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Old 08-03-2014, 08:28 PM   #1
steven-pendrous
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Some Help Please (New Workstation)

Hi Guys,

I really hope that someone can help put my mind at ease with a new custom workstation I am looking to order in the next few days?

I am a senior product designer and need a good, reliable machine for a new business venture I am embarking on. The main software packages I use for work are 3DS Max + Vray (visuals/animations) and Autodesk Inventor (parametric modelling). Some of the scenes can become quite large, especially as the Inventor files don't import too cleanly into max, but apart from that the rest is just textures etc. I also intend to get back into doing some personal projects using ZBrush, Cryengine and anything else that catches my eye.

In the past I have always used high spec Dell workstations with dual XEON processors, ECC ram and Nvidia Quadro graphics cards but, for better or worse, I really cannot afford to spend that kind of money at the moment. As a result I have been looking into high end custom gaming PC's, which are coming in at a far more reasonable price, but I am concerned that it will not be able to handle the workload that is going to be thrown at it?

The spec I have so far is:-
Case - Corsair Air 540
CPU - Overclocked Intel 6 Core i7-4930k (3.4ghz - 4.4ghz)
Board - Asus Rampage IV Black Edition
RAM - 64GB Kingston Hyper-X Beast Dual DDR3 2133mhz
GPU - 3GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 780Ti
HDD1 - 480GB Kingston Hyper-X 3k SSD (540mb/450mb)
HDD2 - 2TB 3.5' SATA-III 6GB/s 7200rpm 64mb Cache
HDD3 - 2TB 3.5' SATA-III 6GB/s 7200rpm 64mb Cache (Mirrored Raid)
DVD - 24x Dual Layer DVD Writer
PSU - Corsair 850W RM Series 80 Plus Gold UltraQuiet
Cooling - Corsair H100i Hydro Series
OS - Windows 8.1 Pro (64Bit)

Total 2172.50 (ex VAT)

The big question is... is this setup OK or am I setting myself up for a fall? Can the GTX 780Ti really handle it or should I go with the K4000? Is ECC memory that important? Will it render large scenes reliably? Deadlines are going to be tight and if I miss one because the machine cant handle the work I could potentially stand to lose a lot of money, or even worse the client.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-03-2014, 10:28 PM   #2
okmijun
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Zdravko Barisic
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ECC ram is in no use in nowadays workstation. No need for ECC.
I should go for GTX770 4GB edition. If you have multiple instances of MAX large scale projects open it will worth of.
No need for Quadro since max 2011, no MAXtreme driver since than, and GTX760-70-80 works even better than most of the Quadros.
Hope this helped you some.
Just my 2cc.
Good luck!
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Old 08-04-2014, 04:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by okmijun
ECC ram is in no use in nowadays workstation. No need for ECC.


I call bullshit. Memory errors that would otherwise have been corrected by ECC are a lot more common than people think.

http://research.google.com/pubs/pub35162.html

Maybe the errors go unnoticed and maybe the errors corrupt a project file or crash an overnight render when a project is due. It's cheap insurance when the processor supports it, however in this case the processor doesn't support it.

If you plan to use this machine for work then I'd look at the Xeon processors and ECC memory. An equivalent Xeon that supports ECC memory is the same price, the E5-1650 v2. The ECC memory is only marginally more expensive and in some cases the same price.
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Old 08-04-2014, 07:21 PM   #4
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And what does that mean in real terms? Every source ive read up on shows that its one of the least important things you can do as far as stability goes. If the dodgy programming is X times more likely to cause a crash, then saving a fraction of a percent of crashes with ECC memory doesnt seem worth a moment's worry.
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Old 08-04-2014, 07:45 PM   #5
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Thanks guys for your imput, i really have been driving myself crazy over this one.

After years of using max / inventor with ECC ram and dual XEONS i have encounted so many crashes and software bugs that I am dubious about how much any of this workstation stuff really matters.

I could afford to go down the dual XEON route and W4000 card but that would mean major cutbacks in other important areas of the business and I just dont know if its worth it?

Has anyone any experience of using a machine with a similar spec to the one listed in my original post?

Ive got less than 24hrs before I have to make a decision!!
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Old 08-04-2014, 08:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imashination
And what does that mean in real terms?


What it means in real terms? It means a machine I'm working on that has been up for 70 days has had 17 correctable errors (it's running ECC memory). In Linux you can see how many errors and what DIMM it was in with edac-util. I think there's a way to check with Windows too but I don't know it off the top of my head. In my case that's once every four days, much lower than what Google's research shows but still a significant number in my opinion.

Had it not had ECC memory that's 17 times it could have hard crashed, saved a corrupted file, had an application crash, had one character in a script running randomly change, any number of nasty things.

Sure, software is still going to have bugs but that doesn't make hardware bugs okay. For what it's worth pretty much every other aspect of computers that deal with data already have ECC, parity bits, or checksums (networking protocols and switches, hard drive and SSD caches, workstation graphics cards, processor cache).

