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Author Topic: New Powerfull Workstation  (Read 16491 times)
Christopher
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« on: November 03, 2009, 08:48:08 PM »
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Ok soon it will be time for me to build a new workstation at home. My current one is three years old and while it was upgraded throughout the past years, it is dated and has problems handling larger files.

First the budget, which is really flexible. I don't want to name a exact amount, because I don't have one. I am willing to spend 3000 or 5 times the amount, AS LONG as it makes SENSE.
By that I mean, i will not Spend let's say 5k on a workstation which is 15% faster when a 2500 one, but 2 years later a new 2500 one is 50% faster, because everything moved on.

So what I need it for:

- Lightroom
- Capture One
- Photoshop
- PtGui (less important, because I will use my current one for rendering panos)

Now I have a few questions let's start.

CPU:

Xeon VS Core i7

Here are my thoughts:

The choice is between a dual Xeon System running two 2,8Ghz Quad cores which can manage 16 threads.
OR
One single Core i7 OCd at around 3,8Ghz which can manage 8 threads.

So I know PTGui would benefit from 8 real cores, but will the rest ? Will it REALLY make a difference, or will the real speed determined by Memory and HDs ?

RAM

- I think 24GB should be my choice. More is only possible with a Xeon System and would get realllllly expensive. Any thoughts ?

HD Setup
This is probably the most difficult part.
Here I have quite some questions. Let's say you have Set Up 1, which is 1TB in size and has a read and write speed of 500MB/s. Let's say Set Up 2 has 2 x 500GB drives with a Speed of 300MB/s

Now what is actually faster ? Splitting everything up on two disks or one faster one ?

By that I mean putting System, Programs, working files and Scratch disk on Set Up 1
OR
Putting System, programs working files on one of the two drives of Set Up 2  and the Scratch disk on the second one

I know the second option would be the faster one if all drives had the same speed, but that is just not the case anymore.
 
I am thinking about using a few SSDs as System disks, I'm just not sure if it is smarter to split them up or do one large fast RAID 0 array. (I'm not worried about dater loss, there is never just one copy of an important file on that array.


As Image storage I was thinking about using RAID 5 with 4-6 HDs. So that in the End I can get around 4-8TB of storage. (I can't say how much I need until I am back home and can calculate what is really needed)

Any other thoughts or suggestions ?

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Sheldon N
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2009, 11:12:30 PM »
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You don't mention Mac or PC?

In PC land, I'd recommend an OC'd i7 CPU (shoot for 4Ghz), SSD (or pair of RAID 0 SSD's) for the OS, 2-4 7200RPM HD's in RAID 0 for scratch, plus several big TB HD's for storage. 24gb of RAM is overkill on a 64bit OS, since it's all directly accessible. 12-16GB should be fine. The storage hard drives don't need to be fast, but having SSD for the OS will improve responsiveness and having high data throughput (RAID 0) for scratch disk will improve speed on big file handling. This system could easily be done for sub $2k.

That would be a smoking fast machine. Dual CPU's doesn't really get you anything for most of Lightroom/CS4/etc compared to a fast quad core.
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Christopher
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2009, 11:39:34 PM »
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Quote from: Sheldon N
You don't mention Mac or PC?

In PC land, I'd recommend an OC'd i7 CPU (shoot for 4Ghz), SSD (or pair of RAID 0 SSD's) for the OS, 2-4 7200RPM HD's in RAID 0 for scratch, plus several big TB HD's for storage. 24gb of RAM is overkill on a 64bit OS, since it's all directly accessible. 12-16GB should be fine. The storage hard drives don't need to be fast, but having SSD for the OS will improve responsiveness and having high data throughput (RAID 0) for scratch disk will improve speed on big file handling. This system could easily be done for sub $2k.

That would be a smoking fast machine. Dual CPU's doesn't really get you anything for most of Lightroom/CS4/etc compared to a fast quad core.

First of all thanks. I'm talking about a PC, not seeing any sense in getting a mac. (no benefits)

I want to add something about file size, I'm when i sad large I meant often something around 4-10GB, sometimes even above 15GB, that was the main reason why I wanted to aim for a full 24GB of RAM.

One of the main question is still, does it to make sense to split "System, programs, current image files and scratch disk"? I mean if you have two SSDs in RAID 0 for the OS, and it gives you let's say 300Mb/s and 4 normal HDs in RAID 0 which would give you something like 300-400Mb/s, is that really FASTER than to put everything on one large RAID 0 out of 4 SSDs, giving you a speed of 600Mb/s ?

