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Evaluate my extreme performance build for doing Work!

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January 4, 2009 4:49:31 PM

UPDATE : I just learned that there are dual processor Nehalem boards in the works. Supermicro has a prototype dual Nehalem board with 12 memory sockets : about what I am looking for.
I would fully populate the 12 sockets with 2 GB DDR3 modules, about $45 each. The gotcha for this rig is that even the slowest Xeon Nehalem CPU is going to be really expensive. I would guess that, right after release, I would have to pay $400-$500 per CPU, and to use all 12 memory sockets, I would need 2 of these CPUs. Ouch. Even if I got a cheaper UPS ($120) and pirated SuperVolome ($110), it would still cost me over $2000.

But with 24 gigs of RAM, and a 20 gig RAM disk on the Nehalem microarchitecture....it would fly like a jet fighter.


SUPERMICRO MBD-X7DBE+ Dual LGA 771 Server Motherboard with 16 DDR2 sockets - $308
Xeon E5410 Harpertown 2.33GHz Quad Core CPU x 2 - $230 each
A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) Fully Buffered DDR2 667 x 8 - $90 each
A legit SuperSpeed SuperVolume for 64 bit OS - $110
APC Smart-UPS 1400 - $200

Total $1798


System Concept : I will have a total of 32 GB of RAM and 8 CPU cores. Alas, I don't think server motherboards can be overclocked much, if at all. So each CPU core will run at a mere 2.3 ghz, with IPC efficiency about the same as non-Nehalem quad core systems.

The program "SuperVolume" allows me to mirror my entire hard drive into RAM. I'll put all the applications I use for work and the OS on a 27 gig partition, leaving 5 gigs for system RAM. SuperVolume acts as a RAM disk, except that it synchronizes the RAM disk with a partition on a mechanical hard drive. It does 'lazy write' so you get the same performance as a RAM disk, except that you do need a good UPS since if the power fails, the physical hard disk might not reflect all changes to the RAM disk.

Basically, it's like an SSD system except even slow DDR2 RAM transfers at 5300 MB/sec in ALL situations. No wait, dual channel, so actually 10,600 MB/sec.

Here's a video of what XP performs like on an i-RAM, which only runs at a paltry 150 mb/sec.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sts3ZqYdObM


Yes, I'll make lots of backups, and my multimedia files like movies will go on a partition on the mechanical hard drives. It will be slow to boot, but I'll suspend to RAM between sessions.

Problems : while tasks that are limited by disk I/O will be essentially instant, even today a lot of things are CPU limited. My current machine is a Core2Duo at 3.2 Ghz : this would probably be a lateral move or even a downgrade in CPU performance. Some tasks peg one of my CPU cores at 100%, and those things won't go any faster on an 8 core system.

I could go with an i7 Nehalem with 12 gigs of DDR3 Ram : $1185. Only enough room for an 8GB Ram disk, but I could nLite my XP installation down to half a gig, leaving 7.5 gigs to squeeze in all my productivity applications.

If I could deal with the space constraints, this would probably be the quickest approach. While it sounds contradictory, compressing the RAM disk partition would probably not affect performance.


Alternate Build : AMD offers a cheaper motherboard, the SuperMicro H8DME, 16 DDR2 sockets - $220
AMD Opteron 2376 Shanghai 2.3GHz x 2 - $379 each
OR 2 GHZ Barcelona chips for $225 each
Kingston 2GB Registered DDR2 667 modules are $29 each, x16

AMD Option : 2.3 Ghz Shanghai Core - $1752. Just as expensive for a slower system.
2.0 Ghz Barcelona Core - $1444. $1334 if I pirated SuperVolume.



Already have a 550W GameXstream PSU and a pair of Hitachi 750GB drives. Oh, and an 8800GT for video. Also have a pair of Dell 27" monitors that run at 1920x1200 each.
January 4, 2009 4:54:31 PM

What sort of work are u actually doing?!?!

Most applications wont rly use those 8 cores. U could set affinities to run on certain ones but it just seems like a waste to me
January 4, 2009 5:03:19 PM

if $$ is not a problem go with 4Gb ram module... if you buy all 16 modules with 4Gb = 4*16=64Gb or you can still use 4*8=32Gb and you'll have a few ram modules available if you want to go up to 64Gb
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January 4, 2009 5:13:32 PM

$$$ is a problem in that I want the money I spend to be cost effective. Yes, I looked at the 4 GB modules : the thing is, I can fit everything easily into 28 gigs with a lot of room to spare.

The work I am doing is kind of a secret (trade secret, not top secret), but no, it wouldn't use all 8 cores. Believe it or not, the only reason I would have 8 cores is because I want to have a lot of RAM, and only dual processor motherboards have enough memory sockets for my tastes.

