Octane Model Summary

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Silicon Graphics SGI Octane Octane2

The Octane was SGIs top-end workstation. It uses a similar architecture to the larger machines like Origin 2000 and Onyx 2 – multi-processor with a large bandwidth crossbar.

The Octane comes with a range of processor options, and is capable to taking 1 or 2 processors. The processors are held on daughter boards which attach to the Octanes motherboard. As such, you can’t buy a second CPU and plug it in – you need to ditch your existing CPU and replace it with a dual-CPU board. This accounts for the relative high price of dual CPU boards as opposed to single CPU boards on the second hand market.

There are two series of Octanes. Early machines used IMPACT graphics and are limited in the level of processor upgrades. Later models have VPRO graphics and their processor options are still being added to by SGI.

Even thought IMPACT graphics can be considered old in computing terms, you can’t make straight comparisons between (say) an R10k-195 Solid IMPACT Indigo 2 and an R10k-195 Octane SI. The enormous amount of I/O bandwidth available across Octanes crossbar, plus some neat tweaks in the implementation of IMPACT, mean that the Octane has significantly faster graphics. See Ian Mapleson’s performance stats for more in-depth comparison – in particular, his comparison of Indigo2 and Octane.

The IMPACT-based graphics options for Octane are as follows:

  • SI –

  • SE –

  • SSI –

  • SSE –

  • MXI –

All the ‘S’ cards (with no hardware texture support) can have TRAM boards added for instant hardware texture support. SI and SE can take one TRAM, SSI and SSE can take two. SSI and SSE with 2 TRAMS are equivalent to MXI.


Physically, the Octane is pretty large – almost square. Looking from the back, we have the motherboard on the left (mounted sideways – CPUs and DIMMs facing in towards the middle of the chassis.
In the middle-bottom of the chassis is the power supply – above that, the PCI card cage. Above that, at the middle-top of the chassis, are the drive bays – 3 3.5″ bays. Sorry, no internal CD-ROMs in Octane :-( But room for a couple of high speed SCA drives and a DAT drive.
The right hand side of the chassis is taken up by the 4 XIO slots. Throwing in multiple graphics cards will give you a dual-head machine. As long as you can get the cooling right, it should be possible to make a triple or quad head machine.


Octanes have 3 internal 3.5" drive bays. These provide SCA connectors and are a 40mb/s SCSI-2 bus. Drives need to be mounted on custom SGI sleds – these are the same as used in Origin 200s and 2000s.

Due to the depth of the sled and the space for the drive, you are unlikely to fit a hard drive + SCSI converter. Because of this you’ll only really be able to fit SCA drives internally in on Octane. However, as SCSI is backwards compatible, you can fit the latest 15k RPM LVD drives.

Owner’s Guide, Datasheets and Whitepapers

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

There are also local copies of:

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