SGI Announces Strategic AMD Processor Adoption Plan

Silicon Graphics News


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Catching up on some SGI news, and along with the details of some nifty new storage products (more on those soon) the really interesting news is that SGI have announced a new partnership with AMD.

Day-one support for the new AMD Opteron 6000 series platforms is offered across SGI’s entire design-to-order server portfolio, including CloudRack™ and Rackable™ scale-out servers and SGI® InfiniteStorage servers. The ICE Cube™ modular data center also supports AMD Opteron processors for the first time.

It’s not just the old Rackable gear which is getting some AMD love – the ‘proper’ SGI product line is also getting Opterons:

As part of SGI’s increased commitment to AMD processor support, SGI expects to release AMD Opteron processor-based configurations of its Altix® ICE high performance computing (HPC) clusters and Octane™ III personal supercomputer later this year. Similarly, the SGI HPC cluster software stack will also be available on the AMD Opteron platform for the first time.

No mention of AMD support for the Altix, which is odd. When Silicon Graphics first said they were dropping the MIPS Origins and moving to Intel processors, the first thought was – why not AMD? AMD had a credible NUMA connect – Hypertransport – whereas Intel’s x86 offerings were still stuck with legacy bus interconnects. Itanium was too much of a wild card – but SGI drank the cool aid and embarked on a painful path.

You just need to have a look at Cray, who have managed a successful transition to AMD cores, and done pretty well out of it, to see what might have been. Cray clearly had the better idea – migrate to AMD and Hypertransport, plugging it into their own NUMA interconnect, and then drop in Intel x86 chips when they finally mature.

Nehalem is the long overdue x86 with a sensible NUMA interconnect, and Cray are well positioned to take advantage of the manufacturing scale. SGI’s use of AMD Opterons seems long overdue, and the timing is odd now that AMD seem to be struggling to keep Opterons performing well against the new Nehalems.

Could SGI be hedging their bets, opening up customer choice with AMD at the low end, and seeing how things pan out before plugging Opteron in to the high end Altix? Or are they treading carefully with Intel to secure higher performing Nehalem Xeon chips for the high end?

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