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Workstation or Server

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  • Workstations
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Last response: in Systems
December 26, 2012 2:37:52 PM

Hello,

First of all I hope this topic is on the right forum.

So, a little of my background. I do some jobs where I need to use several 3D applications, such as 3ds Max, Maya, etc. And one thing I really need to do this job is fast PC and one that can handle high CPU usage.

My current system can handle with all my demands but sometimes starts to struggle. So I started to search for a nice workstation without have to spend much money (which is impossible) and I saw a server. And I thought, Well, perhaps where is another possibility. The server I saw was actually 2 servers in 1 (Supermicro 2U Server 2x Intel Xeon E5420 Quad-core 8GB DDR2 1x500GB).

So, my question is: Can I replace a normal workstation for a server like this one? Can I assemble 2 or 3 servers and work as only one computer?


Because I will need something with lot of RAM and CPU power, but also something good to play a few games (like the new Tomb Raider). I am also looking for something that I can easily upgrade. I was thinking for example a Motherboard with 2 CPU slots.

Thanks in advance,

Cyrus

More about : workstation server

December 26, 2012 3:08:34 PM

If would be helpful if you could define the concern by providing a bit more detail. I will make an assumption based on my usage of the same and similar programs you mentioned. I found the need for extreme processing capability is when rendering either a single frame for photo-realistic use or an animation of many frames. The work placed on the system is the calculation of how light interacts with objects and atmosphere.

So, what I do is my main workstation is an intel dx79 board with a i73930k hexcore, lots of memory, primary ssd and a raid 10. I then render on my network using two separate intel quad core boxes. You could do the same with a server having multiple cpu's and separate GB network nics.

I went with separate boxes so I could use each for a different task when not rendering.
December 26, 2012 3:53:32 PM

t53186 said:
If would be helpful if you could define the concern by providing a bit more detail. I will make an assumption based on my usage of the same and similar programs you mentioned. I found the need for extreme processing capability is when rendering either a single frame for photo-realistic use or an animation of many frames. The work placed on the system is the calculation of how light interacts with objects and atmosphere.

So, what I do is my main workstation is an intel dx79 board with a i73930k hexcore, lots of memory, primary ssd and a raid 10. I then render on my network using two separate intel quad core boxes. You could do the same with a server having multiple cpu's and separate GB network nics.

I went with separate boxes so I could use each for a different task when not rendering.


Thank you t53186 for your reply.

More detail: As you wrote I need a computer with a extreme processing capability more to render single frames for photo-realistic use. But I would need a good video card because I use some applications that use the GPU instead of CPU. I was thinking on using for example 2 or 3 servers, one as my main workstation and like you said using the network to use the other 2 servers resources to render or take care of another tasks. For example, doing render on one server and use the other one to work with Photoshop.

So what I wanted to know is if a rack server can be use as a workstation to work and play a few games. Because what I have in mind is use several cheap servers (£200) instead of spend a lot of money on one single machine.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 26, 2012 5:32:45 PM

1. never use a server as your workstation! there is no way to rid of the extreme noise a 2U server produces. Even in a rack, it's very loud. That's the difference between a workstation and a server
2. You will be disappointed from the performance of a 2x Intel Xeon E5420 machine. These cpu's are old and use ddr2 memory and the disks are slow
3. t53186 has the right setup. Just do it with standard desktops. The only thing i always recommend for graphics / video work is ecc-memory, supported by intel xeons and amd FX on some mobos.
December 27, 2012 5:35:02 PM

noidea_77 said:
1. never use a server as your workstation! there is no way to rid of the extreme noise a 2U server produces. Even in a rack, it's very loud. That's the difference between a workstation and a server
2. You will be disappointed from the performance of a 2x Intel Xeon E5420 machine. These cpu's are old and use ddr2 memory and the disks are slow
3. t53186 has the right setup. Just do it with standard desktops. The only thing i always recommend for graphics / video work is ecc-memory, supported by intel xeons and amd FX on some mobos.


Thank you noidea_77 for your reply.

Very useful your answer, I worked with some servers before, but as usual it was in another room. Just quote the 2 Intel Xeon E5420 just as an example. I check the difference between ecc-memory and non-ecc and they say that the performance will decrease 2% if I use ecc. So, why to do you recommend using ecc?



Thanks for all your help. ;) 
a b B Homebuilt system
December 28, 2012 12:13:05 PM

There is always a risk of getting bit errors with non-ecc ram, meaning one of this billions of tiny capacitors is loosing it's load, before it gets refreshed. That's not a gib deal with typical desktop usage, because you will either get a BSOD, if it's program code or a pixel error on the screen or a typ-o in your word document. It is a problem with server and workstation usage. Most of the data gets never reviewed, before written do disk and you don't want to loose hours of work by a BSOD or get complains from your customer for the pixel errors in your video. That's why any pre-build servers and workstations use ecc-ram, that detects this type of error by a checksum and corrects it (1bit) or issues a warning to windows (2bit errors). Beside that: it happens rarely on ecc-ram, because the manufacturer uses selected chips for it. IBM/HP/DELL/Oracle would cancel the contract otherwise. :) 
Another "downside" of servers is, that they all use SAS disks. In theory you can use SATA drives, but they have never been tested with the build-in raid controllers and - from my experience - don't work (well).
December 31, 2012 3:19:36 PM

noidea_77 said:
There is always a risk of getting bit errors with non-ecc ram, meaning one of this billions of tiny capacitors is loosing it's load, before it gets refreshed. That's not a gib deal with typical desktop usage, because you will either get a BSOD, if it's program code or a pixel error on the screen or a typ-o in your word document. It is a problem with server and workstation usage. Most of the data gets never reviewed, before written do disk and you don't want to loose hours of work by a BSOD or get complains from your customer for the pixel errors in your video. That's why any pre-build servers and workstations use ecc-ram, that detects this type of error by a checksum and corrects it (1bit) or issues a warning to windows (2bit errors). Beside that: it happens rarely on ecc-ram, because the manufacturer uses selected chips for it. IBM/HP/DELL/Oracle would cancel the contract otherwise. :) 
Another "downside" of servers is, that they all use SAS disks. In theory you can use SATA drives, but they have never been tested with the build-in raid controllers and - from my experience - don't work (well).


Thank you noidea_77 for really helpful answer. I always used workstations to work, that is why I never realized the importance of using ecc ram. I am going check t53186 settings just to have an idea how much to I need to spend. One thing that I have in mind is get a motherboard that can handle 2 CPU. My idea is initial just buy one and after a few months get the second one for a lower price. But this kind of motherboard are hard to find. Do you think that this possibility is a good idea?

Thanks both of you (noidea_77 and t53186) for your help.
a b B Homebuilt system
January 1, 2013 7:13:11 PM

The problem with dual-cpu boards is, that at least the intel boards get there pci-e lanes and memory controllers from the cpus. As far as i know, they work with one cpu, but half of the memory and pci-e slots, maybe even some onboard devices like the second network controller will not work.
January 12, 2013 3:20:25 PM

noidea_77 said:
The problem with dual-cpu boards is, that at least the intel boards get there pci-e lanes and memory controllers from the cpus. As far as i know, they work with one cpu, but half of the memory and pci-e slots, maybe even some onboard devices like the second network controller will not work.



Hi noidea_77,

sorry the delay.

So what you are telling me is that some components in the motherboard will just use one CPU, right? Well, I think that at least for me that is not a big problem, I just want the second CPU to be use when I am doing the renders. And if I am not wrong, if I have lets say 8 Cores is advised to have at least 8GB of RAM. Is that ok?

Thanks