(All speed numbers are not correct, just picked them to illustrate my point)
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Josh-H
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2009, 03:40:10 AM »
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I'm talking about a PC, not seeing any sense in getting a mac. (no benefits)

You need to watch more 'Get a Mac Adds'  

On topic - As the last thing the internet needs is another mac v. pc thread - I would go with 32 gig of RAM. I am running the same applications as you are Christopher on a Mac Pro 8 Core Xeon and I noticed a performance increase that was substantial from 24 to 32 gig when stitching multiple large DSLR 20+ MPX files. Your P65+ files with love you for the extra RAM.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 02:54:42 PM by Josh-H » Logged

Christopher
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2009, 04:22:07 AM »
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Quote from: Josh-H
You need to watch more 'Get a Mac Adds'  

On topic - As the last thing the internet needs is another mac v. pc thread - I would go with 36 gig of RAM. I am running the same applications as you are Christopher on a Mac Pro 8 Core Xeon and I noticed a performance increase that was substantial from 24 to 36 gig when stitching multiple large DSLR 20+ MPX files. Your P65+ files with love you for the extra RAM.

When stitching yes, you would even notice more with 64GB or 128GB of RAM. PTGui for example requires disk space for rendering anything from 20GB to 100GB. So with more ram it is a lot faster. However once the pano is done I think the difference won't be that big anymore. (working with large files in lightrrom or PS) Here I think a fast storage solution will speed up the workflow much more.

I mean if I have a 10GB pano for example, than loading that into PS is not really paced by the RAM but on the reading speed of your drives. Here 16, 24, 32 or 64 GB won't make a difference, but a a simple RAID 5 with only 200MB/s against a SSD Raid 0 with 600-800MB/s would make a huge difference.

The thing that really pisses me off the most that there are no real benches and reviews for LR, PS, C1 and so on. I mean in the End the question is always, what do you get for your money. Will a 8 Core system with 36GB of RAM, really be THAT much faster than a Quad core sytsem with 16Gb of RAM ? I don't have the answer to that, but I know the price difference is around certainly over 4000$, if not more.

EDIT: I mean I would love to test a few systems out there, and check how they perform for us photographers, but well I don't have these options. I mean the only thing one can sometimes find is PS CS4 and a test with a 70MB tiff file, there they stop the time for 6 filters to run. The one thing it tells us that CS4 is still very poor in handling multi cores. The biggest difference in time is clock speed and not cores. a lot of Dual Core Systems outperform a quad or 8 core system. However, that sadly tells us nothing about speed for opening and saving files and other stuff.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 04:26:18 AM by Christopher » Logged

mmurph
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2009, 01:02:14 PM »
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Chrsitopher,

You know as much about this as I do. I'll describe what I did - with improvements for my "slips" - FWIW. (I do have a degree in photography, and one in computer science.)  

My target is usually about 85% on a cost/effectiveness basis. Beyond that it is just cheaper to wait 6 months and buy a better base machine for $600 instead of $2,500 today, as you mention. Plus, I over obsess and overengineer when designing, but on a day-today basis, that extra 5% to 10% is totally irrelevant.

So, I built a core network of 4 machines with 2 gigabit lans. One for "local" data - photoshop macgine, server, nas - and one for "external" data - wirelress lan, laptops, etc.

I would suggest 2 machines as a start:

1) A Photoshop/Lightroom **only** box that may not even have a daily ionternet connection! Probably an i7 920, and

2) An application/data/storage server for **everything** else - any core applications, data storage, offload processing, printing, backups, etc.  Probably a Dell Poweredge quad Xeon 300 or 500 series, no highg-end video required.  With dual gigabit network cards and a hardware Raid controller (a 3rd box would be an actual NAS, in addition to this server.) Base cost $500 + RAID card + RAM + disks.

In the photo machine, I personally would put 3-4 320GB WD 7200 drives in Raid 0 or similar for OS. Apps, and Scratch disk (2 or more separate logical drives of course. As many as you can squeeze. Cloned for instant re-install)  I am ambivalent on SSD - a bit too pricy yet.   (I got the WD Caviar Blue for $30 each. They area great size for OS, aps.)

Then a couple of 1 to 2TB HDD's - one for RAW files (local working copy) and one for WORKING files (lightroom database, etc.) Backed up to the Ap/Data server often over gigabit.

For RAM, I'd do as much as I could with 2GB chips.  The 4GB chips are just too effing expensive! Might as well buy an extra box instead for $600!!!  

My 3rd box is the NAS with 6TB and Windows Home Server. It is off 90% of the time.

