Yesterday Silicon Graphics, the venerable producer of workstations and servers targeted at the visualization function, declared bankruptcy and annnouced a sale for $25M. And while it’s easy (and right) to note that the evolution of markets involves (even requires) “creative destruction” to properly move forward, sometimes it’s worth at least a moment of pause for regret to those who fell.
The first startup with which I was ever involved was one that competed (in our small way) with SGI. We were among the first shops to recognize that the open “organ bank” of commodity computing could, with the then-recent additions of multi-processor computing and workstation-class graphics acceleration on the Windows platform, compete reasonably well on peformance (and extremely well on price/performance) with the likes of SGI’s workstations. While we were a tiny part of SGI’s ultimate demise, the broader trend of SGI’s users moving to more open platforms shrunk their addressable market dramatically.
But SGI, despite the anachronism it eventually became, advanced the industry through some of its most transformative periods. Both as a provider of technology and as an enabler of creative expression, their products were revolutionary at the time, and so for me personally, I’ll remember the company fondly. Even if all that’s left are those of us who remember that the Googleplex was SGI’s campus first.