SGI NZ jobs safe despite global restructure

Silison Graphics' New Zealand operation will escaped unscathed by job losses following the recent announcement of the company's restructure - 1500 jobs are expected to go worldwide.

Silison Graphics' New Zealand operation will escaped unscathed by job losses following the recent announcement of the company’s restructure.

Two weeks ago SGI said it was reorganising in a bid to save $US300 million annually and 1500 jobs were expected to go worldwide.

The move comes as SGI tries to sustain profitability after more than two years of unimpressive revenue growth. Last month the company reported its first profitable quarter in 18 months, with most of the gains in the Orix server business.

However, SGI New Zealand gene-ral manager Peter Vanderbeke says the local business has increased revenue by 30% year on year and that he does not expect any redundancies among the 20 local staff.

Large account wins in the past year have been the Vector to the National Institute of Water and Air (NIWA), 32-processor Origin servers to Peace Software and Auckland University, graphics workstations and servers to computer animation firm Weta and a professional services engagement with Telecom, he says.

Also contained in the restructure announcement was the news that SGI would spin off its Cray super computer division.

New Zealand’s only user of a Cray supercomputer, NIWA, is unconcerned by the news that SGI is splitting off its Cray division into a separate company.

“We’re not worried,” says NIWA IT manager Anthony Cole.

“There will still be a lot of cross-fertilisation between SGI and Cray as they have learned a lot from each other and I understand they will still be manufacturing various components at each other’s plants. It’s business as usual for us.”

NIWA bought a Cray Vector computer at the beginning of the year.

“Cray and SGI have always had quite different cultures, it was quite apparent when you visited them,” says Cole. “Cray was oriented toward research and SGI toward commerce.”

Which is the reason, according to Vanderbeke, that the decision was made to spin off the division.

“Vector customers are a different style of customer compared to commercial customers. This will enable us to focus on their needs better.”

As per the global restructure, SGI New Zealand will focus on high-performance Origin servers (which make up 50% of the company’s business), graphics and Internet sales.

As another part of its strategy SGI is now offering Linux servers, along with Windows and its traditional Irix OS.

However, Vanderbeke says Irix will eventually be phased to high end systems. “We believe scalable Linux is the way of the future. We have released our first Linux server, the SGI 1400L, which is IA-32 based and which supports both Linux and NT.

“We will have a two-processor mo-del in the next few months and then an eight--pro---cessor model. The really high-end applications will still run on the Irix OS.

“The only thing that has been holding Linux back has been lack of support from a commercial company and we’re now doing that. We plan to extend that support to third-party servers.

“We recently open-sourced our Irix XFS file system to Linux.”

The broadband Internet server market is also a key component of SGI’s strategy, says Vanderbeke.

“We will be looking for early adopters in the market for media serving, ASPs [application service providers] as well as video-on-demand. You’ll see SUSEs (single-use ser-ver environments) where you take a platform and put one application on it, then tune the environment purely to run that application. We’ll have video-on-demand SUSEs and ASP SUSEs.

“Broadband plays well into SGI because of our heritage with gra-phics and multimedia. We’re good at I/O [input/output] through-put. That’s something that will be essential for the future,” says Vanderbeke.

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