Octane / Octane 2



Octane front featuring the new SGI design and logo.

The Octane (codename "Speedracer") was SGIs 1997 new offering as a midrange workstation. Unlike the predecessor Indigo 2 the Octane supports dual processors and was SGIs first workstation with SMP features that actually fits on the desktop. The core technologies used in the Octane are derived from the Onyx 2 / Origin 2000 line.


One key element of the architecture is the use of a "crossbar switch" instead of a traditional shared bus system. This allows various subsystems to communicate without interfering any other activity in the machine. The crossbar switch on the Octane has seven ports to which the various system components connect:

  • CPU / Memory
  • Graphics (XIO Slot A)
  • XIO Slot B
  • XIO Slot C
  • XIO Slot D
  • Bridge to Builtin IO
  • Bridge to PCI (PCI requires additional PCI cardcage or PCI shoehorn)

Octane vs. Octane 2

Octane 2 is the denomination of the last and thus higher end Octane systems. The underlying technology is not different but some parts of the system have been revised:

  • frontplane (increased performance for higher end CPUs and graphics)
  • system board (added support for different processors and high density memory)
  • power supply
  • VPro graphics

Some of these changes were already introduced before the Octane was renamed Octane 2. Other then that a given Octane may have been field-upgraded with newer components making it an Octane 2 without a change of names.


1997, January
Introduction/Announcement of Octane family
1998, February
E-Series graphics introduced in 250 MHz Octane/MXE system.
1998, May
E-Series graphics now available for entire Octane series. R10000/225 Octane/SE systems replace R1000/175 and 195 Octane/SI systems. SSI/MXI models replaced by SSE/MXE models.
1999, February
R12000 processors with 300 Mhz introduced for Octane systems
2000, June
Introduction of Octane 2 family and VPro graphics for IRIX/MIPS and Octane 2 only in June.
2001, January
Advanced VPro options V10 and V12 announced.
2001, June
DMediaPro video options introduced
2002, February
New Processor announced: 600 MHz R14000A
2002, July
DM6 video option announced
2004, January
Production of Octane 2 is announced to stop on June 25, 2004.
2004, June
End of Production
2009, June
End of Service


CPU Board Processor Clockspeed Cache (d/i) Cache (2nd) Floating Point
IP30 R10000 175 MHz 32kb / 32kb 1MB onboard
IP30 R10000 195 MHz 32kb / 32kb 1MB onboard
IP30 R10000 225 MHz 32kb / 32kb 1MB onboard
IP30 R10000 225 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R10000 250 MHz 32kb / 32kb 1MB onboard
IP30 R10000 250 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R12000 270 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R12000 300 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R12000 400 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R12000A 360 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R12000A 400 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R14000A 550 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard
IP30 R14000A 600 MHz 32kb / 32kb 2MB onboard

IP30 CPU board for octane with single CPU installed.

An Octane or Octane 2 system has either a single or a dual CPU module installed. Upgrading a single processor Octane requires that the single processor module is swapped for a dual processor module. It is not possible to simply add a second module.

2 major revisions of the IP30 CPU Board do exist. The older one (030-0887-xxx) was introduced with the original Octane and doesn't support the latest CPU models. For these the newer CPU board (030-1467-xxx) is required. For differences in the memory subsystem please refer to the following section.


030-0887-xxx mainboard

The 030-0887-xxx mainboard is the classic Octane mainboard.

Type:                   200pin SDRAM DIMMs (proprietary)
Sockets:                8 (4 * 2 sockets)

Minimum configuration:  64 MB (2 * 32 MB DIMMs)
Maximum configuration:  2048 MB (8 * 256 MB DIMMs)

The memory subsystem is controlled by the HEART ASIC, which is located on the CPU board. The HEART ASIC provides the interface between CPU and memory as well as the link to the crossbar switch.

This CPU board does not support higher density memory modules that can be used with the newer style CPU board described below. Beware that there are also some 256 MB memory modules that apparently will not work in this board but do fine on the newer one.

