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SGI furthers Linux strategy

SGI releases more of its software to the open-source community, trying to make the Linux operating system better dovetail with the company's plans.

SGI has released more of its software to the open-source community, trying to better fit the Linux operating system into the company's strategic plans.

SGI released software tools to help Linux work better on machines with large amounts of disk storage and to aid programmers in debugging Linux installed on business systems, Mountain View, Calif.-based SGI said.

Hamstrung by weak financial performance, the hardware maker is casting its lot with Linux and chipmaker Intel for the long term, switching over a period of years from its current computers, which use MIPs chips with SGI's Irix version of Unix.

Currently, SGI's edition of Linux is up to version 1.1, which is based on SGI enhancements to Red Hat's version of Linux. Because of the nature of the Gnu open-source General Public License under which Linux is released, any company may freely use the software developed by another. However, any changes that are incorporated into shipping products must be published for others to use as well.

Linux is an operating system that's currently popular in server computers, a popularity SGI hopes both to assist and benefit from. Linux competes both with higher-end commercial versions of the Unix operating system (on which Linux is based) and with Windows NT from Microsoft.

But SGI hasn't gained much from the Linux craze on Wall Street that has boosted computer makers VA Linux Systems, Cobalt Networks and eSoft, among others. VA Linux record initial public offering gave the company a market capitalization of nearly $8 billion, almost four times SGI's $2.17 billion. Cobalt has a valuation of $3.5 billion, and eSoft trails with $355 million.

To make SGI's switch to Linux a reality, SGI has been focusing on improving the operating system's high-end features, the realm of multiprocessor computers where SGI believes it will have an advantage over competitors. One of the first pieces of software SGI said it would release is parts of its XFS file system.

New releases from SGI that are coming to the open-source realm include software to let Linux running on a multiprocessor computer simultaneously make several requests to storage systems; software called Lcrash that lets programmers better scrutinize the final moments before a crash; a tool built into the heart of Linux that makes it easier to find bugs and trace the behavior of software; and software that lets a programmer run Gnu debugging tools from across a network.

SGI also released tools that help monitor performance of the heart of Linux. And the company has improved the "raw input/output" work begun by Stephen Tweedie, one of the Linux gurus employed by Red Hat. The Raw I/O work will result in speedier access to disks.