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Render Farm - Help Choosing CPU - Long Read Warning

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March 8, 2010 8:11:39 PM

The thing about render farms is, they are absolutely essential for getting things done in a reasonable amount of time when working with 3D software. Maya, Cinema 4D, 3DS Max are all great and very powerful software packages. They allow you to create these amazing things limited only by your imagination. One caveat though, anything you create on them may take hours or even days to see depending on the gear you have. this can effectively make the software useless without a render farm. I have a tiny farm now consisting of 4 nodes (3 q6600's) and my main worksation. My gear is all Intel. I want to make an all new render farm that is much more powerful than the one I currently use. It should not be too hard with todays's CPU's.

Right now my main Workstation is a dual quad xeon (771 socket) Asus Z7S (Asus version of Skulltrail). I am using it as the main workstation that initiates the renders and acts as a node on the farm. On the new farm I may want to use AMD CPU's. I read somewhere that you should not mix AMD and Intel CPU's on a render farm as it could yield fluctuating results on the final render. Does this still hold true? Should the render farm have ALL THE EXACT SAME CPU's? Right now I use xeons and q6600's and I get good results. I don't notice any errors. I need to know because making an all AMD render farm will be alot cheaper than making an all intel render farm. I know intel will give me better results especially with the i7's. But, price is an issue. I am trying to find that fine line of best cost/performance. At some point you will see a point of diminished return where the cost is not equal to the performance you are trying to reach.

I am racking my brain trying to decide which way to go. I keep reading all the reviews and reading up on topics regarding render farms. So many different opinions on the subject. I am driving myself crazy trying to determine what would be best for my needs. Thats why I think their are so many varying opinions, everyone has different needs thus different setups/opinions for what works best for them. Like I said, I AM REALLY trying to find that perfect price/performance balance.

I have narrowed it down to these CPU's. I have listed all their pros and cons as they pertain to a render farm. I am really leaning to the intel side. So the main focus is on Intel CPU's and which one would offer the best price/performane ratio. This is also really important as it could make my descision alot easier: Does anyone know if todays software, MAYA 2010, Cinebench 11, XSI, 3DS max 2010, Lightwave, even really make use of HYPER THREADING? I would really like to know. I havent found a definative answer on this one. Thats all I can think of for now. If anyone could provide some insight I would really appreciate it! I am driving myself nuts trying to figure out which way to go! I will be making about 6 identical nodes (maybe more, depending on price) consisting of whatever CPU I decide on. Like I said, Right now I am on a 4 node farm consisting of 3 q6600's nodes and my main workstation. OK here we go.

Core i7 920 (Bloomfield 1366 socket)

Pros:

Perfect for rendering

Overclockability (Not that I would, need a stable farm and managable watt usage)

Price (cheaper than i7 860 CPU at Microcenter))

Good upgrade path (6 cores coming)

QPI (This is perfect for CPU intensive rendering)

Triple Channel memory (More memory but also more expensive than dual channel lynfield)

SLi or Crossfire (could be useful in the future when/if rendering is offloaded to GPU)

Hyperthreading (Dont really know if this is a real benefit in render farms or creates more
trouble than its worth. Dont know if todays software, MAYA 2010, Cinebench 11, XSI, 3DS max 2010,
even really make use of HYPER THREADING to justify haing it.)

Cons:

Expensive Motherboards

Uses more power (130 watts)

More expensive as a whole per node

Turbo (not as efficient as Lynfield)




Core i7 860 (Lynfield 1155 socket)

Pros:

Cheaper as a whole per node

Cheap motherboards (h55 or p55? I dont know which one would be better for my needs)

Direct PCI Express interconnect (This provides direct access to GPU. This could be useful in the future
when/if rendering is offloaded to GPU. I dont know if this would be better than SLI)

Turbo (very smart and efficient when using this)

Uses less power (95 watts)

Hyperthreading (Dont really know if this is a real benefit in render farms or creates more
trouble than its worth. Dont know if todays software, MAYA 2010, Cinebench 11, XSI, 3DS max 2010,
even really make use of HYPER THREADING to justify haing it.)

Cons:

Expensive CPU (More expensive than i7 920 at Microcenter)

No QPI

Limited upgrade path (Lynfield 1155 socket)




Core i7 750

Pros:

Cheaper CPU (Cheaper than both 920 and 860 - 750 seems to be the sweetspot for price/performance)

Cheaper as a whole per node

Cheap motherboards (h55 or p55? I dont know which one would be better for my needs)

Direct PCI Express interconnect (This provides direct access to GPU. Could be useful in the future
when/if rendering is offloaded to GPU. I dont know if this would be better than SLI)

Turbo (very smart and efficient when using this)

Uses less power (95 watts)

Cons:

NO HYPERTHREADING (Again I do not know if hyperthreading makes that much difference. If I knew
the answer this CPU would proably be perfect for my needs)

No QPI

Limited upgrade path




Core i3 530 (Clarksdale H55)

This CPU intrigues me the most. If offers tremendous value for a render farm. With the integrated GPU this
is a really interesting solution. The farm does not need a good GPU (not now anyways) to render. This would be
a very compact efficient package.

Pros:

Cheapest solution per node by ALOT!

Cheap H55 motherboards

Integrated GPU (None of my programs offload to GPU so an integrated one would work just fine. this saves $$$.)

Hyperthreading (Again I do not know if hyperthreading makes that much difference. If I knew
the answer, this CPU could be perfect for my needs.)

Tremendous TDP (best power solution per node)

Very fast CPU

Cons:

Poor memory latencies

No QPI or DPI

Only dual core (Hyperthreading or not, actual physical cores matter)



Last but not least, the AMD solution. To put all the diffent possible AMD setups would require
to much reading as this is already very long. Lets just say with the AMD solution you get a
really good price/performance solution with a decent, not great TDP. Plus it goes back to:
I do not know If i can mix AMD CPU's with Intel ones on the farm. I have an Intel Workstation that
I use with Maya, lightwave etc.







a b à CPUs
March 9, 2010 5:39:32 AM

Arrrgh, it was hard to read your post! Try avoiding walls of text please, and divide everything into shorter paragraphs. Other than that, thanks for sharing! How quickly do your Maya renders get done, and can you share any specific software settings for maximizing your renders?
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