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IRIS Crimson

[Crimson Picture] Crimson is an older SGI system released in the early 1990s (my document set is dated January 1993). Crimson is similar to all SGI's deskside systems: support for a lower number of main CPUs (just one in this case) but able to take advantage of fast graphics (up to RealityEngine). One nice aspect of Crimson is that, like Indigo2, it can utilise a wide range of graphics options; it can also be used specifically as a file server with no graphics.

Since it is difficult to describe Crimson in terms of how people might perceive its abilities today, what follows is mostly a copy of the original PR documents. Obviously, some of the statements made in such old PR may no longer be correct, eg. 'fastest available deskside graphics', so please bare this in mind (although Crimson's best graphics option is still very fast). Back then, R4000 was SGI's first 64bit CPU (Intel didn't hit similar performance levels for at least another year).

Crimson is listed on my SGI Graphics Performance Comparison page, but please note that Crimson is limited in main CPU power, something which may affect its ability to take full advantage of a graphics system such as RealityEngine. For example, Crimson RE may appear on paper to be similar in power to Octane SI+texture, but Octane has a much higher memory bandwidth, lower memory latency and R10K in Octane will be able to feed the graphics pipe faster than, say, R4000 Crimson - this will mean that, for some applications, Crimson could be much slower due to considerably lower preprocessing ability (at a guess, I'd say R10K/195 would be at least 4X faster than R4400/150). This also means that, if you have an opportunity to buy a Crimson, try and get an R4400/150 model in the first instance, or at least plan in advance for an upgrade if you do end up with an R4000 model (R4400/150 can be as much as 50% faster than R4000/100).

Despite Crimson's limited main-CPU power (nothing better than 150MHz R4400SC 1MB L2), the test results I now have show it be a truly remarkable machine. As I'd predicted, it can easily outperform an R4400SC 250MHz HighIMPACT Indigo2, and would probably beat a R4K/250 MaxIMPACT system too, for tasks that are not limited by main-CPU power (R10K IMPACT could be a different story though). For those who are familiar with the 'Huge Engine Model' demo, R4K/150 Crimson RE is 45% faster than an R4K/250 HighIMPACT Indigo2, and 319% faster than an R5K/200 O2 (this is for a 2RM Crimson - I'm expecting 4RM results soon, which should be even better).

So, if you need a 2nd-hand SGI that has really good 3D graphics power, and aren't too bothered by main CPU power (eg. rendering or compilation), then an R4K/150 Crimson RE is well worth considering. See the results of 'GRAPHICS TEST 1' (fps scores for rotated Inventor Objects) for complete details of how Crimson RE compares to other SGIs such as O2, Indigo2IMPACT, etc. Incidentally, a POWER Series system can also use RE graphics, and when it does it thinks it's a Crimson because the backplane hardware is identical. My thanks to Simon Pigot of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service for supplying so much excellent Crimson/POWER Series RE information. Btw, Simon's POWER Series RE normally runs at 1280x2048 resolution. :D

Finally, note that IRIX 6.2 was the last operating system release for Crimson, though differences between 6.2 and 6.5 with respect to everyday applications can be greatly lessened by installing all the latest 6.2 updates.

[Title Image]

The IRIS Crimson family sets a new standard for technical computing workstations. Available as a graphics workstation or as a network server, IRIS Crimson is based on the revolutionary R4000 microprocessor family.

IRIS Crimson offers unmatched capability for technical users. The combination of the system's high performance CPU, graphics speed, and scalable I/O brings a new level of interactivity to analytical modeling, simulation, visualization and image processing applications.

[Crimson Picture] Features:

The IRIS Crimson family's graphics and compute capabilities lead the industry in performance, features and versatility. With a choice of six 3D color graphics subsystems available, IRIS Crimson can be configured with the optimal set of performance and features for any application. All graphics models include full screen anti-aliasing, texture mapping and transparency capability. VME-based video digitizers and video I/O boards are available for all models.

Widest Range of Visual Applications

IRIS Crimson is the most effective platform available for computing and vizualising molecular design, computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, geophysics and image processing solutions, to name just a few. With over 1500 applications through our IRIS Partners developers program, Silicon Graphics offers the broadest range of visual processing applications in the industry.

Fully Binary Compatible

Binary code that runs on any Silicons Graphics IRIS 4D system will run without modification on IRIS Crimson. Recompiling (without modification) applications that run on a Silicon Graphics IRIS 4D system will generate new binary code that takes advantage of the R4000 instruction set extensions. These extensions include 64-bit floating point load and store instructions.

High Performance Networking

Silicon Graphics offers a complete line of networking products that includes high performance Ethernet, DECnet and IBM connectivity. For linking with supercomputers, HIPPI connectivity is available and Silicon Graphics offers the fastest FDDI performance in the industry.