If I lose even so little as one hour of time over the lifespan of the workstation due to flipped bits in memory then any cost savings have already gone out the window. The cost is insignificant so there's really no reason not to do it when given the choice up front like this. Especially on a machine with the memory modules maxed out like the build listed by the original poster. Maybe one day ECC memory will be a standard feature like it always should have been.
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Old 08-04-2014, 08:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steven-pendrous
I could afford to go down the dual XEON route and W4000 card but that would mean major cutbacks in other important areas of the business and I just dont know if its worth it?


You don't need dual Xeon processors to use ECC memory. The single socket Xeon processor I listed is the same price as the Core i7 you listed (and the Xeon is 100MHz faster).
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:53 PM   #8
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We're using similar machines (overclocked x79 intel 4930K) and they're rock solid. Not sure about that huge case, seems like overkill, have a look at a decent mid tower like the antec p280, or corsair 750/800.

We're using EVGA 780 and 780 6Gb, no issues with softimage or maya yet. If you're even thinking about GPU rendering - and you should, if you have a lot of rendering to do with very few machines - then go for the larger memory card.

How tight is your purchasing deadline? Intel Haswell-E 8 core chips will be out in a month or two, and together with a new platform (intel x99), should be a very useful workstation equivalent. Might stick in the throat a little if you spend that much on a rig now only for it to be out of date shortly.
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Old 08-04-2014, 11:38 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the advice.

Unfortunately I have to make the decision on what to buy right now as were moving into the office on Monday.

I'm pleased to hear that you are using the overclocked x79 intel 4930K and its working well for you, and yes I am planning to use the GPU rendering as much as possible.

Can I ask what RAM you are using?
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Old 08-05-2014, 08:36 AM   #10
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Quote:
What it means in real terms? It means a machine I'm working on that has been up for 70 days has had 17 correctable errors


So one error every 5 days when running 24/7, or with regular working hours that would be one error every 3 weeks. Saving a project, for me at least, takes around 1-2 seconds. Given there are 432,000 seconds between errors, thats a 1:216,000 chance every 3 weeks that an error will occur during saving. 1:14,400 chance per year. If I have a 40 year career theres a 1 in 360 chance that a single bit will get flipped whilst saving a project. Even if that bit does one day flip, it will mean a single vertex moves, a single colour shifts. Once, in my life time. And another 359 people are never affected.

Quote:
If I lose even so little as one hour of time over the lifespan of the workstation due to flipped bits in memory then any cost savings have already gone out the window.


That may be true, but given you will have lots thousands upon thousands of hours to bad code, lolcats and candy crush saga, I wouldn't let it dictate what hardware I bought ;-)
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steven-pendrous
Can I ask what RAM you are using?


The ram we've got is actually the most basic non-branded ddr3 1600 stuff you can find, HND something or other.

You don't need super fast speeds unless you're overclocking to an extreme speed (not advisable anyway with a workstation). 1866 or similar will be plenty. Something like: Kingston HyperX Beast 32GB (4x8GB) PC3-14900C10 1866MHz would be more than enough.
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Old 08-05-2014, 11:30 AM   #12
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Even if you overclock something ridiculous on Ivy and Haswell CPUs it's still largely irrelevant (RAM speed) as it's hardly beneficial, and you never get much mileage from the CPU Ratio or the Baseclock anyway, but rather from the mult (which leaves RAM unaffected).

Expensive RAM these days is the same as mineral water in a first world country, as close as you can legally get to a scam
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Old 08-05-2014, 03:06 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imashination
Saving a project, for me at least, takes around 1-2 seconds. Given there are 432,000 seconds between errors, thats a 1:216,000 chance every 3 weeks that an error will occur during saving...


That logic is very flawed. Doesn't matter if something is corrupted while you're saving it or not, if it was corrupted hours ago in memory it would still be corrupted when it gets saved. That's just one scenario, bit flips can affect other things like code stored in memory for drivers and applications.

My new found respect for this issue stems from my experience with ZFS which verifies data blocks from end to end via 256-bit checksums and the problems evident by not using ECC memory are very real and commonplace. It's not that ZFS is more susceptible to problems caused by bit flips, it's just that you don't know about them with other systems because there's no way to detect them and track them in the same fashion that ZFS can. I don't think I'll ever buy another machine without ECC memory knowing what I know now.

It's not a matter of if a bit flip will affect work but when, or rather when did it affect work last (yesterday, last week, last month)? I stand by what I said before, it's cheap insurance and there's no good reason not to get ECC memory for a workstation. I think the only case where I'd say it isn't worthwhile is a student or hobbyist building a budget minded machine (under $1,000).
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:27 PM   #14
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Here are some alternative components that cost less and support ECC memory. The motherboard is $275 compared to $500 and ECC memory is cheaper than the memory listed by the original poster.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/.../C600/X9SRA.cfm
http://ark.intel.com/products/75780...-Cache-3_50-GHz
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