SGI: "We will be back in the visual supercomputing business" [UPDATED]

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I’m at the second day of IDC’s HPC User Forum today. Bo Ewald, SGI’s president, just said something I think is interesting

SGI logoWe will be back in the visual supercomputing business.

He bookended that by saying he wasn’t going to say anything else today, but that there would be more in the future.


Later in his brief he followed up that statement with this quotable quote

It was really stupid for the company to stop doing visualization types of things.


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  1. “Bo knows visual supercomputing”
    …sorry, had to do it…

  2. Pop Quiz Time:

    1. What does the “G” in SGI stand for anyway?

    2. Fill in the blank:

    “It was really stupid for the company to ________”

    3. What visual supercomputer did SGI announce at IEEE Visualization 2004?

    4. Is that computer still being sold by the company? If so, explain how they have stopped “visualization types of things.”

    Bonus Question: What is the name of the company that sells rebranded Graphstream computers in Japan?

    Personally, I would like to see SGI return to its former glory and be at the forefront of visualization. I do not see how they claim that they are out of the visualization business. They still sell such computers.

  3. How long did it take them to figure that out? 6-7 years?

    @PaulAdams … I think SGI’s research focus on graphics and visualization started wavering in the late 90’s. When I started life as a a computational scientist doing structural biology, all we ever used were SGI’s. Then, the cost became prohibitive and the lead in graphics performance just disappeared, since you could get great graphics performance on other platforms. Didn’t SGIs graphics team all leave and join NVidia?

    I would like SGI to focus on high end graphics workstations again, perhaps for a niche market, but it wonder if it is not too late.

  4. @Deepak … You are right. SGI started wavering in the late 90’s. They had a chance in 1998 when they sued nVidia over patent issues to protect their market share. But in 1999, SGI dropped the lawsuit and cross licensed the patents with nVidia. That gave nVidia a free and clear run with only one other competitor (ATI). SGI has publicly admitted that dropping the lawsuit against nVidia was a bad move. That was the reason they sued ATI in 2006. (Never heard what became of that lawsuit.)

    As a business you need to protect what you own as well as invest in the future. SGI failed to protect what they owned, failed to invest in the future, and then by the time the right people tried to correct the course of the ship, they hit the iceberg (bankruptcy).

    I have bought two cutting-edge Graphstream visual supercomputers since the Onyx 340 came out in 2001. However, I will always keep an eye out for SGI. If they come out with a compelling product (and there are good engineers left at SGI so it is possible), then I will buy SGI again.