Silicon Graphics Inc. announced that it will ship a new Intel Itanium-based Linux workstation that the company says is the most powerful of its kind in the world.
The new SGI Prism should ship to customers on November 8, according to Shawn Underwood, director of marketing for SGI, based in Mountain View, Calif. Underwood said that the $30,000 visual computing system will offer unprecedented speed and graphics ability.
"This is above what you can get with a simple workstation," Underwood said. "It has a lot of compute power and a lot of graphics power." He said that he expects users to be in the scientific, medical and energy communities. He said that hes already seen applications in weather simulation and in visualization of gene folding.
The goal of the new machine was to create an affordable means of providing high performance. SGIs Prism is available in full and half-rack configurations, and it can currently support up to sixteen 1.6 gigahertz Itanium processors and four ATI Technologies Inc.s FireGL graphics cards.
Eventually the Prism will be able to handle up to 512 Itanium processors and 16 graphics cards, according to Underwood. Each of the graphics cards handles resolutions up to 3820 by 2480 pixels. Right now, Underwood said that the graphics capability of the Prism is "eye limited," meaning that even if it were better, you wouldnt be able to see the difference.
Underwood said that SGI used its knowledge of graphics and visualization to modify the normal ATI graphics drivers. In addition, he said that the company optimized the operating system for fast computing and visualization. "There is a growing need in the scientific community to combine compute power with visualization power," Underwood said.
The SGI Prism would be faster than the companys Irix-based workstations, Underwood said. Furthermore users would find the Prism to be extremely flexible because of the NUMAflex architecture, and the ability of the Prism to be configured into "clusters of clusters," he said. Users can, for example, borrow computing cycles from other clusters to speed up jobs when the other clusters arent busy, he said.
The standards-based design with the Intel processors, Linux operating system and ATI video processors made the Prism competitively priced with high-end Xeon workstations, Underwood said. The difference is that for the type of applications for which SGI designed it would significantly outperform a Xeon-based system, he said.
SGI plans to sell into the medical research and scientific markets as well as to government, Underwood said. For example, the Department of Homeland Security, he said, has a strong need for systems such as the Prism.