Origin 400 is indeed a real product, and it’s now here

Silicon Graphics News

SGI have announced the Origin 400 workgroup server – properly announced, this time round. Unlike last week’s accidental Origin 400 announcement, this is the real deal.


The Origin 400 looks like a solid bit of kit. Up to a total of 6 blades can be fitted, each one able to take two Intel Xeon quad- or six-core 5500 or the just announced 5600 series. 96gb of RAM per blade for a total of 576GB in the chassis, and space for up to 14 2.5″ SAS drives. The spec sheet also says it supports up to two ‘redundant Ethernet switch modules’, each with 10 gigabit ethernet ports – each blade is specced with 2 GigE ports, so I’m wondering if these ‘switch modules’ are for exporting the storage as NAS.

The specs on each CPU blade sound suspiciously like those in the Octane III – are they interchangeable?

You can view the full press release here and the Origin 400 product pages here.

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Origin 400 SMB blade server?

Silicon Graphics News

An entertaining glitch in SGI‘s RSS feed on Friday has leaked out some details of an incoming new server aimed specifically at SMBs. The headline read “SGI Announces Origin 400 Blade System for SMB and Enterprise Markets” and unfortunately didn’t link through to a valid article.

Over at InsideHPC, John West has managed to dig up some more details – it should be a 6u form factor box, with 6 dual socket blades, and integrated storage presented as NAS.

The name choice is an interesting one. SGI are clearly wanting to capitalise on some of their brand name power – a bit of a risky strategy, though. The Octane 3 was a disappointment in many ways, and the Origin line were also rock solid, scalable bits of kit. I know several people who still have Origin 200 clusters and NUMA stacks in play today, so with that sort of longevity and scalability, re-using the brand name could seriously backfire on SGI if they push out a mediocre product.

Having said that, the SMB push is a welcome direction from SGI. Now that Oracle have finally consumed Sun, we’ve already been seeing Sun’s competent x86 line vanishing from their site – clearly there’s demand for well engineered solutions in this space that go beyond the HP/Dell approach of stacks of ‘nothing special’ 1u and 2u servers.

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SGI buys assets of COPAN

Silicon Graphics News

In an odd bit of news, SGI have bought the assets of COPAN systems. COPAN built clever MAID devices – essentially storage clusters that could spin down when not used. MAID – Massive Array of Idle Disks – was designed to provide archive storage using cheap disk instead of expensive tape.

Through a friend I knew someone high up in COPAN who left a while ago to take up a similar position at 3PAR. COPAN had some clever ideas and some neat products, which sadly wasn’t enough to keep the company going in the current climate.

What’s odd about this is – why have SGI bought the remains? MAID is a clever idea and slots quite nicely into people’s existing HSM offerings. (HSM – Hierarchical Storage Management – is all about long term archival storage, and nothing to do with the appalling series of films from Disney which my kids seem to love so much. I weep for the future etc. etc.).

MAID was a perfect fit for a client I recently worked with who were doing digital imaging archiving – but unfortunately it’s a niche product and the vendors involved seem to miss out on the large bids. (In this case they went with standard RAID offerings from HDS). If SGI are going to try and punt pure MAID storage they’ll be facing similar issues.

SGI do have some solid HSM products – but they also have a very diversified product portfolio, and the company seems to still be struggling to find a unified identity for it’s solutions. Adding another bundle of products into the mix seems pretty risky, especially with the fallout from the latest bankruptcy and the takeover still rumbling on.

Do SGI really have that many customers saying “Hey, I’d like to buy some Altix ICE/Altix CE/Altix UV kit, but you don’t have any MAID storage on the proposal, so we’ll be going to IBM/HP/Dell?”

I could see this working if SGI take the COPAN technology and integrate it into their own products. I’m thinking of something along the lines of the old CXFS kit, which had a couple of Origin 300 heads in the top of the storage rack to handle CXFS metadata. It would require a chunk of engineering resource, and then an even bigger chunk of sales and marketing to shift the boxes – but could SGI pull it off?

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