The Path Ahead for SGI

By Michael Feldman

May 12, 2006

Silicon Graphic Inc., the high-tech darling of Mountain View, filed for bankruptcy on Monday to relieve itself from its financial burdens that has hobbled the company for several years. Presumably they had failed to find a buyer that was willing to take on the debt SGI had built up. While some saw the Chapter 11 filing as the demise of the company, I don't think that's going to be the case.

On Wednesday, I got the opportunity to speak with Dennis McKenna, SGI's Chairman and CEO, about the company's current crisis and its future plans. I expected him to put on a brave face and hand me the company line. And there was certainly some of that, but he was also candid about SGI's past missteps and seemed genuinely optimistic about the company's future. McKenna portrayed the Chapter 11 filing as a strategic move to eliminate the uncertainty caused by the company's legacy debt. According to him, once that burden is removed, the reorganization of the company can move forward.

SGI's overall plans are to refocus it core supercomputer offerings and broaden its product line to tap into some high volume enterprise markets. McKenna offered a few tantalizing details about these new products. So if you're an SGI fan — or even if you're not — I encourage you to read the article to hear what the CEO had to say.

SGI's value to the HPC community, is exemplified by their new Altix 4700 system. Introduced at SC05 and officially released last month, the 4700 is designed for users who are processing enormous databases for knowledge discovery. The Altix 4700 incorporates some of the company's next-generation Project Ultraviolet technology that makes tens of terabytes of memory practical.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with SGI's CTO, Dr. Eng Lim Goh about the new Altix system. As the driver behind the Project Ultraviolet computer architecture, he is a strong advocate for systems designed specifically for applications performance. When I talked to Dr. Goh, he was in Singapore and although it was one o'clock in the morning, he sounded alert and enthusiastic, as if he had just had come in from a mid-morning jog. As we spoke, I could tell he took some personal pride in the design of the 4700. Our feature article provides a look at some of this advanced technology that is driving SGI's newest Altix platform.

Microsoft, please release me

Now for a bit of a rant.

This week, Microsoft announced the availability of the “release candidate” of Windows Compute Cluster Server (CCS) 2003 — Microsoft's answer to Linux on clusters. According to the Redmond folks, a release candidate signifies that the product code has “met certain quality and performance goals, and is suitable for production deployment by early adopter customers and partners.” So then what's a beta? And why are they dribbling out the product release like this? It's already months late, and the real beta's been out for like half a year. Why are they torturing their customers with release candidates? When I worked at software companies, we only tortured our customers when it was absolutely necessary. Or when we were bored.

And another thing. Whose idea was it to retain the “2003” on the product name? It's going to be released this year! In 2006! I'm not suggesting that they name it “Windows CCS 2006.” By the time 2007 rolls around, you're going to be wondering where the upgrade is.

This harkens back to the badly named Windows Millennium Edition (ME), which I, myself, am running on my home PC. At least that product was released in 2000, but no way is it going to last a millennium. I can tell you its days are numbered on my PC. I'm ready to throw a spear through the monitor the next time I see the blue screen of death.

But I digress. Windows CCS 2003, which is scheduled for release next month, is a potentially game-changing piece of software that is designed to challenge Linux for HPC domination. And that's a good thing. Competition will help improve the Linux offerings and CCS will offer Windows shops a comfortable upgrade path to HPC cluster computing. In the upcoming months, we're going to be providing plenty of coverage for this new product. That is if anyone at Microsoft is still talking to me.

—–

As always, comments about HPCwire are welcomed and encouraged. Write to me, Michael Feldman, at [email protected].

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