The R12000/270 CPU module will not work on this mainboard. Use of CPU modules with clockrates higher than 400 MHz may be limited as well.

030-1467-xxx mainboard

The 030-1467-xxx mainboard is used in the newer Octane and Octane 2 systems.

Type:                   200pin SDRAM DIMMs (proprietary)
Sockets:                8 (4 * 2 sockets)

Minimum configuration:  64 MB (2 * 32 MB DIMMs)
Maximum configuration:  8192 MB (8 * 1024 MB DIMMs)

The memory subsystem is controlled by the HEART ASIC, which is located on the CPU board. The HEART ASIC provides the interface between CPU and memory as well as the link to the crossbar switch.

This CPU board supports higher density memory modules with up to 1024 MB per DIMM and thus can contain up to 8 GB RAM. It also can be used with any CPU module that is available for the Octane.


Graphics options made by Silicon Graphics:

  • Impact (First Generation): SI, SSI, MXI
  • Impact (Second Generation): SE, SSE, MXE
  • VPro

PsiTech made a PCI board that could be used as a graphics head in an Octane or Octane 2 system. A local copy of the datasheet is available on this page. A PCI cardcage or PCI shoehorn is required to install this board.


SCSI subsystem

All Octane and Octane 2 have 2 UW SCSI controllers based on the QLogic 1040B chipset. One is used to support the 3 internal drivebays (SCA connectors), the other can be used for external devices using the 68pin connector on the back of the machine. Maximum bandwidth using both channels is 80 MB/s.


Octane back with CPU board on the left and two graphics boards on the right (4 XIO slots).

The Connectors available on the CPU board are:

  • keyboard (PS/2)
  • mouse (PS/2)
  • 68pin UW SCSI
  • analog audio in (phono)
  • analog audio out (phono)
  • 3.5mm headphone / speaker + 10VDC
  • 3.5mm microphone
  • digital input / output (phono)
  • digital input / output (optical)
  • 2 serial ports
  • ethernet 10/100mbit
  • 36pin parallel port (IEEE 1284C)

Graphics and Video in-/outputs depend on the type of graphics and video option installed in the system. Also, additional XIO or PCI options may add further connectivity.


Expansion slots

Standard expansion slots on Octane / Octane 2 systems are high bandwidth XIO slots (total: 4). At least one of the XIO slots is occupied by I or E-Series graphics options, the VPro options always occupy two slots. Unused slots have to be occupied by blank XIO cards for cooling reasons.

It is also possible to add PCI options to the Octane in either of the following ways. The PCI cardcage can be installed in the space above the powersupply. This cardcage includes the XIO to PCI bridge and 3 PCI slots (PCI32 and PCI64). If only a single slot is required PCI shoehorn can be used which is a XIO to PCI interface that fits into one of the four XIO slots.


Expansion options for the Octane and Octane 2 include:

  • XIO Options
    • Fibre Channel controler
    • Differential UW-SCSI
    • Ethernet/Serial card
    • Octane Digital Video
      digital video in/out (full height board, hence not usable in dual-head Octanes)
    • Octane Personal Video
      for uncompressed Analog video (S-Video/Composite In-/Output)
    • Octane Compressionfor realtime JPEG compressin in combination with Digital Video or as standalone board
    • DMediaPro DM2
      High-Definition and Standard-Definition video I/O option for workstations with VPro V10 or V12 graphics
  • PCI Options
    (Note: additional PCI cardcage or PCI shoehorn required)
    • ISDN
    • FDDI
    • 10/100Base-TX Ethernet
    • Synchronous Serial
    • Fibre Channel
    • differential UltraSCSI
    • single ended UltraSCSI
    • Ultra160 SCSI board
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • Digital Audio Option
    • Token Ring
    • Serial HiPPI
    • ATM

Dual Head

A Dual Head Octane has either 2 SI/SE or 2 VPro graphics options (see above).
The Octane2 Duo kit allows two users to use a dual head Octane2 simultaneous. The key components are a PCI card to attach the devices and of course keyboard, mouse and cables. The upgrade kit also comes with additional system memory and an option drive. (Requirements: Dual Head option, 2 CPUs)


The Octane chassis has the following dimensions:

width:     28,00 cm / 11.0"
height:    41,27 cm / 16.25"
depth:     33,66 cm / 13.25"

weight:    24,3 kg / 54 lbs

The systems offer space for 3 3.5" devices which must be installed on drivesleds (the same that are used for Origin 200, Onyx 2 and Origin 2000). There is no internal space for a 5.25" device like a CD-ROM drive.

