SGI gets stronger, more agile

High performance computing solutions provider Silicon Graphics Inc is revitalised. Now named Silicon Graphics International (SGI), the company was acquired by Rackable Systems last year and its goal is clear - to be profitable again.
Philip Chua, managing director and vice-president for SGI Asia Pacific and Japan, said that while Rackable and SGI raked in a combined revenue of US$525mil (RM1.7bil) last year, SGI actually made a loss to the tune of US$25mil (RM80mil) that year - one-time losses because of the merger.
"That's due to the lay-off and restructuring costs that come with mergers and acquisitions. We've also gone through some product rationalisation and it is time to move forward," he said
According to Chua, SGI is now better geared towards profitability and has learnt from its past mistakes. During its 29-year history, it filed for bankruptcy twice, before being acquired by Rackable.
In its hey-day, SGI was one of the glittering stars in Silicon Valley and played a role in several major projects, including providing visual effects in Academy Award-nominated movies, providing the backbone for all of Nasa's high-end computing operations, as well as providing the infrastructure for Malaysia's Grid Computing network - the Knowledge Grid which is managed by Mimos Bhd.

"The old SGI had good products but no fiscal discipline. Today, we are getting the best ideas and have the right management team to run our business," Chua said.
In Malaysia, SGI is continuing continue to support Mimos' grid-computing initiative, as well as local R&D programmes.
One of its products that SGI is targeting at this segment is the Altix UV 1000. This delivers scalability of up to 2, 048 cores, and supports up to 16 terrabytes of shared memory in a single-system image.
The system's x86 architecture incorporates the latest Intel Xeon series 7500 processors, and out of the box it supports the Novell Suse or Red Hat Linux open-source operating systems.
Chua said the computational power in the Altix provides high-resolution images that make it easier for researchers to analyse data, such as those for plotting weather patterns or predicting natural disasters.
"This will in turn facilitate early-warning systems and evacuation protocols," he added.
SGI is also moving into the modular datacentre space, with Ice Cube - its brand of modular datacentres that comprise containers measuring about 20ft long, that are densely packed with servers.
The product is targetted at companies that want to drive down their datacentre costs, especially those handling non-mission-critical data.
"Companies want to cut down on cooling and electricity costs so they house their non-critical data in containers closer to locations that offer low electricity charges," Chua said.
He said a company in Japan used Ice Cube and moved its datacentre from Tokyo to Osaka. In two years, the company managed to lower its electricity costs by 50%, he claimed.
Chua said the need for such datacentres has appeared in the United States, while in the Asian region, the demand is strong in Japan and China.
SGI is confident of its revamped product line; the company spends 10% of its revenue on R&D. "We're smaller now, but we're more agile, and hungrier than ever," Chua said.
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