SGI Will Shut Down MIPS/Irix Line

The struggling hardware maker will end general availability in December, but will continue making custom systems for particular customers through 2008.

Silicon Graphics is getting rid of the high-end MIPS/Irix hardware that it has been making for almost two decades, but it is throwing a lifeline to those customers who need the systems beyond the end of 2006.

In a support notice, SGI said it will discontinue general production of its Origin 3600 and 350 servers and Fuel and Tezro workstations on Dec. 29 and will fulfill orders through March 2007.

However, the Mountain View, Calif., company is developing line extension agreements for particular system integrators, OEMs and customers who have particular needs for the product lines beyond the end of 2006, said Bob Ainsworth, senior director of SGIs Remanufactured Products Group, which includes the MIPS/Irix systems. Irix is SGIs Unix variant.

"There are a lot of people who have invested a lot in MIPS/Irix," Ainsworth said. "We are committed that [general availability] is out in December of this year, but for the first time we are committed to building these systems for two more years."

Initially SGI, which is shedding the MIPS/Irix line in favor of its Altix systems that run on Intels Itanium and Xeon processors, told partners and customers that all availability was going to end with the close of 2006.

Some of those SIs and OEMs said they had large customers, such as government agencies, with infrastructure based in large part on the architecture, which convinced SGI to extend the production schedule in such cases, Ainsworth said.

Moving the production deadline for those customers to December 2008 also means moving the support back another two years, from 2011 to 2013, though it probably will go beyond that, he said.

The move not only is good for customers, but also makes business sense, Ainsworth said.

"We believe that really taking good care of the MIPS/Irix installed base is key to having them stay with SGI and embracing the Altix product line and our storage products," he said.

Keeping hold of the business it has is key for SGI, which made billions of dollars on the back of the MIPS/Irix line selling high-end servers and workstations. However, its fortunes have taken a tumble as demand for low-end volume systems based on Intel technology grew.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about how SGI cut its work force in an effort to get the company back on track.

SGI has responded with the Altix systems running Linux, but it continues to struggle. The company has been in an aggressive restructuring mode since Dennis McKenna took over as chairman and CEO in January and, saddled with about $250 million in debt, filed for bankruptcy in May.

Two months before the filing, SGI announced it was laying off about 250 people—or 12 percent of its workforce—in hopes of saving $150 million by the end of the year.

Also in March, the company said it was consolidating its server and visualization product lines, relying more on partners for customers visualization needs.

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