NEW YORK Silicon Graphics Inc. got behind the Linux operating system in a big way on Monday (May 15), introducing a line of Intel-based workstations that will support Linux, and saying it will drop all development work on proprietary operating systems except for its high-end IRIX systems. The moves will help SGI take advantage of industry standards and save development costs, the company said.
The workstation line also supports Windows NT.
Silicon Graphics (Mountain View, Calif.) wants to build on its success with Linux servers by moving to Linux workstations, said Ujesh Desai, the company's IA-32 workstation line manager. Leading EDA vendors have already started to port their tools to Linux to meet growing demand in the engineering community, the company said.
SGI is pointing its Linux and Windows NT-based systems in different directions. "Windows NT is good for graphics and PCB [pc-board] layout, but is not scalable like Unix and Linux, and it is best suited for small, single-user jobs," said Shing Pan, EDA Marketing manager for Silicon Graphics.
Linux offers the price/performance advantage of Windows with the reliability of Unix, Pan said. And EDA application vendors find it easy to move to Linux, he said, provided there is a base of users. Silicon Graphics is offering those users both scaled-down and souped-up Linux machines.
The systems include the bare-bones Model 230, which lists for $2,725. It comes without an operating system and is intended for corporate users with OS site licenses, or for individuals who will download open-source Linux from the Internet.
The scaled-down Model 230 uses a 667-MHz Pentium III processor and comes with a 32-Mbyte graphics card, 20-Gbyte IDE drive electronics, 128 Mbytes of memory, and supports five 32-bit PCI, two USB and two PS/2 I/O interfaces. The 230 also comes with a CD ROM and floppy disk of graphics drivers for Linux Red Hat 6.1.
The 230 can also be purchased with Windows NT, and either the NT or Linux model is available with a faster processor, a 64-Mbyte graphics card, extra memory and a 9.1-Gbyte Ultra2 SCSI disk drive for an extra $75 or $110, depending on the OS.
These follow-ons to last year's mid-range 320 and 540 machines from SGI also include the single or dual Pentium III-based Model 330, and the single or dual Xeon-based Model 550.
The Model 330 is offered with the same options as the Model 230, but with the ability to add a dual processor.
The Model 550 comes with the VR3 64-Mbyte graphics card, 18.2-Gbyte Ultra160 SCSI and 9.1-Gbyte Ultra160 SCSI disks, 128 Mbytes to 2 Gbytes of PC800 RDRAM and additional I/O.
The systems feature clock speeds from 667 to 800 MHz, but 866-MHz and 1-GHz models will be available in the future, Desai said.
Desai would not reveal SGI's internal projections for Linux workstations, but said SGI also remains committed to IRIX systems.
Engineers looking to move to Linux EDA workstations will find that Synopsys, Cadence, and Mentor Graphics have already taking the leap to Linux, and Avanti plans to port its tools as well.
Synthesis tools, most of which are 64-bit based, have not yet been ported to Linux, but efforts such as the Trillium Project of Silicon Graphics and Intel Corp. are looking to develop 64-bit compilers for Linux. These efforts are expected help move synthesis tools to Linux by next month.
Desai said he believes Linux is a natural fit for the new range of Internet and intranet-based collaborative design tools emerging in the EDA world, since Linux-based servers are extremely popular for Internet service providers.
"I think it's only a matter of time when [these tools] are developed for Linux servers, if they aren't already," said Desai.
The SGI workstations will support Red Hat Linux 6.1, and SGI plans to also announce support for versions of Linux from SuSE GmbH and TurboLinux Inc.