Despite its flagging financial fortunes,
high-end technology vendor Silicon Graphics (SGI) still has
customers in Australia prepared to back its products.
The company's stock price, which once traded at US$50 a share,
dipped below the US$1 mark too many times last year, resulting in
an embarassing delisting from the New York Stock Exchange and an admission it was facing bankruptcy.
But Rob Sandeman, the digital supervisor of local film processing
company Atlab, still has faith in the vendor's technology and is
banking on a new multimillion dollar SGI InfiniteStorage
TP9700-based storage area network (SAN) to be the backbone of his
company's Melbourne expansion.
"SGI's input into the film industry or into the post-video
industry was very big in the past, and has been shrinking with
the advent of the better performing Windows, Linux and Mac
boxes," Sandeman admitted in an interview with ZDNet Australia
However, Sandeman said, SGI still did a lot of "homework" on
its products before they were released to the market.
"Whereas there's a lot of hype about some of the others
[vendors], when you actually sit down and look at the real
performance out of each of them, I think we've been able to trust
what SGI have said," he said.
"Basically they've performed the job, whereas I've had other
machines in which have claimed big things and I haven't been able
to verify those claims."
Atlab has always had SGI servers in its fleet, Sandeman said.
"We started off by putting SGI servers in place, and I think
that was the right decision, because that has meant 99 percent
uptime on all the machines, without any problems," he said.
"Those servers run day in and day out without a hiccup. Every
now and then you might actually reboot them, but it's unlike some
of the other machines ... some of the Windows and Mac boxes will
freeze for unexplained reasons."
"They'll do all those sorts of things whereas the SGIs keep
going day in, day out."
Sandeman said Atlab has had one SGI SAN
for some time but needed to install a second one in its Melbourne
office to keep clients in Victoria who had increasingly started
shooting film in digital formats.
The digital supervisor examined solutions from various vendors
but ended up going back to SGI.
"At the same time, we are using other products that attach to
the SAN -- and they're not SGI products. So it is an eclectic mix
of machines that are in the department," he said.
The Melbourne facility holds a total of around 20 terabytes of
data, with 16 terabytes actually hooked into the SAN, whereas the
Sydney facility hosts some 30 terabytes of storage.
Even with all that space, however, Atlab still needs more.
"We run about 90 percent full most of the time," laughed Sandeman. "I
try and manage the data but it's always a struggle."
"If I had the opportunity I'd have another SAN right now, but
I don't think I can justify that yet -- maybe when the industry
gets slightly more buoyant."
Sandeman advised other IT managers implementing a SAN to
realise it was important that an SGI solution was "tuned".
"SGI were very good about that process," he said. "They've
come in and helped us with the tuning environment."
He praised local SGI partner Intraware, who helped with the
implementation. "We've got a very good relationship with
Intraware. They've been on board right from the word go," he
Among the feature films that Atlab has recently been involved
with is Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr's film Ten Canoes.