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.
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.
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: * *
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).
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.
The major functional elements of an IRIS Crimson CPU are:
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 Communications 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) Software 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.
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.
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:
* Requires user-supplied monitor; not supported on 21" multi-sync