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Innovation

SGI retains fans down under

Despite its flagging financial fortunes, high-end technology vendor Silicon Graphics (SGI) still hascustomers 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.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor on
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 last week.

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."

Melbourne expansion
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 said.

Among the feature films that Atlab has recently been involved with is Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr's film Ten Canoes.

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