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SGI Says It's Got the Next Big Thing in Hand

SGI Says It's Got the Next Big Thing in Hand

SGI says it's inventing the Next Big Thing.

SGI has invented the Next Big Thing before like its SMP and NUMA work.

Anyway, it's not enough that the next-generation supercomputer be bigger and faster, according to Greg Estes, the head of SGI's corporate marketing, and Dave Parry, the general manager of its server/HPC business unit. The hardware and software has simply got to be more useable.

SGI calls its vision Project Ultraviolet because purple is its favorite color and it seems to make some kind of futuristic sense because ultraviolet is just beyond the violet hue in the visible spectrum.

SGI says it's going to give the world multi-paradigm computing, a model that it predicts will ultimately be copied by rivals like IBM.

It makes no sense, SGI says, to make users commit to an architecture they may have to live with for 10 years that isn't the optimal solution for all their different problems.

Multi-paradigm computing, which builds on SGI's proprietary NUMAlink global shared memory, will offer users vector computing when vector will solve the problem best or PIM when that's the best solution. The idea is to provide the optimal performance and productivity for specific applications.

The idea is kinda, well, radical since these disparate paradigms have never been mixed together at a fundamental level in a unified architecture before. The various paradigms are also supposed to cooperate on the same data that's in the scalable shared memory.

Greg and Dave say the breakthrough will mean that scientists and researchers won't have to bend their algorithms to the machine anymore, thereby limiting them, or restrict the type and size of data models by choosing clusters or scalar shared memory or a vector architecture.

Ultraviolet is still a project and it's hard getting SGI to abandon its stealth mode. It'll take the company until about 2007 to develop a true multi-paradigm computer. It figures to have a first take on the thing next year, but what exactly that will look like is unclear.

It will however use SGI's Linux-on-Itanium Altix 3000 machine as its basic platform and like Altix, Ultraviolet will use simple two-way building blocks. Before the company gets to including vector and PIM properties in NUMAlink, it's going to integrate application-specific widgetry like graphics co-processors, high-performance I/O and scalar processors.

Intel is supposedly helping with Ultraviolet by collaborating on new programming interfaces to enable massively parallel rendering of large data models.

SGI's "get well" program restricts the company's focus to the scientific and technical market, but the kind of widgetry being developed is also a natural for the commercial market, but SGI would need OEM partners to attack that front.

Interestingly, Intel senior fellow Justin Ratner is quoted as saying, "The development of these technologies will make parallel processing simpler and easier for the Intel Itanium 2 market segment."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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