprietary Unix intellectual property was improperly incorporated into open-source Linux.

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Silicon Graphics Inc., SGI Unix, Intel Itanium, SCO Group Inc., Unix


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IRIX - good riddance.
Any decent, security-aware system administrator knows what I mean by this...
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
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You forgot one...
"The three major versions of Unix that still are under active
development are HP's HP-UX, Sun Microsystems' Solaris and
IBM's AIX; of those, only Solaris runs on x86 chips."

You left out Apple's Mac OS X, which also runs on x86 chips.
The only grounds under which I can imagine not including it as a
"major version of Unix ... under active development" is (a) it's not
System V derived (so what) or (b) it's not UNIX certified -- but
"Apple intends to submit Leopard Server to The Open Group for
certification against the UNIX 03 product standard" &lt;<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://" target="_newWindow">http://</a>;.
Posted by rsfinn (14 comments )
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Two, actually...
FreeBSD still slogs along very nicely on x86. Though it's not SysV derived either (no ****, right? :) ), it (as with most BSD variants) still counts as *nix no matter how you slice it.

Also, SCO is dying not because of its *nix products, but because their leadership managed to anger the vast majority of sysadmins on this planet with what has to be the world's most boneheaded lawsuit. That should've been made a bit more clear IMHO (instead of being tossed out there as an afterthought).
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
What have the Romans ever done for us?
This story will run a bit like that scene from Monty Python's "Life of Brian" - What have the Romans ever done for us?

NEC supercomputer clusters run on a few UNIX operating systems but most installations will run on NEC's own UNIX which is still very much active.

There is a lot of serious research equipment out there which is still running on SGI boxes with IRIX. I honestly don't know why (for research gear)SGI/IRIX seemed more popular than Solaris, but that's the way things were from the mid 1980s through the late 1990s.

As for CPUs, one chip I do miss is the Alpha - I wish AMD would put an Alpha-like math unit into their processors - that will be one frighteningly fast beast. Since the AMD64 family have a 32-bit math unit, I really don't see any advantage to this "64-bit" chip except for the addressable memory. (But whether you use 'em in 32-bit or 64-bit mode, they're still superior to Intel chips.)
Posted by pinniped (5 comments )
Link Flag
Itanium... *puke*
Gad; I really wish the *nix industry would've settled on an x64 that wasn't so poorly executed...
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's sacriledge to poo-poo the Itanic.
Posted by pinniped (5 comments )
Link Flag
Elegant IRIX
IRIX straight out of the box was less secure than say SunOS, because SGI promoted the idea of integrating IRIX in with MacOS and Windows clients and servers.

Once properly configured by a competent sysadmin, IRIX was more secure than a similiarly configured SunOS box.

Past the security "issues", nothing could touch IRIX's reliability, uptime and throughput.

Sun wishes they had the interconnect (craylink, later NUMAlink) technology that SGI had. Latency across those links from the 2 farthest nodes are on an order of magnitude less than the best that Sun could ever muster.

IRIX was stable, fast, reliable, secure and elegant. I have used IRIX since the original Indy workstation, all the way upto Origin 3000 servers.

I only wish SGI had played it's financial and technology cards better.

If superior technology was the only factor to commercial success, then SGI would be a household name.
Posted by ThePenguin (30 comments )
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The enevitable!
As more and more variants disappear... a singular standard will begin to appear.

That's the point which Microsoft needs to be wary of because it WILL replace them!!!

Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
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Probably not the wrong move...
I guess the worst part about this is that there will be less competition on the CPU market.

As for Irix versus Linux, at least maybe SGI users won't get socked having to shovel out boatloads of dollars for a software development system that should be included in any version of the UNIX operating system.

Other than that, I hope SGI can turn it around. We need competition among vendors, even if we'll probably be stuck using systems that all contain similar CPUs.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
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