The original Octane skins were green. It did feature the classic Silicon Graphics logo along with the cube. Later models were still green but did feature the new SGI logo design on the front. The same design was used on the Octane 2 which is blue in color.


Rebadged Systems

The Octane was also sold as a relabeld system by other vendors. One of these systems that is known is the Siemens Nixdorf RW550.
Rugged Versions

CRI, a division of RSI Inc., is building rugged rackmount versions of this system (Octane and Octane 2).


The rOctane is a JVC UX-1000 mini stereo set merged into an Octane chassis. The stereo set is accessible through the front panel where normally the SCSI drives are installed. Also the rOctane skin does have an opening at the top where the CD drive of the UX-1000 can be accessed. The loudspeakers are mounted to the chassis like ears. The price of the rOctane in 1999 was 500 DM.

Here is another website with pictures.


Operating System

Choosing an operating system.

When the Octane was introduced the system specific IRIX 6.4 was released. Later Octane models or the Octane 2 may require a different OS release. VPro graphics for example requires IRIX 6.5.10 or IRIX 6.5.11. The Octane is also supported by IRIX 6.5 including the final release IRIX 6.5.30.

Regardless of the system configuration it is always recommended to use IRIX 6.5.30.

System module stuck

Signs of failure: System module cannot be removed

The Octane Workstation Hardware Guide describes how the system module is removed from Octane / Octane 2 systems. In some cases the whole procedure fails. Two common problems are
Memory modules that dropped out of their sockets. If you suspect this, turn the system gently on the side and carefully try to pull the system module (as it is shown in the Guide).

Common mistakes in the removal procedure include:

  • Lockbar not removed.
  • Handles not unlocked.

Status LED

Meaning of the seven green LEDs that are behind the frontpanel.

Perhaps you have seen the seven small holes near the undocumented connector on the front of your Octane. These are link status lights and show which ports of the Crossbar have items connected to.

  • BaseIO X
  • QA X X PCI Expansion
  • QD X X QB
  • QC X X Heart

BaseIO is always lit as it is the IO subsystem which is permanently installed on the IP30 CPU board. Heart is also always lit, because it indicates the connection to the Heart ASIC which again connects to CPU and memory. PCI Expansion is only lit if the PCI Expansion module is installed, the status of QA-QD depends on the XIO options and/or graphics board installed. When facing the back of the Octane the four XIO slots are labelled this way:


QA should always be lit as the first graphics card is installed in Quadrant A.

Strange/Unexpected Behaviour

If your Octane / Octane 2 begins to act strangely on it's own.

As with most computers heat can be a problem, so cooling is really essential - especially if you are running a higher end configuration. The airflow on the Octane is arranged in such a way that fresh air is pulled in through the air intakes at the top. It is pulled through the space where the boards are installed and leaves the system as warm air through the power supply. The way the air intakes are designed they easily gather dust which is a real problem for cooling. It must have been an issue for SGI, because they made documentation that deals with cleaning that specific part of the system.



Octane front featuring the new SGI design and logo.

Front door opened, revealing two accessible drivebays.

Side view of an Octane showing air intakes at the top.

Octane back with CPU board on the left and two graphics boards on the right (4 XIO slots).

IP30 CPU board for octane with single CPU installed.

SSE graphics board for Octane.

SE graphics board for Octane.



Websites of Interest


A Hardware Tour of the Silicon Graphics Octane by Irinikus

Meet the SGI Octane - A 3D Graphics Powerhouse from 1997 by Retro Man Cave

SGI Octane Upgrade and Test Driving a 1997 Graphics Powerhouse by Retro Man Cave