And, only the quad core server chips give good performance PER core.
a b à CPUs
January 4, 2009 5:22:19 PM

secret >_>
January 4, 2009 5:29:32 PM

In short, I could do : i7 Nehalem with 12 gigs RAM, leaving just 8-9 gigs for the RAM disk. Could compress the RAM disk with NTFS compression or use nLite to strip it down to size.

It would be a tight fit, but it just might work.

Or, I could do a much slower CPU like a 2.3 ghz xeon, pay more money, and have slower RAM....but a glorious 32 gigs total to play with.

January 4, 2009 5:44:25 PM

y not just get a SSD....i kno its not as good as straight ram
But its sort of "middle man"
January 4, 2009 5:50:36 PM

You could do ANYTHING to play with, including using play money...Don't tell us what you might do and ask us to dream of eating the icing, PRODUCE PICTURES, not just smoke, mirrors, and dreams of what you might wish to own!
January 4, 2009 5:53:47 PM

I will, once I build it. But first I have to make the design decision to either try to make it work with only 12 gigs of RAM or to put a slower CPU in with more RAM.

January 4, 2009 6:01:23 PM

There are about six Transource computers at one of the contract companies I support that have the dual Supermicro/Xeon chipped motherboards, 8GB ram, Vista 64 bit Enterprise OS...They don't boot any faster than the Duo Core machines I support elsewhere, but using GIS/AutoCad software, the end users are quite happy with the horsepower, having moved up from single core P4 D's! Go for it, $2k for a good computer is worth it's weight...
a c 346 à CPUs
January 4, 2009 6:02:49 PM

i7 and X58 will support 24gb. It is the 4gb DDR3 sticks that are missing. You could start with 12gb, and change out to 24gb later.
a b à CPUs
January 4, 2009 6:05:47 PM

Well I don't see how you intend to boot from a ram drive. really I don't think it's even possible. The iram device has a battery keeping it alive while the system is off. At best you could create a ram drive for programs, but if you have a lot of programs you will have to wait as the HDD loads the image into the ram drive.

I think that your build is clever and would be a good refernce for someone looking to build a cheap server/ heavy duty CAD station. But for someone looking to play around. I think a core i7 build would be far superior.
January 4, 2009 6:33:43 PM

The program "SuperVolume" allows you to boot up and then it automatically starts copying over everything from the specified hard drive partition into RAM. You can use the volume while this is happening. I will be using a RAID 1 pair of Hitachi 750 GB drives, RAID 1 is faster than a solo drive for reading (but the same speed for writing). It will take a while to copy 8 to 28 gigs of data into RAM. At a sustained 120 mb/sec, it will take as long as 4 minutes for this to happen...time to make dinner.

Thus, I will avoid reboots whenever feasible. On my current box, I reboot maybe once every 2 weeks : I just suspend to RAM every time I hit the power switch.
a c 346 à CPUs
January 4, 2009 10:09:26 PM

Won't the vista superfetch capability do the same thing? In addition, it will cache what it thinks is the most useful data and programs, so you don't have to guess exactly what to cache.
January 5, 2009 3:50:46 AM

geofelt : yes, superfetch does try to do something like that.

The catch is, it isn't perfect : with the setup I have described, in ALL cases, once the computer system is booted and finished with loading, all data being used will come from RAM.

Also, my system would get it all done with in one go : fill the RAM allocated to the SuperVolume completely following a reboot, and operate entirely from there until the next hard reboot.

Superfecth is 'dumb'. It would probably waste valuable RAM with video files from a movie I watched, or not use all 28 gigs of RAM I would have available, reserving a large chunk of it in case a program needed it.

Also, for things I DON'T use often, superfetch won't have them in RAM. With the system like I imagine it, I could do anything the computer is capable of doing...go to any menu, run any of my programs, even install a new program (the downloads would take the usual amount of time, but once it is on my RAMdisk desktop, even large programs should install in a few seconds) and have it take the same, short amount of time.
a c 346 à CPUs
January 5, 2009 1:14:40 PM

It seems that supervolume only runs on windows server OS. That is a show stopper for me.

The second problem is that everything you want to cache must be previously selected for the 20?gb hard drive. Anything useful that is not on that drive will not be cached.

For a specific unchanging application, It might be very useful. For the general user, I think it will not be flexible enough.
January 5, 2009 4:02:51 PM

SuperVolume works on regular XP as well. NOT Vista, but XP 64 bit.

Yes, you select everything and put it on the same drive. Thus, you have to be able to fit everything you work with inside the RAM cache. 28 gigs is an awful lot of space, though, enough for many kinds of projects.
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