My 4th box is my "everythinhg else" machine -a dual core laptop with 4GB  for watching TV, music listening, e-mail, Outlook, etc.  I keep the server as a pure server (Running Hyper-V: was ESXi from VMWare.)

Everything else - bluray players, tv's, 3 other laptops, etc run off of the "external" lan to avoid traffic.   There is actually a bridge to a 3rd router, which is the internet gateway for all.

Just thoughts. Have fun!  (Sorry for typos, hand pain ....)

Cheers,
Michael
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2009, 01:27:07 PM »
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Wow, those are large files! With that size of file I would agree that 24GB of RAM is totally reasonable.

Yes, I think there is a significant benefit for splitting the Scratch disk off from the rest of the other functions. The scratch disk would definitely become involved in working on 5-15GB file sizes, even with a lot of RAM.

From what I've seen, using an SSD for scratch doesn't really gain any benefits over a conventional hard drive. The sustained write speeds on SSD's aren't any better than a good 7200RPM drive, so there's no need to spend the extra money for use in a scratch disk. Take 4 1TB or 640GB drives such as the WD RE3 and put them in a RAID 0, partition off the first stripe for scratch. So many of the operations on huge file are totally dependent on the data throughput rate for a scratch disk. If you have any other operations trying to access the scratch disk when it's being used, that would slow down the scratch throughput. That's why people usually create a dedicated scratch volume.

The data transfer speed of the image storage volume would matter when loading up a file, but I don't think that the storage volume gets accessed much once the file is completely loaded. I think you might be able to get away with using the remainding partition space of the RAID 0 array as short term image storage for working files (with some sort of backup arrangement for longer term storage). The fast RAID 0 array would speed up opening up a large working file, and also would serve as fast scratch.

SSD is ideal for the OS/Program drive, because of its fast read and seek times. Faster overall operation, faster loading of programs, plus no interference of the OS with scratch disk usage.

I agree with your comments about multi-core usage. LR 64 bit does use a quad core fairly well, but clock speed is more important overall. I don't think that an 8 core dual CPU machine would help much for LR/CS4/C1 usage. Get a fast OC'd i7, and focus the rest of the build on RAM and hard drives with fast data transfer rates.
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mmurph
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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2009, 02:38:30 PM »
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Well, this is the big problem, as far as I can see:  (all Newegg prices)

* CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 12800)    $170  ($30 GB MIDPOINT PRICE)

* Kingston HyperX 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 12800)  $1,200  ($100 GB )



This is a bit better:

* G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 8500)    $800 ($50 GB)



If you really need more than 12 GB, then:

* SUPERMICRO MBD-X8DAE-O Dual Intel Xeon 5500 sequence Server Motherboard - Retail  $430

Number of DDR3 Slots: 12 × 240pin
DDR3: Standard DDR3 1333

Maximum Memory Supported: Supports up to 96 GB 1333 / 1066 / 800MHz DDR3 ECC Registered memory

Supports up to 24 GB 1333 / 1066 / 800MHz DDR3 ECC Unbuffered memory
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 02:50:27 PM by mmurph » Logged
Christopher
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2009, 03:29:00 PM »
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Quote from: mmurph
Well, this is the big problem, as far as I can see:  (all Newegg prices)

* CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 12800)    $170  ($30 GB MIDPOINT PRICE)

* Kingston HyperX 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 12800)  $1,200  ($100 GB )



This is a bit better:

* G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 8500)    $800 ($50 GB)



If you really need more than 12 GB, then:

* SUPERMICRO MBD-X8DAE-O Dual Intel Xeon 5500 sequence Server Motherboard - Retail  $430

Number of DDR3 Slots: 12 × 240pin
DDR3: Standard DDR3 1333

Maximum Memory Supported: Supports up to 96 GB 1333 / 1066 / 800MHz DDR3 ECC Registered memory

Supports up to 24 GB 1333 / 1066 / 800MHz DDR3 ECC Unbuffered memory

That's one reason I'm still thinking on it. 4GB modules are really expensive compared to the rest. On solution would be to get 16GB now and wait for the last 8 until prices drop in half a year or so.
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mmurph
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2009, 04:24:52 PM »
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Quote from: Christopher
wait for the last 8 until prices drop in half a year or so.

That was my call. It is just that incremental price of 3x the cost for teh same amount of RAM that I choke on ..... I can take a sip of coffee for the next 6 months to save $1K - plus the Xeon 5400 - plus the MB, etc.  ....  

But - my files are rarely above 1GB.  So I went i7 920.  