To simplify the tasks of integrating and managing complex networks, Silicon Graphics offers NetVisualizer passive monitoring software along with FDDI Visualiser and Spectrum SNMP active management tools.

Efficient Software Tools

CASEVision, Silicon Graphics' case environment, provides a dynamic, intuitive interface combined with powerful new functionality. It supports key technologies used by today's developers, including multiprocessing and 3D graphics.

Silicon Graphics' advanced compiler optimization features maximize program execution speed. Applications that utilize Basic Linear Algebra Subroutine (BLAS) calls will benefit from Silicon Graphics' highly optimized BLAS libraries.

IRIS Crimson Configuration Summary (* = supported):

                                   S  Entry  XS/XS24  Elan  Extreme  VGXT  RE

R4000/R4400 CPU:                   *    *       *      *       *      *    *
Full graphics Library Support:          *       *      *       *      *    *
Hardware graphics Pipeline:                     *      *       *      *    *
1280x1024 Screen Resolution:                    *      *       *      *    *
24-bit Color Planes:                            *      *       *      *    *
Hardware Z-buffer Standard:                            *       *      *    *
8+ Geometry Engines per Pipeline:                              *      *    *
Texture Mapping in Hardware:                                          *    *
32-bit Color Planes Quad Buffered:                                    *    *
Advanced Texture Filtering:                                           *    *
No Penalty Anti-Aliasing:                                             *    *
1600x1200 Resolution:                                                 *    *

[Example Digital Image] The IRIS Crimson product family meets the vast majority of the needs of the animation marketplace. The low-cost IRIS Crimson Elan and Extreme systems are ideal modeling stations. These systems have the rendering power of the R4000 CPU as well as a range of cost-effective graphics subsystems designed to meet every modeling need. These products support a range of consumer- and industrial-video products.

IRIS Crimson VGXT is an ideal video server and high-end animation workstation. IRIS Crimson VGXT and VideoLab support real-time video input, real-time video output, broadcast quality, 3D graphics overlay and video keying. VideoLab supports both the 535 (US/Japan) and 625 (European) line rates for analog and digital Component video. These formats include RGB, all of the analog YUV formats (like Betacam and MII) and CCIR 601 Digital (D1).

[Example MCAD Model] IRIS Crimson provides the mechanical CAD user with a new range of capabilities and options. IRIS Crimson provides, in a single platform, a range of graphics options which allow the user to configure a system for any MCAD application. IRIS Crimson Entry and Crimson XS workstations are ideal for the designers of individual parts and for whom moderate solids modeling capability is needed. The IRIS Crimson Elan and Crimson Extreme through IRIS Crimson RealityEngine systems allow the MCAD user to assemble complex assemblies of parts and view them in real time.

The compute power of IRIS Crimson means that finite element analysis which formerly run on remote, dedicated compute servers can now be run on the IRIS Crimson workstation locally.

IRIS Crimson is powerful, supporting both the 100MHz R4000 and 150MHz R4400 processor, RealityEngine graphics and an internal memory bus that supports up to 400MB/sec transfer rate. IRIS Crimson is expandable and configurable with networking, VME, SCSI disk and tape options that deliver a broad range of funtionality.

[Crimson Board Image] The major functional elements of an IRIS Crimson CPU are:

A Revolutionary New Compute Engine

At the heart of IRIS Crimson is either the 100MHz R4000 or 150MHz R4400. The R4000 family is the first in a new generation of single-chip RISC processors that deliver exceptionally high floating point and integer performance. It is the first processor to integrate the CPU, FPU and cache on-chip, thereby eliminating the delays that result from passing signals between chips. A board level upgrade to the R4400 processor provides a cost effective way of keeping IRIS Crimson at the leading edge of compute technology.

The MIPS R4000 family of processors is designed for a balanced compute environment. Very few applications are totally dependent on floating point or integer processing. The superpipelined structure of the R4000 family ensures that applications run uniformly well irrespective of their code mix.

Expandable and Configurable

IRIS Crimson contains two full-height and two half-height 5.25" SCSI peripheral bays capable of supporting 7.2GB of internal disk storage. Other SCSI options include CDROM, 4mm DAT, 8mm Exabyte and 150MB QIC-150 cartridge tape units. Up to 66GB of additional SCSI-2 disk storage can be attatched using an external enclosure. Four 9U-VME expansion slots are standard.

Fast, Hierarchical Memory

IRIS Crimson supports up to a 32KB first level cache and 1MB of high speed 15ns second level cache. Four banks of dynamic random acess memory are supported, allowing for configurations of between 16MB and 256MB. The high speed second level cache on IRIS Crimson means that IRIS Crimson continues to run in low latency cache memory when many applications are running outside of first level cache on other workstations and accessing high latency CPU memory.

