A revamped SGI looks to transform image, server marketplace following bankruptcy

By Ken Kerschbaumer

It was less than six months ago that SGI filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that gave the company an opportunity to step back from a reputation for ever-increasing esoteric storage and networking technologies and, instead, focus on real-world, open standards based IT server systems.

This week the company re-emerged from bankruptcy as a leaner company that managed to save $150 million, eliminate long-term debt and recapitalize with $115 million in exit financing. More importantly SGI has a balanced operating budget.

“It’s been a wild six months and we got through the bankruptcy about as quickly as a company can,” says Louise Ledeen, SGE Media Industries market segment. “We took a long hard look at ourselves and where we can add value to our customers and stakeholders and we made some difficult choices.”

The sports market, with its demands for massive storage, quick access and turnaround of clips, and desire to serve multiple distribution platforms in a heartbeat, will be a major focus of the company’s future.

Floyd Christofferson, SGI business development manager, media, says SGI has officially jettisoned its reputation as a provider of high-end graphics workstations and in now providing stepping-stone architectures that have the strengths of the products provided to high-end facilities but that can be scaled down in both price and size to almost any need.

“A small NAS (Network Attached Storage) system, for example, has a lot of DNA from our file system, snap mirroring and ease of growth,” he says. “Our architecture allows you to add a second $10,000 server blade and, instead of having two clustered together you have one blade that is bigger and can share the CPU and RAM and allow you to reuse everything you’ve already bought.”

The NBA, for example, began with a 6 TB NAS system and used the same architecture to grow to a 48 TB system with virtualized storage of 1.2 PB behind it. “Sports leagues and networks have a rush of content each week with, for example, up to 8 TB of content coming into the NBA every week,” says Christofferson.

The new SGI InfiniteStorage NAS 4550 and 4050 plug-and-play appliances embody the new SGI philosophy. The 4550 can support up to 12 GbE ports and a maximum capacity of 67.2 TB with FC drives. The 4050 can expand up to 224TB with SATA drives. Both feature SGI’s NAS Manager 3.2 software that has a management GUI that presents real-time resource, performance, and system alerts graphically and can manage a maximum file size of 18,000 TB.

“We basically refreshed about 75% of our product line and part of that was for RoHAS compliance and part was adding new products for a scaleable, linear strategy for servers and storage,” says Ledeen. “Between the new lower-cost storage and servers and know-how and services behind it it’s really a new company that takes the best of what we do. And working with products from partners that are placed on the edge of our servers we create the personality of the system.”

And those “personalities” are showing some previously unforeseen characteristics. Ledeen points to work with Oracle integrating the Oracle database with SGI products. “Three or four years ago you really couldn’t say Oracle and SGI in the same sentence and now we probably have the best benchmarks for their Times Ten software than any other computer manufacturer.”

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