Category: Workstations

Flash Memory Summit 2016 – Consolidation?

FMS2016_BannerAd_300x250The Flash Memory Summit 16 will be convening at the Santa Clara Convention Center over August 9 -11, 2016. Flash memory is now established as a key technology enabling new designs for many products in the consumer, computer and enterprise markets.

Storage Crossover

The industry is at a critical juncture where the total cost of ownership for flash based SSD’s achieved crossover with hard disk drive equivalents last September as the enterprise storage medium of choice.

The fact that the number of producers is limited has altered the landscape of consumption with some analysts indicating that serious shortages will exist for some time to come. An interesting, but mitigating fact is that most of the analysts are not technical – the ones that we’ve talked to that have a technical bent are not so sanguine about the availability mix. One item that stands in the road to profits is the need for this next generation storage device to not only retain data but do so interactively without losing bits. The unrecoverable bit boogie man is now staring the industry down. The ability to store immense amounts of “ready data” for execution now depends on the technologies ability to reliably retain data.

All Flash Array producers are now entering the “really big data storage array” market – the battle has dropped down to the cost of storage per dollar creating a whole new category of marketing lows. 3D Flash is now so dense that failure modes are now dependent upon being aware of “how and when” the bits were used during the entire lifetime of the device.

Cork, Ireland NVMdurance was the first to understand this phenomenon and is now firmly embedded in their first customer Altera (now Intel). Pure and Nimble Storage are offering their services for their AFAs – seems that leasing AFA memory is a probable in the future of solid state storage. We’re still left reading the indemnification clauses of their contracts.

Poison Pill

Micron Technology filed with the SEC a poison pill last Friday. The buzz is that the company is once again in play. The likely suitor is none other than Intel according to the lead rumor. We will be talking with Micron and Intel at FMS 16 and although they’ll not say anything about what’s going on we’ll at the very least get to look into their pupils while they’re telling us…,

PC shipments fall further

elepantsIt looks like any hopes that Windows 10’s launch might improve PC sales have proven wrong and sales of PCs have dropped further.

Beancounters at market research firm Gartner have added up the numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that worldwide shipments of personal computers fell 7.7 percent to 73.7 million units in the third quarter as a stronger dollar made them costlier.

Across town another group of beancounters at IDC said shipments fell 10.8 percent to 71 million units.

Gartner also said the Windows 10 launch in the quarter had minimal impact on shipments as users chose to upgrade to Windows 10 on existing PCs.

Gartner said analysts “see some signs for future stabilization and growth” in the PC market. The firm said in July that it did not expect the global PC market to recover until 2016.

Jay Chou, research manager at IDC Worldwide PC Tracker said that the PC market continues to contract as expected, but he remained optimistic about future shipments.

While it is nice to see that someone is optimistic in these dark, cynical times, it is not as if the PC market could get much worse and it is hard to see what, short of a lightning bolt from Zeus is going to wake it up.

Heat sinks and fans could go the way of the Dodo

dodo The current method of cooling computers is about to get a rethink.

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is supporting new research to provide on-chip liquid cooling in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices and it looks like the technology could be easily adapted for CPUs and GPUs.

This has the potential to reduce the size of devices, allow for chip stacking, dispense with heat sinks and fans and significantly extend the life-span of chips.

Speaking at the IEEE Custom Integrated Circuits Conference, Thomas Sarvey, from Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) presented the paper with the catchy title “Embedded Cooling Technologies for Densely Integrated Electronic Systems.”

What they managed to do was get rid of the heat sink atop the silicon die by moving liquid cooling just a few hundred microns away from the transistors.

The technique involves cutting microfluidic channels into the die of FPGA devices, which were chosen for the research and trials because of their flexible configuration and extensive use in the military.

This locates the cooling just microns from the problem, and even allows for the possibility of chip-stacking, which very few devices currently have the room or efficiency to achieve, given the necessity to dissipate heat from a central locus of adjacent chips.

The group successfully developed a standard demonstration test, including one for DARPA officials, in which a converted FPGA with bespoke Altera-supplied architecture operated, with no other cooling, at less than 24 degrees Celsius, and was compared to an analogous air-cooled device operating at 60 degrees Celsius.

On-chip liquid cooling also opens up the possibility for a new level of compactness in device design, which frequently has to use available surface space for dissipation purposes.

 

BBC micro delayed

BBC MicroThe BBC has admitted that the Micro:bit which it was going to give to a one million kids is going to be late.

The Micro:bit was announced in March as a “get kids coding” initiative. Delivery was anticipated to occur in September, so that every 11 or 12 year-old in the UK could be given the computer.

Yesterday, the Beeb admitted that things are off the rails and that delivery can be expected “after Christmas”.

Apparently the problem is the gear’s power supply.

“We’re expecting to start sending them out to teachers before Christmas and to children early in the new year,” said a BBC spokesman

“As a result of our rigorous testing process, we’ve decided to make some minor revisions to the device – getting it right for children and teachers before we manufacture one million units is our priority.”

The Micro:bit is a revival of the BBC’s efforts in the 1980s when it created the BBC Micro and promoted it, and the idea of programming, through radio and television programmes. It worked too and is considered a starter for many kids of that generation.

The thought is that if the power supply does not zap them, kids will be encouraged to save the UK economy by coding.

