Could SGI be taken private?

Silicon Graphics News
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An interesting article has popped up on The Register by Timothy Morgan, where he argues that the tech stock slide produced by the ongoing credit crisis has provided a perfect time for large, established – and exposed – technology companies to take themselves private.

The usual R&D heavy suspects are discussed – Sun, Cray – and Silicon Graphics.


Silicon Graphics, once a high-flying Unix workstation and supercomputer maker, should also think about going private. The company’s shares trade on the small cap portion of the NASDAQ exchange, and it has a market capitalization of $101m as we go to press. In the first six months of 2008, SGI posted sales of $172.9m but booked losses of $74.9m. The company had just under $40m in cash as the June quarter closed.

It could be possible, especially with continued strong government contracts and continued interest from large investors.

What do you think?

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Silicon Graphics Newsgroups

More SGI Info
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The main SGI newsgroups are in the comp.sys.sgi hierarchy:

SGI related Newsgroups

Some SGI related groups that may be of interest:

Archives

Archives of comp.sys.sgi can be found here:

Archives of comp.sys.mips can also be found at these sites:

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Indigo2 Model Summary

Silicon Graphics FAQs
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teal Silicon Graphics Indigo2 R4600purple Silicon Graphics Indigo2 R10k

Until the introduction of the Octane, the Indigo 2 was SGI’s top end workstation. However, performance is still excellent and it still makes a very fast and useable workstation. Recently, prices have been plummeting, and an R10000 MaxImpact Indigo 2 represents superb value for money.

There are two different variants of the Indigo 2 – one with a green (called teal) case, and one with a purple case. RAM, CPU types, and graphics options available vary between the two.

CPU Options
CPU Type Speed (mhz) Secondary Cache Size
R4400SC 150 1MB
R4400SC 200 1MB
R4400SC 250 2MB
R10000SC 175 1MB
R10000SC 195 1MB

There are other CPU options, mostly the older R4000 and R4600 processors, which have the same specification as those available to the Indy. More can be found here.

You can upgrade an R4400 Indigo 2 to an R10000 processor. You will need a new motherboard, new powersupply, new processor module (duh! :-) and you may also need to replace the expansion backplane. However, it would probably work out cheaper to just sell your old machine and buy a newer one.

RAM:

R4400 based Indigo 2 machines have 12 SIMM slots, giving 3 banks of 4 slots. They can take 4mb, 8mb, 16mb or 32mb 72pin parity SIMMs, giving a total of 384mb.

R10000 based Indigo 2 machines also have 12 SIMM slots, with 3 banks of 4 slots. They can take all the above SIMM sizes (again, 72pin parity) but can also take 64mb SIMMs, giving a total of 768mb RAM.

It appears it is possible to squeeze in 1GB RAM into late model R10k machines – Ian’s site has the info here.

Graphics options:

This is the tricky one :-) The Indigo 2 has a wealth of different graphics options, and two different expansion backplanes that support different options.

The earlier, green (called Teal) cased Indigo 2 has the following options:

  • 24bit XL – no hardware acceleration, basically a 2D card

  • 24bit XZ – 2 geometry engines, hardware Z buffers

  • 24bit EX (Extreme Graphics) – 8 geometry engines, hardware Z buffers

Later Teal Indigo 2s had an upgraded XZ card with 4 GEs, although I’ve never seen one.

The later, purple cased Indigo 2 has the following options:

  • Solid Impact – 1 GE(1), 1 RE(2), no hardware texture mapping

  • High Impact – 1 GE, 1 RE, hardware texture mapping, 1MB or 4MB TRAM(3)

  • High Impact (High-AA)(4) – 2 GEs, 1 RE, hardware texture mapping, 1MB or 4MB TRAM

  • Max Impact – 2 GEs, 2 REs, hardware texture mapping, 1MB or 4MB TRAM


(1) GE – Geometry Engine
(2) RE – Raster Engine
(3) TRAM – Texture RAM
(4) The High-AA board is a bit rare, and I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere in SGI literature, but it’s basically a High Impact that carries out some operations at Max Impact speeds (most notably Anti-Aliasing, hence the AA)

Note that it’s possible to mix and match graphics boards to create a dual-head workstation. A Max-Impact/Solic Impact R10k is a truly splendid workstation :-)

If you want to upgrade a teal Indigo 2 to IMPACT graphics, you not only need to get the required board sets, but you will also need to replace the expansion backplane, and probably the power supply as well.

Ports:

  • External fast SCSI (2nd channel)

  • 2 Mac-compatible serial ports (RS422)

  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse

  • 10-BaseT or AUI ethernet

  • Audio I/O (microphone, headphone, line-in, etc.)

  • Bi-directional parallel port

  • 3 EISA slots, and 2 GIO-64 slots

Drives:

The Indigo 2 has a decent amount of space inside for various drive configurations. There is space for 2 3.5″ hard drives, an externally accessible 5.25″ slot for a CD drive, and an externally accessible 3.5″ full height slot, for either a Floptical drive, or a DAT drive.
The internal devices are connected to one SCSI channel, and the external devices are connected to another, so you can spread devices across 2 seperate channels to improve I/O performance if needed.

