SGI takes Altix Itanium server to midrange

Silicon Graphics is to ship a smaller member of its Altix family of technical computing servers, called the Altix 350.

Silicon Graphics is to ship a smaller member of its Altix family of technical computing servers, called the Altix 350.

The Altix 350 is designed to work in clustered or departmental configurations, said Andy Fenselau, the Altix product line director.

It is designed for "the large portion of the technical midrange market that needs 64-bit [processing], but would very much like something that scales to more than two processors", he said.

Like SGI's Altix 3000 series systems, which were launched last year, the latest server will be based on the Linux operating system and Intel's Itanium 2 processors. It will use SGI's NUMAflex memory management technology as well as its ProPack management software, which has been ported to Linux from SGI's Irix operating system.

SGI has developed a modular architecture for the system that lets users add memory, I/O or processors as they need them, Fenselau said. The Altix 350 can support as many as 16 processors and can be purchased with the Itanium 2 chips codenamed Madison and Deerfield, or with the DP Itanium chips, which are optimised for high-performance computing.

"Traditionally, if you want to buy a 16-processor system, you have to buy a big box," said Sarang Ghatpande, a research analyst with DH Brown Associates.

Altix 350 users can start with smaller, less expensive configurations and work their way up to 16 processors, he said. "The flexibility is the interesting thing, and they have a low-cost entry point."

The Altix 3000s, which sell for between $70,000 and $1m, have been a hit for SGI, which is struggling to regain its dominance in the high-performance technical computing market, according to Ghatpande. "I think Altix is the best thing to happen to SGI in a long time."

With a single-processor Altix 350 based on the low-power Deerfield Itanium 2 processor listing for $12,199, the system may help broaden the market for Itanium systems, Ghatpande said.

A typical 4-processor Altix 350 configuration will cost $21,599 or about $5,400 per processor.

Robert McMillian writes for IDG News Service

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