If you have not been paying attention to Silicon Graphics during the past couple of years, the following facts may surprise you:
- MineSet, Silicon Graphics' data mining and visualization product for decision support (launched in April 1996) is today the industry's number three data mining product.
- The Silicon Graphics' Origin server family is the industry's first implementation of CC-NUMA architecture. Silicon Graphics is also the industry's largest provider of CC-NUMA architecture servers with over 13,000 servers installed since December 1996.
- Silicon Graphics ranks fourth in the worldwide mid-range server market per IDC research. (Mid-range is defined as servers that range in price from $100,000 to $1 million.)
- Between 20 and 25 percent of the world's electronic messages (e-mail) are handled by Silicon Graphics' servers.
- Fifty percent of Silicon Graphics' product revenue comes from their server product line.
According to Ihab Abu-Hakima, vice president and general manager of Silicon Graphics' Business Computing Division, these accomplishments should not come as a surprise. They are the result of Silicon Graphics' ability to leverage their visual and technical computing capabilities to develop products that provide the power to solve the demanding business requirements of enterprises throughout the world.
"Silicon Graphics as a company started up in 1982 with an initial focus of bringing to the market technologies that would allow users to interact with their data in 3-D and real time and in color," explains Abu-Hakima. He adds, "That was really quite novel at the time."
Over the years, Silicon Graphics established itself as the number one provider of visual computing systems and also established a very strong position in the technical computing space. "Silicon Graphics is well known as a visual computing company, but actually half of our business comes from non-visual products--the server product line," Abu-Hakima states.
Silicon Graphics introduced its first SMP (symmetric multi-processing) machine, a two CPU server, in 1988. In 1990, the company introduced an eight-way symmetric multi-processing machine (Power Series). In 1993, Silicon Graphics introduced a line of servers called Challenge and Power Challenge--a 36-way symmetric multi-processing architecture. "When we first started with symmetric multi-processing architectures in the late eighties and then in the nineties, we discovered that the biggest limitation that exists in those architectures is the system bus. When you buy a symmetric multi-processing server, you are investing up front for the cost of the whole bus capacity. And, on that bus, you have to share that resource with the CPU, the I/O, the memory--everybody is sharing that. Think of it as a highway where you've built in the number of lanes at six and you just add on ramps and off ramps. The more of these that you add, the more congested the highway becomes."
In 1990, Silicon Graphics and Stanford University began work on a joint project to address this problem and find a creative solution to the bus limitation. Says Abu-Hakima, "The result is the CC-NUMA (cache coherent Non-Uniform Memory Access) architecture that Silicon Graphics introduced in 1996. This is an architecture that eliminates the bus bottleneck. Additionally, it allows a user to add capacity and pay for that capacity as they need it."
Since Silicon Graphics began shipping its CC-NUMA machines in December of 1996, the company has shipped and installed over 13,000 CC-NUMA servers to customers around the world. Abu-Hakima reports, "Many of these are in the over 32-CPU configurations--64 and 128 CPU configurations. We have tremendous experience in these large-scale configurations. Thus, we have the ability to provide customers with very unique, very open tools that help them accelerate their time to insight and bring them much closer to being able to make decisions in real time than with any other platform."
Selling and supporting its products around the world, Silicon Graphics has traditionally focused on the manufacturing industry, oil/gas, chemical/pharmaceuticals, communications, government and education sectors as well as the entertainment industry. However, with customers in virtually all industries, Silicon Graphics also has a very large presence in decision support, retail and financial services.
As companies around the globe recognize the necessity of data warehousing in order to remain competitive, the need for solutions able to adapt to rapidly increasing data set sizes has grown dramatically.
Abu-Hakima's division is chartered with taking Silicon Graphics' core competencies and building, with application developers, the big solutions to help solve their customers' strategic business problems. "We realized, quite a few years ago, that some of Silicon Graphics' core competencies--visualization, I/O, bandwith--could be applied to solve very tough business problems. Nobody today is creating less data," Abu-Hakima observes. "Three or four years ago when we would talk to prospects about terabyte data warehouses which would double in size every nine to 12 months, people really didn't understand. Obviously, there were government agencies we dealt with that were already handling that volume of data and there were a handful of telecommunications and financial services firms that understood terabytes of data, but for the most part, this was new to business users."
Maximize the value of your data with advanced data mining and visualization technology.
Buried within your vast store of transaction logs and legacy data, subtle correlations and elusive relationships hold the secrets to enhance your business. To reveal the hidden value in your data warehouse, Silicon Graphics developed MineSet, an integrated suite of software tools for data mining and data visualization.
