Apple hire Bob Drebin

Silicon Graphics News

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News has come through that Apple have announced the appointment of Bob Drebin as a senior director. Bob was a chief engineer at Silicon Graphics, where he was part of the group working with the Nintendo 64 chipset. When that group left to form ArtX, Bob worked on the design on the Gamecube’s graphics chipset.

ArtX was then taken over by ATI, where Bob become Engineering Director, After the merger of ATI and AMD, Bob became CTO of the graphics product group.

Now he’s left AMD to join Apple, and the question is – what are Apple up to? Bob is hugely experienced and had a hand in the design of some of the most compact and scalable graphics cores in the industry – why would Apple need such a tech heavy weight on their staff?

The most obvious answer is the iPhone – but with Nvidia struggling in the market place and Apple making a serious play for the high end workstation market, could this be the start of a new line of graphics chipsets from Apple, tuned for OS X?

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Silicon Graphics timeline

Silicon Graphics News

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Thanks to John West at InsideHPC for drafting up this great Silicon Graphics timeline.

He seems to have captured most of the defining moments in the company’s history. What strikes me the most is how similar many people’s introduction to the company has been – through their workstations.

Anyone who claims that desktop workstations which run the same OS as your servers – or that giving the hobbyist community access to these workstations cheaply – won’t benefit your bottom line down the road needs to pay attention to this.

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Going, going, gone! Silicon Graphics sold for $25m

Silicon Graphics News

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Well, this news came as a bit of a shock. Out of the blue SGI announced they were going in to Chapter 11 (again), closely followed by the news that Rackable were buying the company for a paltry $25m.

You can find the entirety of SGI’s press release at At that URL you’ll also find PDFs of the letters sent out to SGI customers, as well as holders of a Silicon Graphics support contract.

John West over at insideHPC has a good post up discussing the Rackable/SGI deal – rather than re-hash everything, I’d recommend you read through his thoughts.

Despite still sailing close to the wind financially, Silicon Graphics still have some very clever tech, which remains in demand. The entire VUE suite is good, CXFS is miles ahead of offerings like Sun’s Lustre, and no-one can do large shared memory systems like SGI.

The question is – can Rackable take this great tech, and SGI’s awesome technical staff, and accomplish what Silicon Graphics have been unable to do – sell them to clients?

Under the disastrous mis-management of that imbecile Rick Belluzo, Silicon Graphics really suffered. Yet, even after he’d bailed, they still retained the arrogant attitude of a much larger company – despite the best efforts of the bulk of their technical staff, and some of their management.

Ignoring the (incredibly vocal and loyal) hobbyist userbase, ignoring business data centres, VARs and OEMs was never going to work. You can’t trade on past glories for too long. That was starting to turn around in the last couple of years, with large systems aimed at businesses and the start of a VAR program, but it was a case of too little, too late.

It’s going to be interesting to see what Rackable’s next move is. Like Compaq swallowing DEC, they’ll be inheriting some longer term government contracts which still require IRIX and MIPS support. Rackable would be foolish to ditch the Silicon Graphics brand – it’s far more established, emotive, and powerful than their own. Will they do a Tera and ‘become’ Silicon Graphics?

With Intel’s Nehalem Xeons now out the door, there’s a credible upgrade path for Altix user’s stuck with Itanium, and Rackable could make some serious coin from that – and land some new business too.

John also has some details on how the deal will work and it looks like we’ve got a short timeframe to hear what’s going to happen.

Interesting times – both literally and in the Chinese curse sense – for both Silicon Graphics, their userbase, and the hobbyist community.

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