Silicon Graphics (SGI) has produced the successor to its Onyx visualisation systems. Called Prism, the systems will be based on Intel's Itanium 2 processor and Linux.

Like the Onyx systems, the Prism line is designed for use for advanced visual computing problems like oil exploration, crash simulation or medical research. They will also use the same ATI graphics accelerators and NUMAflex shared memory architecture as SGI's MIPS-based systems.

The Prism line, which has begun shipping over the last few months, will come in configurations of between two and 512 Itanium 2 processors and will support as many as 16 graphics accelerators, also called "pipelines". Pricing on the systems will start at $30,000, approximately $10,000 less than comparable entry-level Onyx systems, said Shawn Underwood, director of marketing for visual systems at SGI.

HP will also port a number of its developer tools, including OpenGL Performer and OpenGL Volumizer to Linux, but not all applications will be ported. SGI's decision to launch graphics processing systems based on Itanium comes just weeks after HP decided to drop its line of Itanium workstations, citing poor demand.

The two products served very different types of users, Underwood said. "For HP, 5,000 units a year is a reason to exit the market," he said. "And for us, 5,000 units a year is a reason to enter the market."