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  1. Technology
January 27, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Keen to remind the world it hasn’t exactly rolled over to Windows NT just quite yet, Silicon Graphics Inc is about to beta a new 6.5 release of its Irix Unix, which will be generally available in the Spring. SGI says 6.5 unifies the functionality from all previous Irix releases since 6.2 and can, the company says, be installed on everything from an O2 desktop workstation and to a 128-way Origin2000 ccNUMA server. It can allocate and address 1Tb memory and includes virtual memory enhancement to support 128 CPUs, support for pthreads and nanothreads, kernel scheduler improvements, new PC connectivity, C2 security and MovieLib enhancements, OpenGL 1.1, unified naming services, gigabit Ethernet, a developer subsystem for color management, Unix 95 branding, user space serial I/O, support for Unicos APIs, Cray messaging extensions and more.


Irix 6.5 includes the first of the partitioning technologies SGI is using to create a Cellular Irix with discrete modules informed – or reformed – by Stanford University’s Hive and is capable of running kernels over distributed nodes. Hive is a machine simulator which is designed to load a full-blown commercial operating system and detect errors and logic faults at the software level before data-inconsistency problems arise. SGI says it enables software run better and faster as the number of CPUs in the system increases. SGI says Irix 6.5 users will be able to build clusters out of a single multiprocessor nodes without running into issues of cross-cell communication bottlenecks or other scalability issues. It thinks the functionality is crucial for use on webservers where organizations want to provide localized access to a collection of filesystem resources without having the latency of a cluster. It says the functionality is especially useful for load-balancing multi-user access to a single site. With Irix 6.5 (kudzu) all you do is setup a dynamic DNS server which maps to one of the partitions -it’s still the same machine, just a different collection of processors, one SGI source told us. Irix 6.5 runs on the current SN0 generation of SGI’s ‘Spider’ ccNUMA interconnect-based systems and also provides source compatibility with the Unix- derived Unicos operating system which runs on its Cray supercomputers.

Sun didn’t get real Cray technology

Also keen to put the current vogue for 64-bit Unix into perspective, SGI says it was the first to offer an operating system supporting a 64-bit API for both kernel and user address spaces in Irix 6.1 three years ago. It also claims it was the first to offer a log-based filesystem which does not require users to wait when the system crashes and there was unwritten data that didn’t make it to the disk. It claims Sun Microsystems Inc is still using a BSD based filesystem which uses fsck to correct data inconsistencies which may have occurred as a result of system failure. Moreover our source says Sun did not get the real Cray technology when it bought out Cray’s Sparc-based SuperServer unit from SGI for use in its Starfire servers. What Sun got, it says, is huge, power-hungry, and an early experimentation stage with UltraSparc and crossbars over at Cray. This is one of the reasons why Sun is (and will) run into scalability issues – they don’t have Craylink HIPPI-like interconnect technology. Yes, but with all the these great features, why isn’t SGI leading the pack you may be asking. Because our marketing, communication and sales organization is in a state of flux (seems nonexistent). SGI is leading the way in multiprocessor and Scalable Network server technology, but if no- one knows about it, how can you sell it? our insider asks.

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