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SGI plots out 128-processor Linux system

Silicon Graphics plans to release a 128-processor version of its large Linux system, the Altix 3000, next year.

SAN FRANCISCO--Silicon Graphics plans to bump the computing muscle in its large Linux system up to 128 processors.

SGI, which sells a 64-processor Altix 3000 computer based on the open-source operating system, will release a 128-processor version in spring 2004, the company said Tuesday.

Results of customer tests of the more-powerful Altix 3000 will be released in September, SGI said at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here. Testers include the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of Queensland in Australia and the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

SGI, based in Mountain View, Calif., is known for making specialized computers for complicated graphics tasks, such as creation of special effects for movies or visualization of airflow in car design. Most of its systems use Irix, the company's version of Unix, in combination with MIPS processors. But earlier this year, SGI launched the Altix 3000, which is based on Linux and Intel Itanium processors.

SGI has focused recently on designing single, large computers with one shared memory bank, for corporate customers with jobs that require that kind of system, even though clusters--in which numbers of Linux computers are grouped together--have caught on for some high-performance technical computing tasks.

The company is facing increasing competition from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and other larger companies that tailor versions of their mainstream business servers for the technical market.

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For its large 128-processor, SGI uses a customized version of Linux. However, the company is working to have its custom changes accepted by the mainstream Linux programming community, it said.

The 64-processor Altix 3000 has a list price of $1.1 million with 64GB of memory, according to SGI.

SGI's MIPS-Irix machines are available with 512 processors today, with some customers using a 1,024-processor model. The company said it is working on supporting 256 and 512 processors in its Linux machines.