Maybe the SSD Raid 0? Phil pointed me to a $90 SSD recently I think.

"The network is the computer" was where I turned for second tier (stroage, backup, etc.) functions. Too bad we can't parcel all this out in chunks yet for core functions!  

Best,
Michael
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Bob Peterson
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« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2009, 05:25:43 PM »
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Quote from: Christopher
Ok soon it will be time for me to build a new workstation at home.

...

As Image storage I was thinking about using RAID 5 with 4-6 HDs. So that in the End I can get around 4-8TB of storage. (I can't say how much I need until I am back home and can calculate what is really needed)

Any other thoughts or suggestions ?
RAID 5 tolerates single drive failures.  Rebuilding the failed drive when the array is built using terabyte drives requires a LONG time, and during the rebuild a second failure looses the entire array.  Rebuilding a RAID 5 array after the failure of a 1TB drive is likely to require at least 12 hours.  (There's experience behind that statement!) Other RAID levels, e.g., RAID 6 and RAID 10, tolerate two simultaneous drive failures, meaning the array isn't vulnerable while rebuilding from a single drive failure.

Also note that RAID is for improving availability, not as a substitute for backups!

Reliable storage is clearly subject to "Fast, cheap, good--pick two."  RAID controllers, desirable for RAID levels using striped parity, cost more than a simple JBOD controller, and redundancy requires additional storage, ranging from less than 10% to 100%.

Mac Performance Guide offers some suggestions for RAID use, as well as some interesting benchmarks showing Photoshop performance with various memory sizes.  While focused on Apple systems, I believe the benchmark results can be relevant to Windows boxes.

Adaptec offers a white paper describing the common RAID levels.

Bob
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2009, 06:07:33 PM »
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Quote from: Sheldon N
I agree with your comments about multi-core usage. LR 64 bit does use a quad core fairly well, but clock speed is more important overall. I don't think that an 8 core dual CPU machine would help much for LR/CS4/C1 usage.

C1 Pro makes a very good usage of multi-core at least on OSX, my 8 core Mac Pro is near 100% (all 8 cores maxed out) most of the time during C1 conversions, same thing with Autopano pro except for the smartblend part (but that will be fixed soon).

Since I typically do both at the same time, I would personally gain a lot from having 16 cores instead of 8.

I also did some 32GB vs 16GB RAM comparisons for my typical heavy paralleled tasks (C1 Pro conversion, Autopano pro/PTgui pano computation and PS work) and found up to 40% speed increase for some of the apps (no gain for PS).

PS is years behind but many other apps have move ahead.

Cheers,
Bernard
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2009, 06:14:20 PM »
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Quote from: mmurph
* Kingston HyperX 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 (PC3 12800)  $1,200  ($100 GB )

You can get 32GB of 1066 with special Mac Pro specs for 1250 US$...

http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20Wor...g/85MP3S4M32GK/

Cheers,
Bernard
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mmurph
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« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2009, 07:21:55 PM »
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Thanks Bernard!  Interesting!    

I did find one nasty comment at macrumors on that memory. I'll post the link without comment - no real input/knowledge on my part.  About 3/4 of the way down:

http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-697621.html


Now I want to buy a box just to shove that RAM in it. Is that ass-backward or what?  

Cheers,
Michael
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Christopher
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« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2009, 08:13:19 PM »
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Just did some very rough calculations on my part, to get a better feeling of the actually money it would cost. Here are my results, for Motherboard, CPU and RAM nothing else. Prices in EUR

Core i7 3,0 Ghz
X58 board
12Gb RAM
-----------
900EUR


Core i7 3,0 Ghz
X58 board
16Gb RAM
-----------
1300EUR

Core i7 3,0 Ghz
X58 board
24Gb RAM
-----------
1600EUR

1 x Intel Xeon 2.7Ghz
ASUS  board
24Gb RAM
------------
1750EUR

1 x Intel Xeon 2.7Ghz
ASUS  board
32Gb RAM
------------
2000EUR

2 x Intel Xeon 2.7Ghz
ASUS board
24Gb RAM
------------
2500EUR

2 x Intel Xeon 2.7Ghz
ASUS  board
36Gb RAM
------------
2700EUR

The rest would be more or less the same for both systems. HDs, SSDs graphic card and so on.
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mmurph
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« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2009, 10:49:53 AM »
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Thanks Christopher, nice summary!

Pretty linear. Put it up on the wall and throw a dart?  

Too bad you can't order it all up, test, then send back the rejects.  Those files of yours are really pushing the RAM hard.  

