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SGI Demonstrates Long-Distance Visual Serving Across Canada - Pioneering Visualization for the Grid.

CANARIE Uses SGI OpenGL Vizserver to Drive Real-Time High-End Visualizations

Up to 1,900 Miles

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Nov. 8 /PRNewswire/ --

SGI (NYSE: SGI), a world leader in high-performance computing, complex data management, visualization products and services, today announced the successful conclusion of an experiment in long-distance visual serving. The demonstration featured the SGI(TM) Visual Serving(TM) environment based on SGI(TM) OpenGL Vizserver(TM) and was conducted June through August 2001 using CANARIE, Inc.'s (Canada's advanced Internet development organization) high-bandwidth network, CA*net3, which stretches across Canada. OpenGL Vizserver enables users of inexpensive, general-purpose or commodity computers running IRIX(R), Linux(R), Solaris(R) or Windows NT(R) operating systems to access the full power of SGI(TM) Onyx(R) 3000 series high-performance visualization systems. Technical and creative professionals will benefit from the ability to interactively access graphics over increasingly long distances via the network or grid.

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Visual Serving solutions from SGI give networked users of desktop systems the ability to interact visually with powerful remote SGI Onyx 3000 series visualization systems. Visual serving is a key component of SGI's grid computing solutions that make data, computation power and visualization universally available via the grid. Grid computing is an approach by which the Internet or dedicated networks are used to interconnect a wide variety of geographically distributed computational resources, such as supercomputers, computer clusters, storage systems, and visualization systems, and present them as a single, unified resource.

SGI chose to conduct this long-distance trial using the CANARIE network because of its excellent high-bandwidth optical infrastructure and support along with on-going industrial?academic partnerships with Canadian universities. Using an SGI(TM) Onyx(R) family visualization system located at

McGill University's McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC), the trial involved running graphics from cities ranging from 100 to 1,900 miles away.

"We were very pleased to participate in this groundbreaking exercise with SGI, and we enjoyed working with their experienced personnel," said Peter Marshall, director of network applications at CANARIE. "SGI understands the increasing needs of the industrial and academic communities to access data and visual information speedily and cost-effectively. We will be happy to work with them again, whenever the need arises."

The results reconfirmed that graphics generated on an SGI Onyx family system in Montreal could be accessed interactively on desktop workstations located in Calgary in a manner truly beneficial to long-distance users. This enhanced networking capability will be a key element in a $30 million expansion of BIC to link with other institutions within the Montreal Consortium for Brain Imaging Research (MCBIR). Part of the MCBIR vision is the creation of a 3D-image database accessible by the global brain imaging research community.

"Our recent purchase of an SGI Onyx 3400 system and an SGI Origin 3800 system has been a wonderful addition to our lab, enabling the expansion of our brain imaging research. Now, with the successful long-distance experiments on OpenGL Vizserver, we can share that information with researchers, scientists and students across Canada and around the world, receiving their valuable feedback and contributions in return," said Dr. Alan Evans, professor at McGill University and MCBIR director. "The power, expandability and versatility of the SGI 3000 family will serve us well for years to come."

"Visual serving represents a fundamental shift in how creative and technical professionals can work with visualization software and SGI leads the way on that frontier," said Greg Estes, vice president of marketing at SGI. "No longer will users be required to be in close physical proximity to high-end graphics computers to take advantage of their power. Instead, SGI enables users to visually tap into remote graphics, computing, and complex data management power from a variety of workstations."

SGI Visual Serving: The Key That Unlocks the Grid

The key concept underlying the development of grid computing is that users transparently take advantage of resources available over the network. In some cases, compute resources may be selected because they are close to the data that is being manipulated or in other cases the data may be moved to the location of the computing resource. However, under no circumstance are users asked to leave their desks and travel to the location of the data or computational resource.

Visual serving unlocks the power of the grid so users anywhere can interact with the results of supercomputing calculations. As the CANARIE visual serving demonstration illustrates, scientists all over Canada now have the ability to utilize computing and visualization resources anywhere in the country and to interactively visualize them at their desktop. The result is greatly expanded access to powerful scientific visualizations and increased productivity for both local and remote users.

Reproducible Results

CANARIE's CA*net3 network uses high-speed optical transport technology to provide massive high-bandwidth connectivity between major sites. The design of the network limited the effects of bandwidth constraints so that today's networks can serve as effective substrates for long-distance graphics interactivity.

The OpenGL Vizserver experiment used commercial visualization software based on OpenGL Performer(TM) and focused on optimizing frame rates across various distances. The size and interactive frame rate of the graphics window between the connected computers was affected by two factors: bandwidth and image compression. The lower the available bandwidth, the smaller the window needed to maintain interactivity. This effect was overcome by the application of image compression technology, which allowed interactive frame rates to be maintained for larger windows. As the distance increased between the graphics computer and the remote user, the user's interactive experience remained unchanged.

As expected, the results depended on the size of the interactive OpenGL(R) window and ranged from 5 to 25 frames per second. These results illustrated little variation with distance and were completely consistent with the 20Mb-per-second connection used for this test.

In addition to this successful demonstration of long-distance visual serving, the strong collaborative relationship established among SGI, CANARIE and the Canadian academic community will fuel future investigation and development for OpenGL Vizserver technology.

Pricing and Availability

SGI OpenGL Vizserver software for SGI Onyx family visualization systems with InfiniteReality(R) graphics is available immediately via the company's Web site. Pricing for OpenGL Vizserver server software is $5,000 (U.S. list). OpenGL Vizserver client software for IRIX, Solaris, Windows NT and Linux is available at no additional charge. For more information on this or other SGI products and services visit

About SGI

SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, is the world's leading provider of high-performance computing, complex data management and visualization products, services and solutions that enable its technical and creative customers to gain strategic and competitive advantages in their core businesses. Whether being used to design and build safer cars and airplanes, discover new medications and oil reserves, predict the weather, entertain us with thrilling movie special effects or provide mission-critical support for government defense, SGI systems and expertise are empowering a world of innovation and discovery. The company, located on the Web at, is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and has offices worldwide.


World-recognized CANARIE is Canada's advanced Internet development organization. CANARIE is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to accelerating the development of Canada's Internet and the creation of innovative applications that exploit the power of that infrastructure to benefit Canadians. CANARIE, with its private-sector partners, has developed Canada's world-leading research and education Internet backbone, CA*net3, connecting and used by universities, federal and provincial government labs and research institutes. CANARIE also plays the critical role of facilitator, bringing together experts from private industry, educational organizations, government and the research and education community to form project partnerships. By encouraging innovation, CANARIE is building Canada's capacity to participate in the knowledge economy. For more information visit

About McGill University

McGill is an international university whose main language of instruction is English. Located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, McGill's 22 faculties and professional schools offer over 300 programs at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. The BIC, a world leader in brain imaging research with a staff/student complement of over 100, was established in 1984 at the Montreal Neurological Institute, a McGill-affiliated research institute. For more information visit,, or

NOTE: Silicon Graphics, IRIX, OpenGL, InfiniteReality and Onyx are registered trademarks and SGI, Visual Serving, OpenGL Vizserver, OpenGL Performer and the SGI logo are trademarks of Silicon Graphics, Inc. Windows and Windows NT are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Solaris is a registered trademark of Sun Microsystems, Inc. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

CONTACT: Marla Robinson of SGI, +1-256-864-3426, or

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Date:Nov 8, 2001
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