The world of ready-to-roll Internet hardware is off to a flying start. On the heels of Sun Microsystems’ Netra servers comes a significant competitor that ups the stakes with Web author-ing and serving capabilities. Meet Silicon Graphics’ line of WebForce Indy and Indigo2 workstations and Challenge S servers.
While Netra’s mission is to connect PC and Mac LANs to the Internet, the new SG boxes deliver SG’s customary high bandwidth visual computing systems for preparing and publishing WWW materials, and for browsing online.
SGI’s new software bundles include Netscape’s Navigator client software on the workstations and Netsite server software (less the security features for commercial use) on the servers. Netscape Communications was set up last year by Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark and resides just across the road from SGI in Mountain View California. The RSA-based Netsite security package is extra, but necessary, for commercial users who want to take credit card orders over the Internet.
SG says that WebForce are the only products specifically designed for creating and serving the media-rich World Wide Web (WWW). While it is possible to get the job done with any number of UNIX boxes and a mixture of commercial and freeware, SGI is right: as a supported package by a major workstation vendor, it has no equal.
WWW hosting and authoring are capabilities that are not addressed by Sun’s lower priced Netra line but are well catered for with SG’s WebForce. SG’s authoring software WebMagic Author, licensed in part from mainframer Amdahl, is a Hypertext Markup Language editor (HTML) which uses a graphical user interface shielding users from the complex Hypertext syntax.
SG WebForce line has the full complement of digital media tools and a MovieMaster encoder so that users can create MPEG-I and Quick-Time Cinepak movie files for the Web. By simply pointing and clicking you can assemble Web documents that use the full multimedia regalia available to Web browsers including audio, video, graphics and multi-font text.
SG WebForce machines have built-in networking capabilities with Ethernet and ISDN (which is not yet certified in the UK but will be soon). The basic WebForce Indy workstation system has an Indy XL graphics subsystem, IndyCam digital video camera and CD-quality audio system.
Prices start at £9100 for a WebForce Indy with a 133 MHz MIPS R4600 RISC chip, 8-bit graphics, 1 Gb hard disk, 32 Mb memory and 16 inch high-resolution colour monitor. The 24-bit Indy dedicated authoring system with 1Gb disk and 32Mb memory is £14,490; the fastest workstation model that has a 200 MHz MIPS R4400 Indigo2 Extreme with very high end graphics performance, 2 Gb hard disk and 128 Mb memory is £37,430. Separate models are configured for either authoring or serving.
The ultra high-end three-dimensional graphics capable WebForce Indigo2 Extreme system features "the world’s most powerful desktop graphics" and is a bit over the top for Web serving but it will doubtless shine on a Web developers desktop. The WebForce Challenge Servers start at £11,180 with 100 MHz MIPS R4600 or 150 MHz MIPS R4400 processors with a 1Gb system disk and 32 Mb of memory. Existing SG workstation and server users can upgrade to WebForce config-urations, somewhat diluting SG’s contention that the WebForce line was Internet-designed from the ground up.