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First Four-Way Dual Core Opteron Workstation

Groundbreaking technology demonstration staged at SIGGRAPH 2005 By Charlie White

(8/4/05) In a technology demonstration at SIGGRAPH 2005, AMD and Boxx Technologies unveiled a four-way dual core Opteron workstation running Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and a beta 64-bit version of LightWave 3D animation software. The four-socket dual core AMD Opteron 875 processor workstation boasted four processors plugged into a prototype motherboard made by Tyan which is one of only three currently in existence. Digital Media Net was there, and took a close-up look at this brand new technology.

Said Ed Caracappa, director of sales for Boxx Technologies, the company that developed the workstation, ?What you're seeing is a first of its kind. Caracappa explained that the Tyan motherboard, which is too new to even have a model number, is not a server-based motherboard -- it's a true workstation motherboard with two PCIe (PCI Express) graphics slots. Also on board are 16 DIMM slots, each of which can accommodate a 2GB RAM stick. Caracappa added, ?We've actually run it with 32 GB of memory on the system. At the demonstration, the machine contained 8GB of RAM.

Underneath these four cooling fans lie four AMD Opteron 875 processors

Boxx officials admitted this workstation was not yet completely stable. ?It's by no means a finished product. They're still some work being done on the drivers, Caracappa said. He added that this demonstration motherboard is just its first incarnation. In this configuration, there are two PCIe slots that are directly adjacent to each other. Because many of the newest high-end graphics cards require considerable cooling equipment, these two slots right next to each other will prevent installation of a fully implemented SLI configuration employing multiple graphics cards. Caracappa said the next rev of this board will have six PCIe slots on board, spaced in such a way that SLI configuration will be possible. In this demonstration, the workstation was running a single NVidia 4500 graphics card.

(Click graphic for enlargement) Notice the Windows XP performance monitor on this LightWave 3D render, with all eight windows lighting up.

(Click graphic for enlargement) Here the four-way workstation runs the CineBench 2003 benchmark. Notice that its multiple CPU rendering score of 1519 is the highest we've ever measured, beating out our former speed king, Boxx's two-processor Opteron 875, which when we tested it managed to score a mere 1250. However, also notice that this four-way workstation's multiprocessor speedup measured only 4.85x, compared to the 3.07x multiprocessor speedup of the two-way Boxx Opteron 875 workstation.  


To keep all this paraphernalia from overheating, there is an elaborate cooling system in place. In addition to a fan on each of the four processors, there are three 120 mm fans on one side and three smaller fans on the other. In a nod to the heavy storage needs of today's high-end content creators, the chassis has been designed to accommodate up to 15 hot-swappable drives. Supplying power to this current-hungry configuration is a 1000-watt power supply. Another interesting capability is support of what's called a mezzanine card where four more dual core processors can be added along with 16 more DIMM slots for 32 more gigabytes of RAM. Imagine that -- 64 GB of RAM and 8 dual core processors.

With this technology demonstration, Boxx also unveiled a spiffy new case design
How much will all this cost? Said François Wolf, director of marketing at Boxx, ?These are high-end processors. Once you load up 64GB of RAM and four high-end processors that cost between $800 and $1000, you can see that it's not going to be an average platform. With a few calculations it's apparent that this workstation, while more pricey than the average content creation computer, will bring the price of high-end computing down to earth. Wolf continued, ?I think the great news about this kind of platform is that it democratizes really high-end, high-performance computing, bringing it to a much broader array of DCC professionals than ever before. This is our mission at Boxx, to take that great high-end technology the moment it comes out and try to make it available to professionals who really need to cut their production time.

Boxx officials told Digital Media Net the workstation in its four-way configuration will be available by the end of September of this year.

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Related Keywords:technology demonstration, SIGGRAPH 2005, AMD, Boxx, four-way dual core Opteron workstation, Windows XP x64 operating system, Lightwave 3-D, Opteron 875 processor, workstation, four processors, Tyan motherboard, new technology.


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