San Diego, CA — Silicon Graphics Inc. has launched a line of “NUMAflex” computers that are built with modular “bricks” – components that can be assembled and reassembled to change or upgrade a system.
For example, the Onyx 3000 visualization workstations can be built out of the components, as well as a 512-processor, Origin 3000 server being used by the U.S. Army Engineering Research Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss.
The drawer-like components used in building the systems are call C-brick for a central processing unit (CPU) module, P-brick for a personal computer interconnect expansion module, D-brick for hard drive storage and R-brick for system/memory interconnect. SGI is also offering I-bricks for input/output modules and G-bricks for SGI’s InfiniteReality high-resolution graphics. Additional components will be added, said Jan Silverman, SGI’s vice president of advanced systems marketing.
Instead of buying a high-end system that is outmoded a year or two later, SGI customers will be able to expand their systems with the components that are suitable for the tasks they have at hand, said SGI Chief Executive Bob Bishop. The modular design “stands to change the way advanced computer systems are built,” he said, and will increase the amount of computer power that can be leveled against “supercomputer”-style problems.
Silverman said the NUMAflex computers were like stereo components that could be mixed and matched to build a home system vs. tossing out the eight-track tape player because it had become out of date.
Both Onyx visual workstations and Origin servers are available immediately. The Origin servers may be configured with two to 512 processors and up to a terabyte of memory. An entry-level system is priced at $50,000, SGI spokesmen said.
Origin serves may also be clustered into systems with thousands of combined processors, Silverman said. The systems run SGI’s Irix 64-bit Unix operating system.
The Onyx visual workstations are used in high-end design and complex data visualization tasks, for which rapid processing of images at high resolution is vital. The drawer-like components can be plugged into or extracted from a case built to link them through a high-speed internal interconnect. A system could be upgraded for a new purpose, such as broadband data streaming, as new technologies such as PCI-X or Infiniband win acceptance in the market, Silverman said.