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Questions on Dual CPU Workhorse

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March 3, 2009 9:11:12 PM

Hi all,

I'm building a workhorse station intended mainly for running scientific codes. Several of these codes cost ~100 processor hours, so speed, and the ability to still use the machine while running several of these codes, is a must. Some codes also create a ton of output, and thus a raid 10 array is necessary for speed/data security. I don't really need a powerful graphics card, but I do want to be able to support a large monitor, and also leave open the possibility of doing CUDA programming (though it's unlikely that will ever actually happen). The system will be running some variant of Linux that I've yet to decide.

I'm looking to spend from $2000-2500, here is the system i have currently come up with. Please let me know if this is a sensible solution. I also have several questions about specific components at the end:

1. ASUS DSEB-DG Dual LGA 771 Intel 5400 SSI EEB 3.61 Server Motherboard - Retail

2. (2x) Intel Xeon E5420 Harpertown 2.5GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 771 80W Quad-Core Processor - Retail

3. Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR2 FB-DIMM ECC Fully Buffered DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Server Memory Model CT2KIT51272AF80E - Retail

4. Galaxy 95TFE8HUFEXX GeForce 9500 GT 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card - Retail

5. (4x) SAMSUNG Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM

6. (4x) OKGEAR 18" SATA II Cable Model GC18ARM12 - Retail

7. ABS Aplus ABS-CS-Monolith Black SECC Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail

8. hec X-Power Pro 650 650W Continuous @ 40°C ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Power Supply - Retail

9. Acer P243WAid Black-Silver 24" 2ms(GTG) HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor with HDCP Support 400 cd/m2 3000:1 ACM - Retail

10. SAMSUNG Black 22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 22X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 22X DVD Burner - OEM

Questions:

1. Can a SSI EEB board be placed in an EATX case? The dimensions are the same (12x13), but I don't see anywhere where this is listed or not. My other option is to replace the case and power supply with this: Athena Power CA-SWH01B60 Black Steel Pedestal Server Case With EPS-12V 600W dual fan power supply 8 External 5.25" Drive Bays - Retail. But I'm not sure if this has everything I need (i don't see a listed number of internal 3.5" mounts, and I'm not quite sure what a external 5.25" drive bay means. Could anybody please clarify this for me? I'm especially concerned because the motherboard shows both processors right at the front of the motherboard, where the 5.25" drives should be, and I'm worried whether there'll be enough room. Does the Server case do everything i need? Then it might seem like a better option.

2. What type of performance gain does this offer over a configuration using a single Q9650 quad processor chip? I assume the main gain will come in the ability of the system to run multiple heavy processor related tasks at the same time, while doing one specific one CPU task might actually be a little bit slower.

3. I plan to set up a raid 10 array with the 4 1TB disks mentioned. Is it a large strain on the processors to be running 4 SATA disks at the same time (I really don't have the money to use SCSI)....I would think that I would easily have the processor speed for this.

4. What version of Linux is most adept at taking advantage of this multiprocessor environment? (probably a 64 bit version, as it might greatly improve some mathematical computations).

5. Some graphics cards list 2x DVI out ports, does that mean you can run two separate monitors simultaneously? I have a 17" flat screen LCD that I might integrate if it's not hard to do so....what type of card would be necessary to support 1920x1200 + 1280x1024 for everyday usage?

Also, if you have any other ideas or concerns about this system as listed, please please tell me. I've built a couple computers before, but I've never built a system with multiple CPUs or RAIDs before, so some of this is quite new to me.

Thanks,

~Lyuokdea


EDIT: Changed the graphics card over to a GeForce 9 series which supports 2 DVI
March 3, 2009 9:52:58 PM

If you can wait, the multiprocessor Nehalems will come out soon, and for scientific computing, they FLATTEN the old Xeons in every way.
March 3, 2009 10:02:43 PM

cjl said:
If you can wait, the multiprocessor Nehalems will come out soon, and for scientific computing, they FLATTEN the old Xeons in every way.


that's good to know....i might be able to wait awhile, as I still have good computers to work on presently.....but how long are we talking about, and what type of performance boost are you anticipating?

Thanks,

~Lyuokdea
Related resources
March 3, 2009 11:39:32 PM

new mac pro just came out with an option of two quad core hehalems, so it should be very soon if not right now.
March 3, 2009 11:43:11 PM

cdenny1 said:
new mac pro just came out with an option of two quad core hehalems, so it should be very soon if not right now.


