New SGI visualisation system for University of Tennessee

Silicon Graphics News

The National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA has been handing out some grants this week. One of them is for the University of Tennessee, to the tune of $10 million, to deploy a new visualisation system:

The University of Tennessee (UT) will receive $10 million from the National Science Foundation over four years to establish a new, state-of-the-art visualization and data analysis center aimed at interpreting the massive amounts of data produced by today’s most powerful supercomputers.

The TeraGrid eXtreme Digital Resources for Science and Engineering (XD) award will be used to fund UT’s Center for Remote Data Analysis and Visualization (RDAV), a partnership between UT, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Wisconsin, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Showing that clusters, in fact, are not the solution to every HPC and visualisation problem out there, the new system will be a Single System Image (SSI) box from SGI. Details at the moment are pretty sparse, but the press release does say:

Much of RDAV will rely on a new machine named Nautilus that employs the SGI shared-memory processing architecture. The machine will feature 1,024 cores, 4,096 gigabytes of memory, and 16 graphics processing units. The new SGI system can independently scale processor count, memory, and I/O to very large levels in a single system running standard Linux.

Despite the large percentage of clusters in the Top500, they’re only really at home for jobs which can be properly parallelised. Shared memory systems are still much faster at certain types of compute jobs – especially visualisation:

Shared-memory processing can be even more useful than the world’s most powerful computers for certain tasks, especially those aimed at visualization and data analysis. The system will be complemented with a 1 petabyte file system and will be fully connected to the TeraGrid, the nation’s largest computational network for open scientific research.

1024 CPUs in an SSI system probably means that this will be an SGI Altix 4700 – unless SGI are indeed pushing a new x86 Altix out the door. 16 GPUs may not sound like much, however, if (as I suspect) they’re taking about NVidia Tesla S1070s, then you’re looking at 4 teraflops of performance for each one – that’s 64 teraflops of GPU performance in the system.

Hopefully we’ll be hearing some noise from SGI in the coming days, shedding some light on the exact configuration of the system.

You can read the full press release over at HPCWire.

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SGI have terminated the entire graphics division

Silicon Graphics News

So, what does the ‘G’ in SGI stand for, now? Just returned from holiday to be greeted with the news that SGI have terminated their entire graphics division.

It seems like the entire VUE suite – including PowerVUE, the distributed and accelerated OpenGL rendering system – has been culled, as have all visualisation tools and products.

The VP of the Graphics Division, Bob Pette, has left to join NVidia – reminding me of the initial exodus of talent when that drooling imbecile Rick Belluzo was busy screwing over the Silicon Graphics customer base.

You can read Mark Barrenechea’s take on it over on his CEO blog.

This looks like a complete and total exit from the graphics market, and an ongoing commitment to ship GPU solutions from ATI, NVidia and Intel within their systems.

Randall Hand over at Vizworld has some more in-depth coverage as this unfolded.

John West over at InsideHPC also has a good post highlighting the issues this poses to SGI’s customers. After being told that the new SGI was 100% committed to transparency, and delivering a line of visualisation products, they’re now not acknowledging the layoffs and the technology termination. Where have I seen that sort of behaviour before? Oh yes – when SGI were previously flailing around.

SGI are finally reaping the rewards from years of ignoring the consumer graphics market and the dangers that innovation there could pose to the company. The surprise is not that it happened, but that it took this long.

Sadly Gutted Innovation, anyone?

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Silicon Graphics to be delisted from NASDAQ – again

Silicon Graphics News

It looks like SGI have not been able to comply with the listing requirements since the last NASDAQ warning, and have now been issued with a notice that they will be delisted on the 12th March.

Silicon Graphics, Inc. (the “Company”) (NASDAQ: SGIC) announced today that it received a notification letter from The Nasdaq Stock Market on March 3, 2009, indicating that trading of the Company’s common stock will be suspended at the opening of business on March 12, 2009 due to a failure to comply with the market value of publicly held shares requirement for continued listing set forth in Marketplace Rule 4310(c)(3)(B). The Company has requested a hearing before a Nasdaq Listing Qualification Panel to review the Staff Determination. A hearing request will stay the suspension of the Company’s securities and the filing of the Form 25-NSE pending the Panel’s decision.

With many solid government contracts, and some significant large investors who clearly still see the value of R&D at Silicon Graphics, is now the time for the company to take itself private? Or is a merger with NVidia going to be on the cards?

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Will it happen – Nvidia and Silicon Graphics?

Silicon Graphics News

With markets drying up and R&D budgets taking a pounding, both Silicon Graphics and Nvidia are facing some tough times. Nvidia are being squeezed in the chipset arena by both Intel and AMD/ATI, and their graphics biz is taking a hit from AMD/ATI and also their recent production issues.

With a number of staff leaving SGI to work at Nvidia, Quadro’s presence in SGI’s visualisation systems, and Nvidia looking more and more to move into high end visualisation, how long will it be before the two companies get together?

A partnership – or even a full merger – would benefit both companies enormously, and allow them to merge R&D spend and come up with some really innovative solutions for high end visualisation problems. CUDA and discrete GPUs as processing units seems to play into SGI’s strategy for mix-and-match processing (see their use of FPGAs in Altix) and with Altix ICE taking off even more, such modular solutions could provide a compelling solution for many different vertical markets.

Will it happen? I think it should, and I forecast that we’ll see some movement in this direction in the coming year, as the economy gets worse.

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