Franz Aman is the chief marketing officer of SGI (Silicon Graphics), a leader in technical computing. Franz counts more than 20 years of leadership and innovation in global product marketing, brand strategy, and communications. In this interview, he talks about the development of SGI over the past two decades and the opportunities and possibilities that lie in big data in the coming years, especially with regards to real-time data processing.
Sramana Mitra: Franz, let’s start with an introduction to SGI. I have known the company for at least 20 years. We even used SGI machines when I was at university at MIT. We were designing chips using gap tools that were used in SGI or some workstations. Today SGI looks like a very different company. What would you like the world to see when it looks at SGI today?
Franz Aman: The new SGI is not like the old SGI that many may be familiar with. Work on [the film] “Jurassic Park” or other Hollywood movies’ graphics were rendered on Silicon Graphics workstations. We made our name in virtual reality centers and amazing visualizations. We still do quite a bit in terms of visualization, but more than not we drive that because of our server offering. We focus on server back-end and storage solutions that are all about speed and scale. It is the high end of technical computing, or high-performance computing. We help our customers solve some of the really tricky questions and big challenges in the world by providing the technologies and the tools to allow them to do so.
In terms of the problems they are tackling, our customers range all the way from the subatomic scale to the astronomical scale. One example of an astronomical scale involves probably one of the world’s most famous physicists, Stephen Hawking, and his cosmos team. They are simulating black holes on a light-year scale and [simulating] the original Big Bang on our systems. From there it goes to problems at a human scale – a lot of things that have to do with simulation and modeling – whether it is in manufacturing or areas where you go from having an idea or a thought to creating a design on a computer. You simulate a model, and you can go from there right to the printing. From thought to product it can take just hours, a speed which was impossible with traditional manufacturing technologies and design models, where you had to build scale models.
Customers like NASA have told us that by not doing a scale prototype, they save up to a billion dollars for a space project. Many of our customers [working] on a molecular or an atomic scale are looking at problems in medicine. They are looking at genome meta-assembly genomics, trying to develop personalized medicine, and even simulating entire organs and bodies at a molecular level. This is to test drugs or theories before ever testing with real humans. These are some of the things we do today and what SGI is focused on.