SGI launches NT workstations to broaden range of product line

February 3, 1999

Firm plans dual-platform strategy for futureLike any Unix-based workstation developer, Silicon Graphics has felt the impact of Windows NT's penetration of industrial computing markets, including medical imaging. To reclaim lost market share and to

Firm plans dual-platform strategy for future

Like any Unix-based workstation developer, Silicon Graphics has felt the impact of Windows NT's penetration of industrial computing markets, including medical imaging. To reclaim lost market share and to take advantage of the growing popularity of the Microsoft operating system, Mountain View, CA-based SGI has introduced a line of low-cost workstations based on Windows NT that are designed for visual computing applications.

In medical imaging, SGI's Unix workstations have long been known for their prowess in high-end, 3-D image-processing applications. Many modality vendors are adopting SGI systems as their platforms of choice to power scanner consoles, while 3-D image processing firms such as Vital Images are developing new software products for SGI's Unix-based computers. The new NT line, carrying the product names 320 and 450, could make SGI technology more affordable than ever and help the company pull itself out of the financial doldrums it has been mired in for the past several years.

The new systems occupy two price points, with 540 to sell for $5995 and 320 priced at $3395. For sophisticated medical image processing applications such as computer-aided surgery, physicians would likely require the added power of the 540 workstation, while PACS users would primarily be interested in the 320 computer, said Petra van den Elsen, medical industry marketing manager. In any event, SGI believes that both workstations will prove useful in medical imaging applications.

"It's a system with very good graphics and extremely high bandwidth. Medical imaging is an area where you have huge amounts of data, and 3-D is very important," she said.

Silicon Graphics believes its new systems stand out from the Windows NT crowd because of the integration of the company's visual computing technology with the Microsoft platform. In particular, SGI cited its use of Integrated Visual Computing (IVC) architecture in the systems. IVC takes
features that usually require add-in cards and integrates them into the chipset of the computers. The result is sufficient bandwidth to support complex graphics models and multiple streams of uncompressed video, according to the company.

The 320 workstation can be configured with up to two Intel Pentium II 450-MHz processors and up to 1 GB of ECC SDRAM memory, according to SGI. The 540 computer, on the other hand, can be configured with up to four Intel Pentium II Xeon 450-MHz processors with 512 KB, 1 MB, or 2 MB of L2 cache, and up to 2 GB of ECC SDRAM memory. Both 320 and 540 are 100% compatible with Windows NT-based office applications, according to SGI.

Another interesting capability of the workstations is their ability to be equipped with SGI's 1600SW flat-panel liquid crystal display, which was previewed at the 1998 RSNA meeting. Featuring an all-digital architecture, the 17.3-inch, 1600 x 1024 display has resolution of 110 dpi. The display is available now at a price of $2595.

Shipments of the 320 workstation will begin this month, while deliveries of the 540 visual workstation are planned in the second quarter. SGI will continue to maintain its Unix-based workstation line, according to the company.