SGI CEO Clarifies Itanium Stance

Days after SGI officials said the next-generation Altix system-dubbed "Ultraviolet"-would be powered by Intel's upcoming Xeon "Nehalem EX" chips, SGI CEO Mark Barrenechea said in a blog that the company will continue developing systems powered by Itanium, and that Ultraviolet will support both Xeon and Itanium processors. However, the first Ultraviolet systems will be powered by Intel's eight-core Nehalem EX chips.

SGI might be building a new high-end Altix system powered by Intel's upcoming "Nehalem EX" chips, but that doesn't mean the company is abandoning Itanium, according to SGI CEO Mark Barrenechea.

In a blog post July 24, Barrenechea said that SGI will continue supporting and developing systems that run on Intel's Itanium processor.

The blog came days after officials with SGI-Silicon Graphics International-spoke with reporters at eWEEK and other news organizations about the company's road map two months after Rackable Systems bought Silicon Graphics Inc.

The officials spoke of the company's plans to continue expanding into the HPC (high-performance computing) space with the next generation of its Altix shared-memory systems, code-named "Ultraviolet," which they said will be powered by the eight-core Xeon Nehalem EX processors-which are due to start showing up in systems in 2010-rather than Itanium. and other news sites reported the change.

However, Barrenechea said in his blog that Ultraviolet will use both Nehalem EX and Itanium processors.

"[Ultraviolet] represents the next generation of Altix, designed to utilize both Itanium and Xeon processors," he said in his blog. "Our first priority is to develop a Xeon version of Ultraviolet, based on the strong feedback we have received from many customers.

"We continue to develop and expand our Altix Itanium line of products, and Ultraviolet V1 is focused on Xeon."

Barrenechea also touted the accomplishments SGI has had with Itanium-based processors, and said that Intel's work in developing its QuickPath Interconnect-a common interface for Itanium and Xeon-will enable SGI to continue to create a common systems architecture based on both chip platforms.

"The Itanium roadmap appears interesting and compelling for many years to come," he said in his blog. "And many SGI customers have Itanium systems. SGI will continue to work with our current and new customers to determine the best choice for their microprocessor needs, as we continue to leverage the best world-class micro-processing architecture available."

Rackable closed its $42.5 million acquisition of SGI in May and adopted the SGI moniker-though with a slight change of "Inc." to "International"-using the Rackable name for its line of scale-out x86 servers. Officials also put the legacy SGI Altix ICE blade platform into the Rackable family.

The Altix line remains under the SGI label.

The old SGI was a Silicon Valley pioneer that had fallen on difficult times in the Internet age. Rackable officials, when announcing the deal, said buying the company would enable them to expand their reach into the HPC field and play in a more global arena.