MineSet enables interactive exploration of data through an advanced suite of visual tools for faster discovery of meaningful new trends and relationships. Flexible mechanisms throughout the MineSet data mining tools allow you to quickly move around a data set. Advanced drill-through techniques give you fast access to the original records.
MineSet is designed to fit the needs of users at several levels of technical ability. For technical users, MineSet offers unlimited potential with a complete suite of data mining tools, database integration and scalable performance. To accommodate business users, data mining results and visualizations are easily deployed across corporate networks through point-and-click access.
The MineSet Application Interface allows developers to embed MineSet tools within their customized solutions.
Abu-Hakima's dedication to Silicon Graphics stems from several factors--the people that are employed by Silicon Graphics, their drive to help solve customer problems and the type of customers that Silicon Graphics attracts.
"At Silicon Graphics we strive to be ahead of the curve," explains Abu-Hakima. "From the hardware perspective, we come from the future, in a sense. When Silicon Graphics was first created, we had a focus on helping our customers identify and solve their problems visually. And that had been restricted to certain niche industries--the scientific community and the entertainment industry. As typical users create more and more data, they look for new, more effective ways to deal with that data and come up with solutions to their problems. That's exactly what Silicon Graphics' heritage and strength is all about--dealing with very, very large data sets. We have traditionally focused on workflow optimization at the user level, but over time we have extrapolated this across the enterprise. We now look at optimizing work flow across the enterprise, and we focus heavily on decreasing the 'time to insight' for our customers," relates Abu-Hakima. "There is an emerging market segment that the analysts are starting to talk about--Strategic Business Analysis. It is all about helping customers deal with tremendous amounts of data and make the strategic decisions that have a long-term impact on their business. It is an area that we have targeted for years, and it is just now emerging as an area that is being more commonly recognized. To enable our customers to be successful, we have invested heavily in areas such as greater I/O performance, in distributed shared memory architectures, in giving our customers more bandwidth or more headroom to handle these larger data sets, and obviously in the whole area of visualization. We are able to apply these Silicon Graphics' core competencies to these strategic business problems."
Silicon Graphics' data mining product, MineSet, is an advanced client/server toolset for extracting information from data warehouses, mining the data with sophisticated algorithms and revealing newly discovered patterns and connections through intuitive, interactive, visual displays.
"MineSet is now the number three data mining product in the industry today," states Abu-Hakima. "That is a fantastic accomplishment for the MineSet team and for the company. And, the reason that we are so successful with MineSet is that it is a very powerful data tool that allows you to tackle very large amounts of data and make sense of that data in real time. A customer can look at several hundred gigabytes of data and interact with it to look for associations or correlations and be able to make decisions in minutes or hours as opposed to weeks or months. MineSet solved an acute business problem, and it solved it very, very well. It married sophisticated mining algorithms and the intuitive power of being able to visualize data in 3-D which is obviously an inherent advantage that Silicon Graphics has. That is the uniqueness that no one else has been able to provide," explains Abu- Hakima.
"We work very closely with our customers to understand the job they are trying to do and the problems that they are trying to solve. We determine how we can provide a solution with our hardware, our operating system, our software partners and our integration partners to optimize this work flow so our customers can do more with less," states Abu-Hakima.
This is accomplished through the joint efforts of Silicon Graphics' employees, customers and partners. Abu-Hakima explains, "I am continually inspired by the people that work at Silicon Graphics. Their drive to innovate and their drive to help customers is amazing. The other component to our success is what we call our 'lighthouse' customers. They tend to be years ahead of their respective industries in terms of the problems they're trying to solve and the ideas that they have. They come to Silicon Graphics and feel comfortable sharing these ideas with us and asking how we can help--how we can come up with the technology and the rest of the solution to realize their vision. Because we work with customers of this type, we tend to run across problems two to four years ahead of our competitors. Consequently, we bring solutions to market much earlier to solve these problems," states Abu-Hakima. "For example, we recognized that it would be necessary to move to a larger address space for our customers. Consequently, back in 1993, we introduced 64-bit architectures throughout our systems. We have a half a decade of experience working with these architectures--both with our software partners and our customers."
"Silicon Graphics' ability to turn our customers' and our employees' visions into reality, which we do again and again, is really a most exciting thing," he enthusiastically adds.
Because of the company's commitment to solving customers' problems with powerful and innovative solutions, Silicon Graphics is certainly worthy of your attention.
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