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Theoretical Future Workstation Build

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April 22, 2009 3:07:35 PM

I've been thinking of a new workstation build for my design business. I work with basically the entire Adobe suite and some 3D modeling programs.

For the last few years I have been following a company called HyperOS and their product called the HyperDrive. It is a bootable RAM drive with its own power supply and backup disk that connects via SATA II. In the past this amazing piece of hardware has been prohibitively expensive at the consumer level (several thousands of dollars for about 16GB of storage). Recently HyperOS just released the HyperDrive5 which now brings the cost to about $850 for 16GB and $1600 for 32GB. This RAM drive is at least 10-100x faster than the best enterprise SSDs on the market right now and will be faster for years to come (mainly in terms of IOs).

The idea here is to build around this HyperDrive and separate the system into three main functions: OS, SCRATCH/PAGE DISK and DATA. I believe the configuration below will help eliminate most bottlenecks that occur while editing lots of images and video. Just to give you an idea of how much working memory I usually need: I can currently generate over 8 gigs of scratch in Photoshop and over 30 Gigs of scratch in After Effects.


CPU
$280 - Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz LGA 1366

RAM
$200 - OCZ Platinum 12GB (6 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600

GPU
$360 - 2 x MSI N260GTX-T2D896 OC GeForce GTX 260 - (SLI configuration)

Motherboard
$350 - ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX

OS Drive - Fastest
$530 - HyperDrive5 64GB max + DC Adapter
$1100 - 8 x Kingston 4GB DDR Pack for HD5 (32GB total) + 32GB Flash Backup

Scratch Drive - Fast
$400 - Intel SSDSA2SH032G1 2.5" 32GB SATA II Internal Solid State Disk

Data Drives - Normal
$490 - 7 x Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM - (In RAID 0+1 configuration with a hot swap)

Total
$3700

If you are not familiar/do not understand the extreme demands that video editing/Photoshop/3D modeling can put on a system then I suggest you do not comment on the drive configuration that I have selected. I realize that those of you who are mostly concerned with gaming or light Photoshop editing probably don't understand why I would want so many fast drives.


Possible Improvement:

- A bootable RAM disk that connects via PCIe 2.0 (rather than SATA II). I know there are the Fusion-IO drives which connect to PCIe but they cannot boot and do not come in sizes smaller than 80GB (making it prohibitively expensive).

So.. what do fellow media hogs think of this kind of setup? Any suggestions for a faster/more efficient build?
April 22, 2009 3:17:01 PM

If I could find some cheap 4GB DIMMS (~$100 per DIMM - DDR2 or DDR3 doesn't matter), I would max out the RAM on the motherboard (24GB) and replace the Intel 32GB SSD with a lower priced 16GB SLC SSD.

Also... Does anyone know where to find 8GB DDR2 DIMMS for sale (~$250-$300 per DIMM)?
April 22, 2009 7:58:37 PM

Here are a couple of great recommendations:( I use PPro, AE & PS(x64) CS4).

Actually, to begin, do you use CS4? I ask because Photoshop is now 64 bit which will completely eliminate your scratch disk for PS. Also, Premiere is now able to use more than 4GB of Ram. There are some great articles over at DigitalContentProducer.com testing and discussing the benefits of CS4 & 64bit.

For my recommendations:

1) Dual-CPU 1366 Xeon, at least the 5520(2.26GHz) as the ones below it do not have Hyper-Threading or Turbo.
2) This Dual-Xeon board will allow you to use far more Ram-24GB+ depending on the board. There is absolutely no point in the ioDrive or HyperDrive. They are designed for small servers that need the most performance possible in addition to the HPC industry.

3) Here is one IMPORTANT fact: Adobe cannot be installed on Flash based devices.

I went ahead and built you a system on newegg with dual-Xeons(2.26GHz), 36GB Ram, 4 - 74GB Raptors for Raid 10 for the OS + Apps, Highpoint 4320 Raid controller, 4 - 500GB 7200.12s(they have great reviews and TomsHardware just tested them and they were the fastest and lowest power consuming 7200rpm ever). You can either add a SSD for scratch disk or media cache but you won't need it as you have enough Ram. Another option is to use Intel's Matrix Raid which lets you create 2 different Raid arrays with the 74GB Raptors. So, you create a 80GB Raid 10 array for OS+Apps and a 120GB Raid 0 array for page file, scratch disk & media cache(This is what I have in both of my PCs).
The Highpoint lets you expand as your storage needs expand. I'm not a Seagate fanboy, but I have been using 8 7200.11s for almost 2 yrs with no problems as well as 4-7200.10s for over 2yrs, while I had 1 of 8 Raptors die a few weeks ago. The new 7200.12s unbelievable low power and high performance can't be beat, and they cost less also. The 500GB drives can be used in Raid 5 for more storage with over 300MB/s read speeds for 4 drives.

