As we said it would (CI No 2,660), Sun Microsystems Inc has bowed to the inevitable and will offer a native implementation of Silicon Graphics Inc’s OpenGL three-dimensional graphics library application programming interface for its Solaris operating system, from next year. It will take advantage of future generations of graphics subsystems and accelerators being designed […]
As we said it would (CI No 2,660), Sun Microsystems Inc has bowed to the inevitable and will offer a native implementation of Silicon Graphics Inc’s OpenGL three-dimensional graphics library application programming interface for its Solaris operating system, from next year. It will take advantage of future generations of graphics subsystems and accelerators being designed with the three-dimensional RAM frame buffer memory technology Sun has co-developed with Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc’s Electronic Device Group (CI No 2,469). OpenGL is gaining momentum in its bid to become the three-dimensional application programming interface of choice, now that other Unix vendors, plus Intel Corp and Microsoft Corp, are backing it. Sun said it is these industry endorsements, plus pressure to address markets for large-scale simulation, animation and visualisation, especially from oil and gas industry customers, that have forced its hand. It’s long railed against the interface for its lack of application support and control by Silicon Graphics (CI No 2,491), but said it has confidence in a new ‘open’ process Silicon Graphics has created to oversee OpenGL development. It is also keen to play in the very high-end graphics space now largely populated by Silicon Graphics boxes. Sun has licensed Silicon Graphics’s OpenGL code through graphics subsystem house Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp, which last year scooped up Austin, Texas-based OpenGL company Portable Graphics Inc, and which, together with Template Graphics Software Inc, San Diego, California, is now off ering an OpenGL implementation layered on Sun’s own Phigs XGL graphics environment.
Putting a brave face on
Sun said it will continue to support XGL graphics for as long as customers require it to do so – there are 100 or so applications available for it – but it now recommends users and independent software vendors that are creating new applications on its graphics systems adopt one of the third party OpenGL products until its own native version of what it now characterises as a portable, cross-system graphics environment, becomes available. Sun said that it has essentially hedged its graphics bets since developing three-dimensional memory, which will support OpenGL when integrated into new graphics products. An unbundled OpenGL implementation may precede an integrated Solaris version and the company said it hasn’t yet decided when or whether XGL will be stripped out altogether. Putting a brave face on its decision, Sun said it has now counted 15-odd applications up on OpenGL, and plans to participate in the architectural review board that Silicon Graphics has created to advise it on future OpenGL specifications. But it is not actually a member yet. It said it is also working with Silicon Graphics to extend OpenGL in areas where the interface is not strong, such as imaging. Sun hasn’t adopted Silicon Graphics’s Open Inventor C++ three-dimensional class library which uses OpenGL for graphics rendering, claiming it is not extensive enough – although the library is also available as a third-party layered product – but plans to establish another review board with Silicon Graphics that will oversee development and integration of Open Inventor and its Virtual Reality Modelling Language, VRML, spin-off with Sun’s Java and other technologies. OpenGL is a software interface to three-dimensional graphics hardware; Sun products include S24, SX, ZX, TurboZX, GX, GXplus, TurboGX and TurboGXplus hardware, supporting SunPhigs, XGL, DXlib, Xlib, XIL, Pex and PexLib graphics application programming interfaces. Meantime, Evans & Sutherland has also converted OpenGL for use with its Freedom Series graphics accelerator that Sun rebadges for the top end of the market.