SGI serves up Intel for the first time

SGI has introduced a new server family, beginning with the SGI 1400, marking the company’s first Intel-based servers.

The SGI 1400L for Linux and the SGI 1400M for Windows NT are the first products in the family to be released, although more servers, such as two-way rack-optimized servers as well as an eight-way server, will appear over the next 12 months.

Previously, all of SGI’s servers have been based on MIPS Technologies processors. The addition of other products — with Intel chips and Linux operating systems — was a simple choice for SGI, according to Courtney Carr, product manager for SGI in Mountain View, Calif.

“It was critical to adopt the industry standards that drive entry-level server markets,” she explained. “We thought it was important to add the two de facto standards in the entry-level space with Microsoft NT and then also Linux.”

Customers now have an option.

“What we hear from our customers is that it’s very challenging for them to find one operating system that fit all their needs,” Carr said.

Alan Freedman, research manager, servers and workstations, at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, agreed.

“What customers are looking for is a combined solution,” he said. “Now SGI is offering that.”

The SGI 1400L comes pre-loaded with the SGI Linux Environment with Red Hat Linux 6.0.

“We have something called the SGI Linux Distribution,” she explained, “and it is based on Red Hat 6.0. We are very focused on not splintering Linux.”

The system is ideal, according to Don Holmgren, group leader of the computing department at Fermilab. The company, based in Batavia, Ill., is a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory.

“We’re devoted to high-energy physics research,” Holmgren said. “We run a large number of Unix workstations to do number crunching and data acquisition, with as many as 450 workstations in big clusters.”

Holmgren explained that Fermilab has recently switched over to Intel computers running Linux, and that there is some interest in workgroup servers, “just to see what a quad is going to look like.”

SGI had approached the lab to participate as a beta site for the SGI 1400L, and Fermilab, already using several other SGI products, agreed. Holmgren has been pleased with the SGI 1400L thus far.

“SGI had Red Hat 6.0 pre-installed and we configured the networking and had not had to do any de-bugging at all. They did a very good job in ensuring that Linux is up and running on that machine.”

And Linux seems to be what SGI is focused on in its marketing, according to IDC Canada’s Freedman.

“They’re leading with Linux, and not NT, which is good for two reasons. First, it gives them autonomy,” he said, “and second, it really speaks to the target. They’ve always been focused on the advanced type of user.”

Along with the new line of products, SGI also introduced the Global Services Organization, which offers services and support. While similar services for Irix already existed, the services are new for Linux. SGI Global Services offers phone service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, consulting and managed services, and on-site integration and deployment.

And for customers who continue to use SGI’s Irix operating system and its Origin server line which uses Irix and MIPS Technologies chips, support will still be offered, according to Carr. There are no plans to deviate from this.

“We continue to focus on selling Irix MIPS-based solutions,” Carr said.

The SGI 1400L and 1400M ( each include 256MB memory, 512KB cache, 9GB disk space and one processor. The 1400L is priced at $12,177, and the 1400M starts at $13,728.

SCI in Mississauga, Ont., is at 1-800-800-7441.