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System for virtualization and video editing/transcoding

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November 5, 2011 11:45:08 PM

Hi all!

I'm looking to build a fairly powerful computer. I don't build often, so I'm not really up on the latest hardware, and while I've done some research, I'm getting somewhat confused, and I could really use some suggestions.

I want to use this system to run multiple virtual machines while simultaneously doing video transcoding and/or editing. I'm using the virtual machines for training, and the video stuff is a hobby.

I have the following things in mind:

* A budget of ~$4000.
* I'm in the US. There's no rush, but sooner is better.
* I'll probably use Newegg.com or Amazon.com to get my parts.
* I'm thinking of using either VMWare Workstation or Microsoft Hyper-V Server for virtualization.
* I'm leaning toward using a 2-socket server motherboard.
* I want Intel Sandy Bridge processors. I'm leaning toward Xeons, but not wedded to the idea.
* No overclocking.
* Which coolers?
* I want LOTS of RAM.
* I'm thinking about dual monitors. Any suggestions for monitors? Don't use them in the budget considerations--I'll probably get them later, if at all. Not looking for monster sizes, wouldn't mind high-res stuff for 20"-26" screens (1920x1080?).
* Definitely want an eSATA port.
* Definitely want USB 3.0.
* If a graphics card helps with video editing/transcoding, I want a good one. I'm not a gamer.
* I've no idea whether SLI or Crossfire will help with video editing and transcoding. Any thoughts?
* I'd want at least one expansion slot available for a wireless card if the motherboard doesn't have wireless capability.
* I'd like a decent sound card. Not particularly interested in surround sound or the latest Dolby or whatever; I'll be using a pair of basic speakers.
* No need for keyboard or mouse or speakers or operating systems.
* Odds are I'll be using a full tower case. I want big fans in them. I also want this to be a relatively quiet machine.
* I'm not interested in a lot of flash; basic indicator lights are just fine.
* I'd prefer a case without a window.
* Which PSU?
* I want a media reader. Should it be internal or external?
* I want two internal burners, one of which will be a Bluray.
* I'll use four internal hard drives: one for applications and OS, one for video editing, one for virtual machine storage, one for general storage. No RAID. The one for apps will be a small one (maybe 320GB or thereabouts), the others will be 1TB. All will be 7200rpm. I might consider making the small one an SSD, but I've heard they still have issues besides being expensive when in the 256GB+ range.
* I'm planning on using Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard for the host OS. Anyone know if that'll be an issue for running desktop software like Corel VideoStudio Pro X2?
November 6, 2011 12:47:03 AM

might want to wait for a few more weeks until sandybridge-e comes out, its designed for your need so would be a shame to get something thats outdated.

Just look at the spec for them. Up to 8 core of the latest sandybridge architecture. quad channel ram with 8 DIMM slot.
http://www.tomshardware.com/news/sandy-bridge-e-xeon-cp...

graphic card transcoding are quicker but its quality are generally poorer, depending on how its implemented in software.
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November 6, 2011 10:20:49 PM

Thanks for the quick reply.

I've read that Sandy Bridge-E is coming out soon, but as far as I know it'll be single-socket only in the near term. Are you suggesting that I go with the LGA2011 board and a single-CPU setup?

Re: graphic card transcoding: I assume this means that you don't think I have to splurge on graphic cards, and that SLI or Crossfire will not help me with what I have in mind?
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November 8, 2011 10:58:16 AM

Look at the specific software you'll be using for transcoding and see if it uses GPU acceleration. If it doesn't, then your GPU won't matter (for awhile...)

What format will your source video be in? What will the destination format be? you may want to consider a RAID if you will be working from an uncompressed or lightly compressed source, as drive speed may come into play.
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November 8, 2011 8:31:02 PM

Apparently none of the software I use uses GPU acceleration. All of them are fairly old (if it ain't broke, why fix it?). I may try out some of those GPU-accelerated transcoding software after what I've read......

Source video will usually be DVDs or vidcap from TV in MPEG-2 format.
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November 8, 2011 9:10:14 PM

rkh2069 said:
Apparently none of the software I use uses GPU acceleration. All of them are fairly old (if it ain't broke, why fix it?). I may try out some of those GPU-accelerated transcoding software after what I've read......

Source video will usually be DVDs or vidcap from TV in MPEG-2 format.



With something like video encoding, later versions are often compiled for newer processor instruction sets- and the newer processor instruction sets have instructions that are specifically relevant to that type of work. If your present encoder and decoder are older than the release of the SSE2 instruction set, you definitely need to look at new encoders.

Transcoding DVD-quality MPEG-2 will definitely end up being about drive speed as much as processor speed.
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November 9, 2011 12:14:25 AM

Sounds to me like an SSD would be an asset for transcoding MPEG-2.
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November 9, 2011 1:40:53 AM

theoretically, but the price per GB is a bit stiff.
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November 17, 2011 2:31:11 AM

OK, I've been continuing my research, and I've read that Sandy Bridge-E dumps Quick Sync to boost general performance. Given that Quick Sync really helps out transcoding, and that transcoding is one of the things I want to do with this machine, wouldn't it be better to stick with Sandy Bridge, or maybe wait for Ivy Bridge?

Side note: I'm getting the impression that if one uses VMware Workstation and builds a VM with multiple cores, the VM in question would tie up the same number of cores in the host machine, whereas Hyper-V server could sort of fake it without using up host machine cores. Is that right?
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