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Recommendations for server hardware

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March 18, 2006 11:56:04 AM

I am building a system to be used in a research lab to run a very expensive and complex camera system. I'd rather have a little different mix of parts (read: a single Opteron), but the card is an expensive and funky PCI 64-bit, not PCI-X and there aren't many boards with that kind of slot. (I think I found all of them that still have CPUs made for them at a reasonable price.) The machine will have roughly the following specs:

CPU: Dual Xeon socket 604 (Irwindale), 2.8 or 3.0GHz
Board: Supermicro X6DVL-EG2 (E7320 chipset)
PSU: ~500W ATX12V/EPS12V PSU
RAM: 4 512MB sticks of DDR2-400 registered ECC, 2 per CPU.
HDD: One SATA 3.5" unit of 160-250GB
Opticals: One CD/DVD-ROM- this does not need to burn any discs.
Case: ATX-sized
Video: Will use the onboard video.
OS: FC4

That is the basic layout of the beast. I have a decent amount of knowledge in being able to pick desktop parts, but I am not nearly as up on what's good server-grade stuff. I'd appreciate it if somebody would recommend an EPS12V PSU and also how many fans to look for in an ATX server case. I am assuming that this machine will run pretty warm with its dual Xeons (EACH has a TDP more than my 4200+!) so if somebody has a favorite well-ventilated case for stuffing a couple of Xeons in, please let me know. I am assuming that at least a pair of 120mms is the minimum to keep this beast from overhating.
March 18, 2006 12:56:41 PM

How many cameras? I've just been researching a similar system. My first comment is that depending on if you want view the images then you may need a bigger video card. Does the camera card have any recommended hardware requirements for recording and viewing the video?
March 18, 2006 1:12:01 PM

It is just one camera- a Silicon Imaging SI-1920M 12-bit monochrome camera. We are using a Epix PIXCI capture-and-control card, and that card's odd 64-bit PCI form factor required us to get a new machine that can accommodate the card. We had been running the camera from a P4 2.66 "B" machine with 128MB RAM via the GigaLink Ethernet connection. It was dog-slow, but it ran. But, the capture software for the GigaLink is **** and so we got a new card that could run this ~$10K camera with different software (Xcap.)

Epix lists the HW requirements for Xcap as:
CPU: Intel Pentium or newer
OS: Linux 2.4.8 or later
Memory: 8-16MB or more RAM
Video: Minimum 24-bpp SVGA display, recommended PCI-e/AGP discrete card.
Other: 60MB HDD space, parallel or USB port for security dongle.

So I guess I might need to get a cheap GPU. The only problem is that the card, while expensive, is a lot less expensive than the version of that card (PCI-e, PCI-X) that will run in a board with a discrete graphics port. The Supermicro board has two PCI-e x4 slots and no x8/x16 or AGP, and the only GPU that I know will fit it is the x1 Matrox G550, which is nearly $300. So I might just stick it out with the IGP or maybe get a very cheap PCI video card like an MX440.
Related resources
March 18, 2006 2:14:41 PM

Quote:
It is just one camera- a Silicon Imaging SI-1920M 12-bit monochrome camera. We are using a Epix PIXCI capture-and-control card, and that card's odd 64-bit PCI form factor required us to get a new machine that can accommodate the card. We had been running the camera from a P4 2.66 "B" machine with 128MB RAM via the GigaLink Ethernet connection. It was dog-slow, but it ran. But, the capture software for the GigaLink is **** and so we got a new card that could run this ~$10K camera with different software (Xcap.)


What's the CCD size? I've set up numerous 12-bit monochrome camera systems with little or no associated computer problems. Typically, I used a Mac but have also used Intel boxes. The apps I ran often required high greyscale sensitivity with high background, so the key was in using a high quality preamp for the CCD.
March 18, 2006 2:18:07 PM

The CCD pixel size is 5um x 5um, giving us 2.1MP pictures (1920x1080) at a framerate of 60fps.
March 19, 2006 3:44:10 AM

for the power supply, you might consider this. i just purchased two (not eps) for workstations and they are very solid and stable product line.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

For the ram, I have 2 - 1GB sticks of DDR2-400 registered ECC left from a trial run of win xp 64bit if you need to save a few $.
March 19, 2006 9:40:54 AM

Quote:
I am building a system to be used in a research lab to run a very expensive and complex camera system. I'd rather have a little different mix of parts (read: a single Opteron), but the card is an expensive and funky PCI 64-bit, not PCI-X and there aren't many boards with that kind of slot.


