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workstation performance needs improvement

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March 3, 2006 11:19:06 PM

We spent a lot of money on a graphics workstation build about 8 months ago and the performance has been a little disappointing. We’re novices…it was my 1st workstation build. We want to upgrade the system, but don’t know where it needs the most improvement. Here’s what we have:

Dual Opteron 246’s
Tyan K8WE
(1) XFX 6800GT w/softmod
Dual 74G WD Raptors (raid 0)
2GB ram
XP Pro

We use Archicad, Photoshop, Artlantis, 3DS Max. Rendering times are not a whole lot better than with the old P4 2.4 Ghz system that we have in the office. We expected this thing to be unstoppable.

What do we need? More RAM? A second graphics card? Or are we just complete fools to have spent so much in the first place? A lot of reading said that these were great components/a great system. It also can handle a lot of upgrades, but we already threw too much money at this thing without knowing what the hell we were doing. We are ready to build another as well, but want to see if the first build will live up to expectations before we open up that can of worms.
March 4, 2006 12:34:08 AM

Wow, that's a nice system, at first glance I too would think that it'd eat things alive.

One question I have, well, maybe two... Are the apps you use optimized for dual proc?

Another is, does it help if you set the processes affinity? (where you right click the process in the task manager processes tab and assign a process to one proc or the other)

And I've heard at times there may be patches necessary to more fully take advantage of dual procs for some programs. Perhaps they have something like that available, or maybe for windows itself.

EDIT: I think your hardware is PLENTY fast in my opinion. It seems the software that's having some issues. :/  That RAID 0 and 2Gb of ram should make any data intensive program SCREAM...

One more EDIT: In my experience with friends dual core (not dual proc) systems, if you don't have optomized software built for two procs or two cores windows can have trouble using both cores effeciently. However, once a processor heavy process was assigned to one processor or the other, it would take off and work like mad while the other core or proc worked on its own stuff.
March 6, 2006 4:04:22 PM

Thanks - good point - most of our apps are not dual proc optimized...I'm guessing that is the big hang-up.

Would it follow that I should first add RAM (since running 1 processor means only running 1/2 of my available RAM, right?)

I'll play around with process affinity. The system does handle running multiple apps fairly well.
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March 6, 2006 11:41:34 PM

If memory serves me correctly, in an AMD dual processor setup (dual core OR dual processor) all the available memory is pooled and dynamically allocated to each processor. Has to do with actual thread usage rather than being tied to a physical instruction unit. So running just one processor doesn't mean half your RAM is idle.

Before adding RAM, i would check to see how much physical RAM is actually being used during operation. 2Gb is pretty hefty and I've rarely used my 2Gb all up. In your case, perhaps it might help because you're using heavy duty professional apps. Check first though.

I definitely would love to know if setting heavy processor app affinity helps you too.

EDIT: Had two thoughts. Are you using the RAID 0 drive for your system drive? (OS and its swapfile) And second, more importantly. Are you storing ALL of the working data for the render on the RAID 0 during the render? The data for the render and all the files for the rendering program? THAT may be the difference. That RAID is fast, but if it has to reach out to a slower drive, then it can only work as fast as the slower drive.
March 13, 2006 9:41:10 PM

you're right about the RAM. I do get access to all 2 Gb.

Processor affinity seems to help, and, oh yeah, there was some data networked to another box in the office and it made a big difference when I cleared that out.

Can I save my processor affinity settings? It seems to reset automatically on restart. Besides the usual stuff (AV software, windows req'd stuff) I typically only run one of my rendering/modeling apps and Outlook, but Outlook always ends up reset to both processors.

Thanks again...now it's time to start on the new build...we're thinking about another K8WE starting with one dual core opteron 275. Lots of room to upgrade...should be fun.
March 14, 2006 2:32:12 AM

That's great news! Glad to hear that things are getting a little better.

It seems that windows won't save affinity settings BUT the way I remember it, Toms Hardware developed a processor affinity program that will remember for you. At least one of my friends that has dual core said it worked okay.

[QUOTE from a forum on the web]

You can get the affinity program at toms hardware
group.
Here's the URL which explains
it:
http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20040528/index.html

Here is the URL for the
program:

http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20040528/images/taskass...
{/QUOTE]

Hmmm, the second URL takes you to a page with the download link on it. Give it a try.

Don't know much about server processors or motherboards and I won't pretend. I'm sure if you post in the appropriate forum someone can make suggestions. However, that hardware sounds impressive to me. :) 
!