I also included an ATI V5700 workstation card for AE. My 8800GT is complete crap in AE and I've read how Workstation cards help boost performance in AE.

I didn't add a case, but a $200+ Lian-Li case should work great and a IcyDock/Athena Power 4-in-3 drive hot-swap bay for $90 too.

$3343 for the current Wishlist
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx...

Much less money and far faster thanks to all that Ram. You also need Vista x64 which has been working great since I switched to CS4.
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April 23, 2009 3:29:23 AM

With AE projects that large, do you use networked render machines? Did you know you can setup networked PCs as AE render slaves(no cost at all)? I wish Adobe would add this to Premiere. If Sony can add it to Vegas, why doesn't Adobe?
April 26, 2009 7:49:42 PM

Hi specialk90. Thanks for the response to my thread! I almost forgot about my post on these forums and it would have been a shame to let your thoughtful suggestions go without a response.

I did not know CS4 could not be installed on flash based devices! I poked around the Google and you’re right… it seems that people are having a lot of problems installing CS4 on any SSD. Although there are also a few conflicting comments that say it is possible if you modify a few things. I will have to speak to Adobe about this to see if there is a solution.

I use CS4 and 64-bit Photoshop. After making my original post about the HyperDrive it occurred to me that it might make more sense to buy a server board and max out the RAM with some cheap DIMMs. I get a little over excited at the idea of having my OS and main programs running on ram-like devices… I’m anxiously waiting for the day that this becomes the standard, affordable choice!

The Fusion-IO drive will be interesting to watch because it connects via PCIe 2.0 which allows gigabytes of bandwidth compared to SATA. They are apparently developing a bootable consumer version (the ioExtreme) made from MLC memory that has 700MB read/write and 160GB capacity for ~$800-$100. I think that this drive will be a big step forward if they can deliver.

Your suggested system build looks pretty good. And I think it makes sense to max the RAM and avoid the expensive ramdrives. I have a question though… what is the advantage of using a RAID card over an onboard controller for a simple 01 or 10 setup? I’m not interested in the higher levels (I’m aware of the advantages/disadvantages). I thought RAID cards were only necessary for more complex RAID levels like 3 and 5 that require a lot more parity calculations. But 10 and 01 should be simple enough for the on-board controller to handle it, don’t you think? Does this on board controller have problems when you start setting up multiple RAID configurations (Nested raid levels for both Data and OS)?

Cheers.
April 27, 2009 4:40:57 AM

For the SSD + Adobe: I just googled this myself and came across an Intel article testing X25's against 15k Seagates and another article stating that you can install Adobe on SSD, just not "Removable" flash devices. However, the only real benefit according to the Intel article of SSD is quicker program load times. There was a 4-8% benefit in opening a large PSD, rotating it and saving it. However, they used 4 SSDs and 4 15k drives in Raid 0 so the hard drives are going to be slower just due to Raid 0. If they had used Raid 10, the benefit would have been 1-2% if any, not to mention much more storage space and costing less than SSD.

I don't know your current storage setup or what your plans are for it. I included the Highpoint Raid controller due to the number of drives I included in the build. The motherboard can only support 6 drives in Raid and I selected 8 total drives. Yes, the onboard Raid can do Raid 10 just fine. Both of my PCs have 4 Raptors in Raid 10 using the onboard Intel Raid and they have worked great.

For the different Raid levels: this is where Intel's Matrix Raid really shines. For my PCs, I use a Raid 10 for OS, Apps and some storage and a Raid 0 for page file, scratch disk, media cache and intermediate uncompressed video(editing AVCHD and HDCAM EX can be a bit slow so I often transcode them to uncompressed for editing).

Hardware Raid vs Onboard Raid:
1) Hardware is usually 10% faster in throughput
2) Onboard can be easily migrated to another motherboard with same or newer Intel Raid chipset whereas hardware must use same manufacturer.
3) Onboard Intel allows 2 different Raid levels on 1 set of drives
4) Hardware Raid lets you take that card and drives attached to another PC very easily


Do you use Network Rendering for your AE projects? If so, how well does it work and whats your setup?

I ask because I want to combine both of my PCs but both have quad-core (Q6600) and want to know if I should keep my 2nd PC as a render slave.
!