BBC director general Tony Hall hopes the Micro Bit will “equip a new generation with the digital skills they need to find jobs and help grow the UK economy”.

Boston 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme workstation reviewed

Boston is a company which has a reputation in IT as the supplier of high-end workstations, render boxes and servers to system integrators, as well as directly out to specialist companies in the 3D Industry.

Boston has been about since 1992. It has strived to climb to the top of the ladder in high performance power optimised technologies in the ISP, HPC, Enterprise and Broadcast marketplace.

Specialised workstations, servers and render boxes are extremely expensive and down time is not a great idea.

Over the years Boston has produced exceptional systems based around Supermicro, but for Boston to reach further into the more sophisticated marketplaces, a major manufacturing deal was struck direct with BOXX, a US Integrator of some of the most sophisticated overclocked 3D workstations in the world. The kind that give the Tier 1 builders a run for their money. When we were asked if we’d like to review a system, our answer was a swift yes. The systems from BOXX are something else.

An important point to note: BOXX is a recognised hardware vendor under the Autodesk Media & Entertainment certification program. BOXX machines have been tested and certified by Autodesk to run at optimal performance on Autodesk products, including Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, Mudbox and Softimage.

The system that was delivered was very high spec, consisting of the following:

Component

BOXX 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme Test System

CPU

2 X 3.33GHz Intel® Xeons™ (X5680 processors) overclocked to 4.2GHz

Mainboard

EVGA Classified SR-2 eATX

Memory

6 X 2GB (12GB Total) DDR3 1333MHz (PC3-10600) Memory Modules

Hard Drive(s)

2 X 300GB Western Digital VelociRaptors in Raid 1 (Via ICH 10 onboard Controller)

 

2 X 500GB (1TB) Seagate Constellation 2 drives in Raid 0 (Via ICH 10 onboard Controller) for data storage

Graphic Card(s)

1 X NVIDIA Quadro® 4000

 

1 X NVIDIA Quadro® 6000

 PSU

Seasonic 850Watt Modular

 DVDROM

20X Dual Layer DVD±RW Writer

Operating System

Windows 7 Professional  64-Bit with complete updates

Our system came expected, supplied with a Logitech Keyboard and Mouse, 3 x Nvidia® SLI bridges, ATI® Crossfire Bridge, an additional array of extra cables for the mainboard and PSU, with a good selection of software to get you up and running straight away. And that all important Windows recovery disc.

Something clever that struck us about the BOXX build was the actual hard drive deployment within the system. Opening up the read panel we found the 4 x 2 ½” system drives neatly mounted in place, with plenty of room for expansion.

A novel design then, though we did have reservations to heat. On closer inspection, the Asetek liquid cooling array fans for the CPUs also blasts air under the rear to keep those drives cool too. The rear panel to the chassis has a vent that the hot air quietly flows from. The company says it has tested the system with a range of drives and that airflow is not an issue.

Conclusions

This has to have been the most exciting Parts Built System we have tested in a long time.

Generally speaking, review systems are very well built, but this is an extraordinary unit with the strength to push things to the next level. The BOXX brushed aluminium chassis looks the part and will sit under most desks without looking out of place with the furnishings. It’s an important point in today’s studios key customers and new clients believe that image is everything.

The actual system performance from the I/O was what we had anticipated – extremely fast. The Sandra 2011 System Cryptography result is the fastest we have ever achieved. To deviate slightly, this unit can be upgraded in many ways beyond the original build, so those looking for the high speed boot should consider putting an enterprise SSD in place.

When you are spending cash of this nature, costs will be high – but those who require the absolute best in performance will find this is an exceptional option. Although we have seen extremely fast results, there is room to make things faster at the client’s request.

The render speed results from the recent release of POV-Ray and Cinebench 11.5 are speedy, and the BOXX system did almost half some of our other results – extremely quick indeed. This standalone unit has the power to meet the most demanding client’s high expectations for fast output.

To emphasise just how fast is fast, take a look at the staggering Cinebench 11.5 score.

The results obtained from the SPECapc’ s and SPECviewperf are without doubt the fastest we have produced.

Nvidia’s Quadro releases excelled on this platform. While the Quadro 4000 returned some pretty impressive results, the Quadro 6000 romped away in terms of raw power. It’s almost as if the mainboard was built for it.

Both cards performed above expectations, returning some very impressive results from the SPEC tests. SPECapc for SolidWorks 2007 again showed us our fastest results to date by the Quadro 6000, in both the “Day in the Life” result and the actual SPEC Graphic score.

As for SPECviewperf 11, astonishing to say the least. Maya-03 was running away at 115.97 and swiftly following was the SW-02 score of 65.79, fully backing up the SPECapc for SolidWorks results.

The Quadro 6000 just cannot be caught up to with its unprecedented performance – as the complete full FSAA run demonstrated, with the desired scaled composite results all the way down to 64X FSAA. Will we see faster any time soon? Time will tell. 

At going to print, the cost of the BOXX 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme with the Nvidia Quadro 4000 is £6,279.00 plus Vat and Delivery and can be purchased direct through Boston’s reseller Escape Studios. The full range of BOXX systems from Escape Studios can be found at this URL. The 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme comes with a 3 year warranty.

*EyeSee One of our readers can win one of these powerful, 3DBOXX 4860 systems from Escape Studios. Entry details are here, terms and conditions apply