Are the dual CPU quad-core Nehalems actually different from the single CPU versions? Or is it simply a different motherboard that is able to incorporate both? If it's the exact same chip, then I could at least get an idea of the price.

Thanks,

~Lyuokdea
March 3, 2009 11:51:07 PM

They are Xeon processors based on the Nehalem architecture, so they are not the same. There will be a difference in prices because the i7 processors are meant as a desktop solution, where xeon is server/workstation based (xeon better process i/o requests, etc). You can look at price differences between the previous xeons and core 2 quad to get an idea.
March 4, 2009 12:47:19 AM

It looks like the prices are released here, and that at a similar price, i'd have to buy a 2.16Ghz processor instead of the 2.5 Ghz i'm currently using...now, I know that GHz != speed anymore, especially because i'll be using a faster FSB etc. But is this actually worth the wait?

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-product-roadmap-...

Also, is the system as it is built now correct? Specifically, which case should I be getting, and SSI EEB case, or will an EATX case work alright?

Thanks,

~Lyuokdea
March 4, 2009 12:58:39 AM

I contributed to this Huge Workstation Build thread
several months ago:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/250050-28-huge-workst...


But, YES, definitely wait for the MP Nehalems to arrive:
they're worth waiting for!

Also, give a call to Supermicro, to see what's cooking over there.


MRFS
March 4, 2009 1:27:04 AM

so...what I'm getting from that is that I get a lot more memory bandwidth if I go with 4 2GB RAM chips instead of 2 4GB chips?

~Lyuokdea
March 4, 2009 6:43:55 PM

I still want to make sure the case issue is alright before I buy a system, whether I'm going to buy now or wait until later:


1. Can a SSI EEB board be placed in an EATX case? The dimensions are the same (12x13), but I don't see anywhere where this is listed or not. My other option is to replace the case and power supply with this: Athena Power CA-SWH01B60 Black Steel Pedestal Server Case With EPS-12V 600W dual fan power supply 8 External 5.25" Drive Bays - Retail. But I'm not sure if this has everything I need (i don't see a listed number of internal 3.5" mounts, and I'm not quite sure what a external 5.25" drive bay means. Could anybody please clarify this for me? I'm especially concerned because the motherboard shows both processors right at the front of the motherboard, where the 5.25" drives should be, and I'm worried whether there'll be enough room. Does the Server case do everything i need? Then it might seem like a better option.


Thanks,

~Lyuokdea
March 4, 2009 7:44:50 PM

^As far as PSUs go get a PSU from these two manufactures: Corsair or PC Power & Cooling. Athena/hec PSUs are cr@p (in quality, reliability, stability,etc).

As for case, a EATX case should work. (not 100% on this tough)

Quote:
I'm not quite sure what a external 5.25" drive bay means.

It's the drive bay that you use for card readers, DVD drives,etc.

Also if you want data redundancy use RAID 5, and more than likely a good PCie/PCI-X RAID card.

Imo, like said earlier, wait for the Xeon variant of Core i7 or just use Core i7 (single socket). I think the single socket i7 should be close to or may be a little better (due to HyperThreding) than the 2P Xeon.
March 4, 2009 8:09:38 PM

Quote:

Also if you want data redundancy use RAID 5, and more than likely a good PCie/PCI-X RAID card.


From what I understand about raid 5 though, it has a much slower write speed than raid 10, correct? Even though the read speed is faster?

My codes tend to need a very negligible amount of data, but they usually output vast quantities of data, so the write speed will be much more important to me.

~Lyuokdea
March 4, 2009 9:15:40 PM

^Yes, it is slower.

Exactly how much data are we talking about here? You may be able to get it done with a 10k rpm drive (ie VelociRaptor)
March 4, 2009 10:10:31 PM

Lyuokdea said:
It looks like the prices are released here, and that at a similar price, i'd have to buy a 2.16Ghz processor instead of the 2.5 Ghz i'm currently using...now, I know that GHz != speed anymore, especially because i'll be using a faster FSB etc. But is this actually worth the wait?

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-product-roadmap-...

Also, is the system as it is built now correct? Specifically, which case should I be getting, and SSI EEB case, or will an EATX case work alright?

Thanks,

~Lyuokdea


The pair of Nehalems at 2.16 would be noticeably faster than a pair of older gen 2.5GHz quads. That is definitely the way to go. Don't overestimate i7 though - a single i7 won't match a pair of old Xeons, so you definitely want 2P Nehalem.
!