SGI plans to develop an overlay to Linux that will enable the operating system to scale up to 64 Intel IA-64 processors in a multiprocessing environment.
"Standard Linux doesn't give you the scalability many of our users want," said Eng Lim Goh, vice president for systems engineering and chief scientist at SGI. "It supports four-processor multiprocessing, which can be taken to eight processors if you try hard enough." Lim and other SGI executives outlined the company's Linux strategy to Digit during the company's Asia Pacific Channel Partner Conference and Press Symposium.
To implement 64-way multiprocessing using IA-64 technology, which offers a 64-bit addressing scheme, SGI will have to migrate to the Intel platform its ccNUMA shared-memory multiprocessing architecture. This is currently used in the company's high-end computers that run on MIPS processors and the proprietary Irix operating system.
"You need ccNUMA if you want shared memory capability," added Goh. "When you start to move away from standard boxes of Linux, you have to think about the ccNUMA architecture with Intel chips, with Linux running on it."
Goh did not commit on a release date for the new technology. SGI is meanwhile building a newer and low memory latency version of ccNUMA for its MIPS/Irix computers. "We will use the same system with a different chip for Intel/Linux," Goh added.
Though SGI is enthusiastic about Linux for the Intel platform, Joseph Wei, director of Intel server marketing at SGI, said the company remains committed to Windows NT as well.
"Our strategy is to differentiate on the Intel platform through Linux, but we have also taken our box up to Microsoft to get the Windows Hardware Qualification Labs certification," Wei added. "So we have a dual strategy now. For early adopters, who want to go on to Linux, they can take a SGI Linux model, but if the user wants to have just NT applications, they can also run NT."
SGI is shipping a base Intel system to its resellers without the operating system loaded on it. The company's "virtual loading process" allows certified master resellers to configure systems with a hard disk, memory, and the operating system. "We cannot guess correctly from the factory how many disk drives, how much memory the user will require, and how many will run Linux or NT," added Wei.
SGI's interest in Linux is reflected by its transfer of some of its key technologies - such as the source code of its OpenVault storage area network software and its journaled file system technology, XFS - to the Linux open source community.