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Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) officials have released Prism, a graphics system for high-end applications that runs on the Linux operating system. Although company officials said they would continue to support Irix, SGI's brand of Unix, Linux systems are rapidly gaining a presence that application providers must recognize.

Prism, like SGI's other visualization products, creates graphics based on enormous amounts of data for uses such as medical research, disaster preparedness, simulation and training.

Prism can handle data in the terabyte range as a single image rather than breaking it into smaller pieces as some systems do, which is a marketing pitch for the product.

The first people in the government to use Prism will be those in the area of decision support, said Simon Hayhurst, product line manager in visual systems at SGI. Officials at agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Justice Department need to mine useful information quickly, he said.

"All these guys, they're flooded by data," especially since Sept. 11, 2001, he said. When questions arise, "knowing the answer two weeks from now is not an acceptable answer. The answer of 'I don't know' or 'We think,' that's not an acceptable answer."

Visualization systems such as Prism turn data into usable information quickly, he said.

"If all you have is a pile of data, you don't have anything," he said. "If you have the Library of Congress behind you, but you don't have time to open one book, all you have is a building."

SGI made the investment in a Linux-based system, which complements other Linux products the company offers, because Unix has split into at least four major variants owned by Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM Corp. and SGI. Developers typically have to develop five versions of any major application — the four Unix variants and one for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, Hayhurst said.

"Unix does some things very well, but it's expensive [for developers] having to support all the different Unix vendors," he said. "Linux is a way for them to standardize on one thing."

LynuxWorks Inc. officials have released the Luminosity LynuxWorks Integrated Development Environment toolset. Company officials say the set can help developers of embedded systems, which are systems that work invisibly, buried deep in the innards of electronic devices.

Luminosity works on Linux or Sun's Solaris operating system, powered by the popular Eclipse IDE platform. It is intended for use in the aerospace, telecommunications and military sectors, company officials said.

Luminosity's features include platform administration, a tool to define the best hardware target for an application, debugging tools and a toolbar that features several communications protocols for connecting hosts and targets.

Software maker Opsware Inc., a company that makes information technology automation and utility computing software, added support for several versions of Red Hat Inc. and SUSE Inc. brands of Linux to its products. The new platforms, which also include Solaris on Sun/Fujitsu Ltd. servers, are part of Opsware System 4.5.

Company officials said that IT environments are becoming more heterogeneous, and finding three or more platforms running in one organization is common. Opsware System 4.5 also adds Opsware Satellite technology to remotely automate small clusters of servers.

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