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New workstation for lab (under 2k)- dual purpose

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February 28, 2011 4:34:38 PM

Hello,
Last time I built a machine it was back in the 386 days... so obviously I am out of shape (and please be gentle)...

I will be building a workstation for a lab that usually runs MATLAB and large-resolution pics (often stacked images from high speed video), and other data analysis software. With this in mind, there is no need to overclock but it does need to be fast (processing times will vary but usually under 24hrs for running code) and even though it will have two monitors, the video graphics don't have to be high-end as long as they can move stacked images efficiently ( I was thinking for example a 6870 card). Bottom line, I don't need high-speed graphics, rather reliability.

HOWEVER, I would like for this workstation to store libraries that could be accessed remotely. I don't need a full server machine, as the number of users would be < 5 most of the time.

So what I need help with is the following, should I:

(1) Set up a workstation with 2x Intel e5620 (the CPU is an example) that allows remote access
(2) Set up a workstation with a 1x CPU plus set up a small (~$500) server machine. This seems a bit overkill given that server use would not be as frequent.

As far as OS is concerned, I am still on the fence between using Ubuntu and Microsoft 7...


For #1 above, I was thinking
ASUS Z8NA Mobo
12GB ram (Patriot II),
GPU - 6870
SSD 80GB
2x 500 GB HD's (for now)
Corsair 750w Gold
a couple of heatsinks
Full size Case (not sure which one yet,but leaning towards the Coolermaster HAF 932)

For #2 I would change the motherboard and CPU.

Your comments and advice will be much appreciated!
March 1, 2011 3:46:43 AM

Seriously guys? No comments? :) 
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March 1, 2011 11:51:16 AM

First commend I can say is that I think you've gone way overkill with the video card, but I'm not sure. What I can suggest is that if your seriously thinking of ubuntu that you shouldn't get an ATI card. Their driver support is slow to come to linux and is spotty to mediocre at best. A Nividia card, probably as low as a GTS 450 http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E... or better would do you well.

Last machine I built was a p4 3.2ghz in 2004, so I'm out of pratice as well, but I've been researching for a new machine lately.

In a general sense however, I like to have more machines on a network with lower power profiles than several big machines. I would build a server to host the data for your group of computers as that would be easier to setup data sharing between hosts; but that is just how I like to think about a distributed setup.

Good luck.
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March 1, 2011 1:43:34 PM

Thanks for the input - yes, I wasn't sure whether I was overshooting or not with the video card. I was trying to avoid setting up another server, but you are right in that it might be better and cheaper than having a 2x CPU machine trying to do both tasks.
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Best solution

March 1, 2011 7:23:02 PM

Wait. Are you building just one workstation, or a whole set of them? If just the one workstation then the hosting of the libraries won't put hardly any strain on the system at all. I'd build just the one system and single processor it. A server would be best if you are building a series of workstations and need to have all of the work files in a central location.
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March 1, 2011 8:02:48 PM

If you're running matlab, why aren't you grabbing a Nvidia GPU for CUDA? A new quadro would be doable for the budget.

The quadro 4000 for ex. even contains much of the tesla featureset.
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March 2, 2011 2:04:56 AM

@someone19: The plan is to build a single workstation that would double as host. So your answer is quite helpful - I wasn't sure if I was overdoing it or not with a 2x CPU.

@banthracis: I hadn't thought of CUDA's approach, but that would help the parallel processing definitely. Although I think a Quadro 4000 might be overkill for the routines the machine needs to perform. MIght stick with a Quadro 600.


Depending on when Sandy Bridge is released (need to make the machine in late March \ early April), I think this is what I would build:

CPU/Processor Intel Core i7-960 Bloomfield 3.2GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor


Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth X58 LGA 1366 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0


Memory Patriot Viper II 24GB (6 x 4GB) DDR3 1333MHz


Video Card Quadro 600


Storage 2x 500 GB WD

1x SSD 80GB


Power SeaSonic X650 Gold 650W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready 80 PLUS GOLD
UPS/Surge Protector:


Case COOLER MASTER HAF 922

Cooling Not sure which cooling system to use yet

And of course... We still need rs-232 cards to hook up to fancy equipment that still relies on old connections..

Any advice on the system would be greatly appreciated!
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March 2, 2011 1:04:27 PM

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tom...

Take a look at this post from the past two months. They're not looking to build a matlab workstation, but the requirements of their builds are similar to your requirements. Its long, and sometimes confusing, but if you can read around the 'fluff' some hardware recommendations can be helped. One is the new 500 series of cards can do CUDA sometimes better and cheaper than some quattro cards, I'm not an expert, but there are a few in that other thread.
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March 2, 2011 1:25:44 PM

Ok, thanks!
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March 5, 2011 4:47:17 PM

Best answer selected by Selas.
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March 6, 2011 1:54:56 AM

banthracis said:
If you're running matlab, why aren't you grabbing a Nvidia GPU for CUDA? A new quadro would be doable for the budget.

The quadro 4000 for ex. even contains much of the tesla featureset.


Gotta give Jacket (http://www.accelereyes.com) a try for GPU MATLAB computing!
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