A Proven System Architecture

IRIS Crimson achieves its high compute performance through a combination of the R4000 technology and a number of advanced system architectural techniques. The system achieves memory transfer rates of up to 400MB per second through the extensive use of five proprietary application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). This allows the R4000 chip to achieve extremely high fill rates for first and second level caches when cache misses occur, thereby avoiding a common compute bottleneck.

IRIS Crimson includes a high performance I/O Processor, which provides two synchronous SCSI buses, a VME bus and an Ethernet interface. Disk striping across the two internal SCSI buses is supported as a standard feature of IRIX and is available on all IRIS Crimsons configured with two non-system SCSI disks. External striped SCSI-2 disks deliver a sustained transfer rate of over 20MB per second. VME bus slots can be used for additional SCSI controllers, IP12 disk controllers, FDDI or HIPPI network connections, parallel interfaces or user-supplied VME boards.


   Processor           MIPS R4000      MIPS R4400

   MHz                 100             150
   1st Level Cache     8KB I/8KB D     16KB I/16KB D
   2nd Level Cache     1MB I & D       1MB I & D
   MIPS                85              120*
   MFLOPS              16              22*
   SPEC89              70              100*
   SPECint92           59              82*
   SPECfp92            61              86*

   * Estimated

   FP Data Format:          IEEE 754, 32- and 64-bit formats
   Word Length:             32- and 64-bit integer
                            64-bit floating point

   CPU Memory

   Size:                    16MB to 256MB
   Expansion Increment      16MB or 64MB
   Data Integrity           ECC, SECDED

   I/O Interfaces

   SCSI                     2 channels standard
   VME                      1 bus with four 9U VME-32 slots standard

   Serial Ports             4 RS-232 compatible ports (standard)
                            6 additional ports (optional)
   Ethernet                 Types 1, 2 and 802.3, thick or thin coax
                            1 interface (standard); 4 additional
                            interfaces (optional)
   Token Ring               Up to 4 interfaces, 4/16Mbs (optional)
   HIPPI                    1 interface (optional)
   FDDI                     Up to 4 interfaces (optional)
                            Dual attatch, single MAC
   IBM Compatible           Coax, SDLC (SNA), Ethernet, Channel
                            Attatch (optional)
   Networking Software      TCP/IP, (standard) NFS, 3270, 3770, LU6.2,
                            5080 Emulation, DECnet, LAT, SLIP (optional)


   Operating System         IRIX, Workspace, System Manager (standard)
   Languages                C, Fortran, Ada, C++, Pascal, POWER Fortran,
                            POWER C (optional)
   Development Tools        dbx, RCS, Pixie and Prof profiling tools
                            (standard); CASEVision (optional)
   Server Software          4D/NQS, IRIS Networker, IRIS Volume
                            Manager (optional)

   Disk Drive Options

   Internal SCSI-2          1.2GB half-height, 2.4Gb full-height
   External SCSI            66GB attatched to 8 VME based SCSI-2 Channels

   Tape Drive Options

   1/4" Cartridge           QIC-150 format
   8mm Cartridge            Helical scan format
   DAT                      DAT standard format

   Power and Cooling

   AC voltage               nominal 120V (104V to 132V)
   AC frequency             47-63Hz
   Outlet Type              NEMA 5-20 amp
   Power Supply             1150W DC Continuous
   Chassis                  2100VA max, 1050W DC Continuous, 1500W RMS,
                            5120 BTU/Hour
                            19" monitor; 225VA, 115W, 512BTU/Hour

   Size and Weight

   19" monitor (H,W,D)      18.8" x 20" x 21.5" (51x48x54cm), 84lbs (38Kg)
   21" monitor (H,W,D)      18.5" x 20" x 21" (47x49x53cm), 80lbs (36Kg)
   Chassis     (H,W,D)      26" x 21" x 29"

The World's Fastest Graphics: RealityEngine/RealityEngine2

RealityEngine graphics subsystems provide the highest performance and most advanced features of any computer graphics available today. Comprised of RealityEngine for IRIS Crimson uni-processor systems and RealityEngine2 for Onyx multi-processor systems, the RealityEngine architecture combines the industry's fastest polygons, pixels and vectors with unique image processing, display and video capabilities. RealityEngine-based systems are available with either the 100MHz or 150MHz MIPS R4400 64b-bit RISC microprocessors and are completely binary-compatible with the entire Silicon Graphics product line.

RealityEngine and RealityEngine2 are the perfect solutions for image processing film and video production, industrial design, molecular graphics, visual simulation and virtual reality. Both graphics subsystems combine advanced parallel processing technology with custom VLSI ASICs and up to 160MB of frame-buffer memory to provide a multi-purpose platform that out-performs dedicated single-purpose hardware.



