[Top] [All Lists]

SGI Linux in Network World

To: SGI Linux <>
Subject: SGI Linux in Network World
From: Alex deVries <>
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 12:01:50 -0500 (EST)

Here it is:

Grass-roots effort pulls SGI toward Linux

By Deni Connor
Network World, 01/18/99

Silicon Graphics (SGI) is proud to talk about how well it
supports Windows NT, and likes to boast about the scalability
and reliability of its Irix operating system. But the technically
savvy workstation and server vendor has said little about Linux.

Meanwhile, programmers inside and outside the company have
been banging away, bringing the free, open source operating
system to an array of SGI server and workstation

So does SGI like Linux or not? Despite more than three weeks of
inquiries from Network World, the question remains unanswered.

SGI seems to be making all the right Linux moves, but the
company is reluctant to talk about them. In fact, SGI seems
oddly defensive, and sometimes ambivalent, about its Linux

For instance, late last year the computer company became a
sponsoring member of Linux International, a nonprofit
association that works on the promotion and growth of Linux.
SGI wrote a press release about its membership, but then tried
to retract it after it was posted on Linux International's site
( The organization has refused to remove the SGI
document from its site.

When contacted about this, SGI officials said they had no
official comment on Linux involvement. One source, however,
says the company did not want to appear to be copying Sun,
which made a big Linux splash in December when it promised to
port Linux to UltraSPARC. 

After a series of follow-up calls, Network World spoke with
Dave McAllister, SGI's representative to Linux International.
McAllister acknowledged the existence of an engineering-led,
SGI-sponsored Linux mailing list, whose members have been
porting Linux to different SGI machines for more than two years.
McAllister offered little else on SGI's interest in Linux or the
company's overall strategy.

SGI's server product line manager, Ben Passerelli, only added
scant details to McAllister's description of SGI's Linux activity.

SGI's official interest in Linux was short-lived - it peaked early
and seemingly waned quickly after. In summer 1996, the
company hired an intern to port Linux to SGI's Indy workstation.
The intern, who also ported Linux to Sun's SPARC, left soon
after finishing the kernel part of the SGI/Linux port. The company
has not filled this Linux position.

A grass-roots effort within SGI has paid off. Volunteers have
finished porting Linux to SGI's Indy machine, and their attention
has now swung to other SGI devices, including SGI's newest
box, the Visual Workstation, which runs Windows NT
Workstation software. Linux also runs on SGI's Origin200

The Linux mailing list, which is active today and counts SGI
employees as one-quarter of its members, grew out of the
project porting Linux to Indy. Having nearly completed the port
on SGI's Indy, dubbed HardHat 5.1, early in the summer of 1998,
others on the list moved on to the SGI's Indigo workstation, the
Visual workstation and other units, including the Indy and Indigo,
which are not current-technology machines. 

SGI, the silent partner in this deal, has aided this mailing list by
supplying a Web site (, hardware,
documentation and equipment, but many folks in corporate SGI
don't know anything about it.

SGI's Passerelli confirms that Linux runs on various SGI
machines, such as its current Origin200 server, as well as its
Visual Workstation, announced last week. And without offering
a strategy or official endorsement, Passerelli praises the
up-and-coming operating system. "We are looking at Linux
extremely seriously because in technical, government and
Internet space you hear a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for
what's going on in the open source community," Passerelli says.
Servers amount to 50% of SGI's revenue.
what's going on in the open source community," Passerelli says.
Servers amount to 50% of SGI's revenue.

"Stay tuned" is all SGI will officially say about Linux. Although
further details are not available, SGI's 64-bit desktop and
servers, which will be announced when Intel's Merced chip is
complete, will be able to run Linux, as well as Windows NT and
Irix, Passerelli says.

Meanwhile, sources indicate that SGI is talking to Linux
providers, such as Red Hat Software, about supporting SGI

Linux is hardly as scalable as Irix, so don't expect to see SGI
abandoning Irix, says an unnamed source. But Linux may be
faster, at least according to the same source, who found that
Linux is twice as fast as Irix on single-processor systems. 

Whether SGI will ever officially endorse Linux remains to be

The company has worked for two and a half years with Microsoft
on high-end graphics, and a bold Linux pronouncement could
jeopardize that relationship, some observers say. 

Alex deVries, puffin on LinuxNet.
I know exactly what I want in life.

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • SGI Linux in Network World, Alex deVries <=