All 3.5" and 5.25" devices are mounting on custom SGI sleds. These sleds present a 50pin SCSI cable to the device, and have a custom 80pin connecter which plugs into the Indigo2 chassis – it looks like SCA.

The internal SCSI bus is SCSI-2 10mb/s. Any non-HVD drive will work in an Indigo2. If the drive doesn’t have a 50pin connector, who will need to buy and fit a converter. However, note that the combined depth of a hard drive + converter may be too much to fit on the sleds.

More information:

Owner’s Guides and Datasheets

The Owner’s Guide for the Indigo2 can be found on Techpubs, as can the Owner’s Guide for the Indigo2 Impact.

A local copy for the Indigo2 can be found here PDF icon, as well as for the Indigo2 Impact. PDF icon

A local copy of the Indigo2 Impact datasheet can be found here. PDF icon

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Challenge S Model Summary

Silicon Graphics FAQs
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Silicon Graphics SGI Challenge S

The Challenge S is SGI’s entry level server. It is essentially an Indy, with some key parts removed, and some added.

The Challenge S is designed to run as a headless server – as such, it has no ports for a keyboard, mouse, or video out. It also lacks the S-Video in and IndyCam in ports that the Indy has, and also has no sound.

The other main difference is that the primary ethernet port on the Challenge S is AUI – on the Indy it is 10-BaseT. This means that you’ll need to get an AUI transciever if you want to connect to a 10-BaseT or 10-Base2 network on the primary port. However, the Challenge S does come as standard with the Mezzanine SCSI board.

This is a single height GIO board, with 2 fast-wide-differential SCSI ports (providing 2 seperate channels) and a 10-BaseT ethernet port.

Serial port A is where you should plug in a serial terminal to administer the machine. This is deemed the ‘console’ port. I’ve used everything from wretched old VT100 terms, through console networks, to a Palm Pilot.

As it’s based on the Indy, upgrades are very easy. The Challenge S will take the same memory, hard drives, and CPU modules as an Indy. As it shares the same PROM, it could even be configure to have the console as a graphics card. There is room to fit one, even with the Mezzanine card fitted.

More information can be found on the Indy model summary page.

Summary:

  • Max. 256mb RAM, as in the Indy

  • No keyboard or mouse port

  • No graphics card, so no monitor

  • No Video input, and no sound

  • Mezzanine SCSI board, with twin SCSI channels and 1 10-BaseT port

  • Otherwise a standard Indy

Owner’s Guides

The Challenge S Owner’s Guide can be found on Techpubs.

A local copy can be found here. PDF icon

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Indy Model Summary

Silicon Graphics FAQs
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Silicon Graphics SGI Indy

Until the introduction of the O2, the Indy was SGI’s entry level workstation. It has an impressive range of features and ports, and remains a versatile machine.

CPU options
CPU type Speed (mhz) Secondary cache size
R4000PC 100
R4000SC 100 1MB
R4600PC 100
R4600PC 133
R4600SC 133 0.5MB
R4400SC 100 1MB
R4400SC 150 1MB
R4400SC 175 1MB
R4400SC 200 1MB
R5000PC 150
R5000SC 150 0.5MB
R5000SC 180 0.5MB

PC on a CPU module means Primary Cache (ie. only on-die cache). SC means Secondary Cache (ie. L2 cache on the module).

RAM:

The Indy has 8 slots, taking 72pin parity RAM. 4 SIMMS per bank, 2 banks total, giving a maximum of 265mb.
Memory can be either 4mb, 8mb, 16mb or 32mb, and must be the same size and speed within a bank.

Graphics:

Indy’s come with 3 main graphics options – 8bit XL, 24bit XL, and the XZ. The XL cards have decent 2D performance, but everything else is offloaded to the CPU. The XZ has some 3D acceleration (hardware Z buffer, geometry/lighting acceleration). However, it seems to be slower than the XL cards for 2D work.

Ports:

Lots of connectivity comes with the Indy as standard:

  • ISDN BRI port

  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse

  • 10-BaseT or AUI ethernet

  • External fast SCSI

  • S-Video in

  • Digital video in

  • IndyCAM

  • Sound (headphones, microphone, line-in, etc.)

  • Bi-directional printer port

  • 2 Mac-compatible serial ports

Drives:

The Indy has 2 internal 3.5 inch drive bays. These can either take the Floptical drive (SCSI drive that reads/writes normal floppies, and special 21mb ‘floptical’ disks) or normal hard drives.
If you want a CD or DAT drive, these can be connected via the external SCSI port – it is one SCSI channel though (unlike some other machines).

The internal SCSI connecters are 5mb/s SCSI-1. The cables for the hard drives are standard 50pin SCSI connectors. As SCSI as backwards compatible, any non-HVD drive will work. If the drive doesn’t have a 50pin connector, you will need to buy and install a converter.

Several people have reported success using IDE->SCSI converters, and installing IDE drives in their Indys.

More information:

Owner’s Guide

The Indy Owner’s Guide can be found on Techpubs.

A local copy can be downloaded from here. PDF icon

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