RealityEngine systems address visualization requirements through a balance between compute and graphics performance. The 64-bit MIPS R4000 and R4400 offer outstanding compute performance; Onyx symmetric multi-processing systems 2 to 24 CPUs, while Crimson systems feature a single CPU in a deskside chassis.

This is balanced with the power of the RealityEngine graphics subsystem which provides over 1.1M shaded polygons and vectors per second and the RealityEngine2 subsystem which provides 2M shaded points, lines and polygons per second. Both systems feature scalable pixel fill rates, which can be 80M, 160M or 320M textured anti-aliased pixels per second.

Standards and Development Tools

RealityEngine systems run the IRIX operating system, which provides a standards-compliant version of UNIX SVID 5.4 with extensions for real-time and parallel processing. As all Silicon Graphics systems run this operating system, any software developed on Crimson can also be run on multi-processor Onyx systems or desktop Indigo systems.

The additional Raster Manager cards available for RealityEngine and RealityEngine2 dramatically increase system performance and functionality. For pixel performance, the Raster Manager option adds a second raster processor, doubling the pixel fill rate and providing additional anti-aliasing capability. Up to four Raster Manager cards are supported per pipeline. Adding Raster Manager cards also increases the system display capability from 1.3M to 2.6M pixels, allowing for multi-headed displays when used with the Multi-Channel Option.

Video Options

Silicon Graphics offers several video options in addition to the built-in NTSC/PAL/S-Video output that is standard with RealityEngine and RealityEngine2 systems. These options range from sophisticated digital video keying, blending and effects systems to animation systems and easy-to-use scan converters for full-screen session recording.

Application Focus

RealityEngine and RealityEngine2 systems feature a Multiple Instruction Multiple Data (MIMD) architecture and an extensive system of FIFO buffers that assure that all processes are running at peak efficiency at all times. This means that RealityEngine systems are application machines, rather than benchmark machines. More than 1500 applications are available today for RealityEngine and RealityEngine2 systems, including the IndigoMagic suite of digital media tools.

Features: RealityEngine and RealityEngine2:

Hardware Texture Mapping
Trilinear Mip Map Filtering
Bicubic Interpolation
Textures up to 1024 x 1024 pixels
Per-pixel perspective correction
Mip Map textures up to 512 x 512 pixels
Up to 32K x 32K texture tiling
4 to 48 bits per texel
Environment Mapping
Automatic support for texture paging
3D (volumetric) textures
Real-time anti-aliasing of polygons, vectors, points
Sub-pixel positioning and computation
4/8/16 sub-samples per pixel
Anti-aliasing in z-buffer
Atmospheric Effects
Per-pixel fog/haze computation
Color and Transparency
48-bits per pixel (12-bits each for RGBA)
Quad buffered for smooth motion of rendered geometry, stereoscopically
8-bit double buffered overlay/underlay
Gouraud or Flat shading
Phong lighting model
Ambient, Diffuse, Emissive, Specular
Material properties
Up to 8 light sources
Support for local, infinite and spot lights
Two-sided lighting of polygons
Shadows using texture maps
Special Effects
Accumulation Buffer (96 bits/pixel)
Motion Blur, Soft Shadows, Depth of Field, Video Effects
Projected Textures
Motion video as texture (requires video option)
Direct from memory video streaming (requires video streaming)
Configurable frame buffers
40/80/160MB frame buffer memory
160MHz DACs
Multi-headed Displays (requires Multi-Channel Option or multiple graphics pipelines)
Hardware LUTs
21" Multi-sync monitor VGA-HDTV
Supported Resolutions
1280 x 1024 72/60/50Hz
1280 x 960 76Hz
1600 x 1200 60/50Hz (2 RMs)
1024 x 768 60Hz
960 x 680 60Hz
640 x 512 60Hz
640 x 496 60Hz
640 x 480 60Hz
1280 x 512 stereo
1280 x 492 stereo
1024 x 768 stereo
960 x 680 stereo
640 x 512 stereo
1280 x 1024 interlaced
1280 x 959 interlaced
1920 x 1035 HDTV (2 RMs)
1920 x 1152 HDTV (2 RMs)
770 x 576 PAL*
645x486 NTSC*
640x480 Field Sequential*

* Requires user-supplied monitor; not supported on 21" multi-sync

Document Sources: IRISCRIM-BR(1/93) [complete hard-print document set]

Ian's SGI Depot: FOR SALE! SGI Systems, Parts, Spares and Upgrades

(check my current auctions!)
[WhatsNew] [P.I.] [Indigo] [Indy] [O2] [Indigo2] [Crimson] [Challenge] [Onyx] [Octane] [Origin] [Onyx2]
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