SGI is holding off on porting its own Unix operating system to Intel's Merced chip, preferring to use Linux.
"We have not closed the door finally on [Irix, SGI's version of Unix, on Intel], but the current feeling from an applications standpoint is that Linux is the right answer," said Hank Shiffman, strategy technologist at SGI. "Given the resources we have, we have to focus on just one [operating system] and that one is Linux."
SGI's strategy has reversed since April 1998, when chief executive Rick Belluzzo outlined SGI's relationship with Intel. In a statement, the company said then: "By porting the Irix operating system to Intel's IA64 architecture debuting in the Merced processor, Silicon Graphics [since renamed SGI] will provide new choices for customers."
Analyst firm Gartner Group is predicting that the market will consolidate to two or three Unix operating systems over the next two years, focused on Intel's 64-bit chip architecture. Favourites have been HP-UX, Sun Solaris, and the IBM-led Monterey project, but Linux is becoming visible on the radar.
Consolidation has been driven by software vendors porting their products to fewer platforms. "The ISVs I am talking to, are thinking about doing two [ports] - NT and Linux," said Shiffman.
SGI intends to port Linux to Intel's Merced chip in time for its launch next year and will contribute technology to enable the free OS to support multi-processor CC-Numa hardware. "We are looking at getting chunks of Irix technology into Linux," said Shiffman.
SGI is also trying to define portable APIs, which will assist in-house developers port customised applications form Irix to Linux. But the greatest problem will be binary incompatibility. Mips is a big-endian technology and Intel technology is little-endian.
No official statement has been made signalling the end of the road for Mips or Irix. But SGI intends to introduce Intel's chip architecture to all its systems. Currently the Mips roadmap continues through Mips R12000, R14000 and R16000 processors.
SGI is expected to announce a four-way Intel Xeon processor Linux server this week. see Newswire 31 July 1999
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