SGI releases Itanium friendly servers

High-performance servers launched by SGI that will be prepared for the intro of the Itanium chip
Written by Eamonn Sullivan, Contributor and  Will Knight, Contributor

Computer manufacturer SGI launches a new range of high-performance servers Tuesday that it believes will make for a smooth transition towards the Itanium processor.

Although the new Origin 3000 and Onyx 3000 servers are based on Mips microprocessors, SGI says that with its new "Numaflex modular computing" technology moving them over to Intel's Itanium processor will be a piece of cake.

Numaflex technology allows users to build these high-performance computers out of individual modular "bricks" of CPU, disk storage and PCI slots, according to their specific computing needs.

"This framework will allow us to create CPU bricks with the Itanium processor, everything else will stay the same," says marketing manager John Fleming.

Intel recently set back the launch of 64-bit Itanium processor from autumn to late this year or early 2001 but Crispin Keable, presales consultant for SGI, says that the delay will not hurt SGI. "We already have Itanium-based systems running in the labs," he says. "We don't see the delay slowing us down."

While the Mips bricks are designed to run SGI's version of Unix, called Irix, the Itanium modules will run Linux. Users will therefore have to port applications over to Linux if they decide to move to Itanium.

Fleming says that SGI expects to see a lot of growth in the use of Linux. "We regard Linux as a disruptive technology," he says. "It is going to change the way the industry works."

The Origin or Onyx servers come in three versions: 3200, 3400 or 3800 with two between to eight processors.

The lowest-end system, a two-processor 3200, will cost £36,000 and a system configured with 128 processors would cost in the region of £1.5m to £2m depending on configuration.

SGI, which reported a net loss in the last quarter of $608m, is hoping the new systems will rejuvenate the company. According to Fleming the company has already taken $100m worth of orders. "With this announcement, we're back on an even keel," he says.

See Chips Central for daily hardware news, including an interactive timeline of AMD and Intel's upcoming product launches.

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