Silicon Graphics, which in October emerged from bankruptcy and staff cuts in October, is now teaming up with Microsoft to offer the Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 operating system in its Xeon-based servers.
The two companies are scheduled to announce the new agreement Jan. 11. SGI, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., will start offering the 64-bit operating system in all of its Altix XE cluster systems, which use both Intels dual-core and quad-core Xeon processors.
For SGI, the goal of the agreement is a chance to offer HPC (high-performance computing) to a broader array of enterprise customers, outside of the companys traditional base of science and technical researchers.
More HPC-type workloads are being run on backroom servers that typically run Linux, said Dave Parry, SGIs senior vice president and product general manager. This agreement gives SGI an opportunity to seamlessly deliver HPC applications across an enterprises network and bring the benefits directly to a users desktop.
"This is a seamless way for those desktops users to get the benefits of HPC technology," Parry said. "By offering this type of environment, we are making HPC accessible to a much broader set of users and at a much lower price point."
He said customers that could benefit from this include those in large data management companies, industrial design, health care, government and academia.
The agreement also gives Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., the chance to gain a foothold in the HPC space, a market traditionally dominated by Linux and Unix operating systems. To do that, Microsoft needs partners like SGI, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, in Nashua, N.H.
"That said, I remain skeptical about Microsofts ability to make truly substantive gains in a market area where Unix and Linux have such a strong historical presence," Haff wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "And SGI—which has been far more focused on truly large-scale HPC—doesnt necessarily seem like the best fit for Microsoft, which is likely to more typically start out at much smaller scale points."
It was on May 8 that SGI declared bankruptcy, a move that followed the elimination of some 250 employees and a plan that called for the company to save about $150 million in restructuring.
In October, SGI emerged from bankruptcy and has tried to reinvent itself for a marketplace where HPC workloads are moving away from big machines to smaller cluster servers that use processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.
Parry said that since the bankruptcy and cost cutting, SGI has worked to streamline and refresh about 70 percent of its product line.
On Jan. 8, SGI rolled out its new Altix XE310 server and its XE 1300 cluster. The XE310 included a new motherboard developed in cooperation with Intel—called "Atoka"—that accommodates up to four quad-core Xeon 5300 processors in a single 1U (1.75-inch) chassis. This configuration will give users eight cores per node and a total of 16 cores per chassis.
The XE 1300 cluster combined several of the XE310 servers, along with an Altix XE240 head node.
In 2006, as the company first started to reorganize, it rolled out the first of Altix XE family of Linux-based servers and cluster offerings that were powered by Intels dual-core Xeon 5150 "Woodcrest" processors.
Now, the entire Xeon line of Altix servers and clusters will be able to run both the Linux and the Windows operating systems.
The servers and clusters that will run Windows will be available starting in March. The hardware will start at $3,500 per node.