Disclaimer to others reading this: PCI-X does not equal PCIe / PCI Express, they are longer PCI slots, and 64 bits wide (thus the extra pins), usually with their own tunnel or bridge.

Compare this to plain old PCI which is 32 bits wide at 33 MHz for 133 MB/sec shared between 4 or more devices.

Useful links:

http://www.tyan.com
http://www.intel.com/products/chipsets/E7520_E7320/inde...
http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon800/...

If the slot on that board is not PCI-X (PCI-64 @ 66/100/133), then what it is it ?, God damn it looks like it, just clocked at 66 MHz by 64 bits wide.

I mean sure, it doesn't do 133 MHz x 64 bits wide, but does that really make it not classed as a PCI-X slot ?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:64bitpci.jpg

Wouldn't mind learning if it is electronically and/or physically different to the PCI-X (long PCI slot) of 'yesterday'.

To me PCI-X includes all of:
- 64 bit x 33 MHz
- 64 bit x 66 MHz
- 64 bit x 100 MHz
- 64 bit x 133 MHz
- 64 bit x [newer rare standards, never really implemented using DDR signalling]

If that is incorrect, or a slack interpretation of PCI-X (eg: 66 MHz or less might be questionable if it is really part of the standard), then please let me know, and explain the differences.

Sure other people reading this would like to know.
March 19, 2006 11:23:30 AM

PCI 64-bit != PCI-X 64-bit. The slot arrangement is different and as such PCI 64-bit and PCI-X slots and cards are slot and pin-incompatible. PCI 64-bit is older than PCI-X and has sort of fallen by the wayside because PCI-X scales up much better in terms of total bandwidth as it has been pumped up to 64 bits/133MHz whereas PCI 64-bit was 64 bit/66MHz only.

Look at the top RH side of the spec sheet for that board (as you have linked it) where it says "PCI-X cards will NOT fit in this slot." Jere is the synopsis from Wikipedia:

PCI 2.2 allows for 66 MHz signalling (requires 3.3 volt signalling) (peak transfer rate of 533 MB/s)
PCI-X changes the protocol slightly and increases the data rate to 133 MHz (peak transfer rate of 1066 MB/s) (bold mine)
PCI-X 2.0 specifies a 266 MHz rate (peak transfer rate of 2133 MB/s) and also 533 MHz rate, expands the configuration space to 4096 bytes, adds a 16-bit bus variant and allows for 1.5 volt signalling
Mini PCI is a new form factor of PCI 2.2 for use mainly inside laptops
March 19, 2006 1:50:38 PM

Man that is crazy.

It must be hell finding boards.

How did you come across the Supermicro board anyway ?
March 19, 2006 2:01:35 PM

Quote:
Man that is crazy.

It must be hell finding boards.

How did you come across the Supermicro board anyway ?


Heh, heh, it WAS tough. I was able to find about eight boards, period, with the slots. Some were really old- they used RAMBUS RDRAM for crying out loud. To find the boards, I just looked on Newegg as to what manufacturers they carried as they carry a lot of gear. I went to the manufacturers' websites and looked at their boards. I visited Asus, Intel, Iwill, Gigabyte, Supermicro, Tyan, and a few others. I must have looked at hundreds of boards before I found two that were still being sold somewhere. The other 6 were EOL'ed and were extremely expensive to even get chips and RAM for (2.4 400FSB Xeons are extremely hard to find and EXPENSIVE, and 533FSB Xeons command about a 100% premium over comparable Irwindale 800FSB units.)

The professor and I were a little disappointed that there were no Opteron boards with the slots, but I am just happy to have found a board that is somewhat modern and not horribly expensive.
March 19, 2006 9:44:15 PM

Yeah, the 64-bit PCI sucks, but the card that runs in it is about half the cost of the same card in PCI-e x1 or PCI-X conformation, so that's why it was originally gotten.
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