Maybe Lightroom 3 or PS 5 or Capture One 5 will ease the requirements a bit? At least they may make more use of the multiple cores? Have not looked yet in detail. (OK, just re-tread Bernard's excellent comments on this. Thx! m.)
« Last Edit: November 05, 2009, 10:55:43 AM by mmurph » Logged
Christopher
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« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2009, 01:43:12 PM »
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Quote from: mmurph
Thanks Christopher, nice summary!

Pretty linear. Put it up on the wall and throw a dart?  

Too bad you can't order it all up, test, then send back the rejects.  Those files of yours are really pushing the RAM hard.  

Maybe Lightroom 3 or PS 5 or Capture One 5 will ease the requirements a bit? At least they may make more use of the multiple cores? Have not looked yet in detail. (OK, just re-tread Bernard's excellent comments on this. Thx! m.)

Well Yes and it really starts one thinking. I still haven't decided. The main aspect why I am so unsure is if the Xeon makes sense. I have a lor of experience with OCing desktop CPUs and I know what I can get out of the i7. I built two machines for some friends, one a gaming guy the other doing a lot of video work. Both have a i7 running at 3,9Ghz, without any problems. (Not hotter than with normal or anything else)

This makes one really think, especially NOW that I know that CS4 still uses only ONE CPU for saving and opening files. ( Which by the way ADOBE WTF ? ) I'm not even sure if they are gonna change it in CS5. Next point being I have a separate computer for just rendering panoramics with PTGUI.

I'm still trying to fine people, who have access to many different computers, main problem right now being most don't have a dual Xeon with 32 Gb sitting around ;-)



Still i think I narrowed down one topic. Right now I am thinking about the following drive setup:

System, programs and workfiles on:
3 x SSDs in  RAID 0 (probably 256Gb each)
4 x HDs with XXXGb as Scratch. I would use 40 or 80Gb, problem being I can't find new fast HDs in the sub 500GB category. So perhaps it will become a 2TB scratch ^^
6 x 2TB disks running in RAID 5 or 10, still trying do decide. (I know that Raid 5 is faster and raid 10 more secure, any actual info on how big the speed difference is ?)
1 x 500Gb disk to store all the crap, like installers and stuff.

I still would prefer SSDs as scratch, however the prices are still high, especially the there is ONLY the Intel E which has high write speed with low GB count. Most SSDs offer only 130 write speed till they hit 128 or 256Gb and than jump up to 170.
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« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2009, 05:38:38 PM »
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Quote from: Christopher
4 x HDs with XXXGb as Scratch. I would use 40 or 80Gb, problem being I can't find new fast HDs in the sub 500GB category. So perhaps it will become a 2TB scratch ^^

Raptors/Velociraptors are still your best bet IMHO.

Quote from: Christopher
I still would prefer SSDs as scratch, however the prices are still high, especially the there is ONLY the Intel E which has high write speed with low GB count. Most SSDs offer only 130 write speed till they hit 128 or 256Gb and than jump up to 170.

You might want to check out OCZ Vertex Turbo series, pretty close to Intel E performance I hear. Not cheap, but cheaper.

Besides, 3x60GB in Raid 0 will result in one 180 GB disk that is large enough for most applications. Even my largest panos didn't generate a scratch file larger than 100GB if I recall correctly. That would you less than 1000 US$:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16820227469

You could also get 3x Intel E 32GB for about the same price: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16820167013

That would still be enough for many cases.

Remember that system sizing should not be done with a heavy emphasis on peak usage, that would result in specs way overkill for 90% of your usage.

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2009, 06:50:16 PM »
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Edit: I know I only would need a scratch around 100Gb, however there are no smaller HDs. Even Raptors/Velociraptors don't make so much sense. Their read and write speed is not faster than current 7200 HDs.

Yes that is a option, and I would do it, IF all sized SSDs had the same performance. However it looks like this:
(all average values)
OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB = 230 Read and 220 Write = 550US
OCZ Vertex Turbo 60GB = 200 Read and 130 Write = 315 US
OCZ Vertex Turbo 30GB = 200 Read and 120 Write = 180US

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 320Gb = 100Read and 100 write = 45US

For a Scratch disk the most important part is Write speeds, now the perfect choice would be a few OCZ 120GBs, but well, I don't have nearly 2k just for a scratch disk ;-)

So I think for me there are two options.

Getting 4 x OCZ Vertex Turbo 30GB, which would cost me 720 US
or
Getting 4 x normal HDs which would cost me 180US

I mean if the smaller SSDs had the same write speed as the larger one, I wouldn't even argue about it ;-)

For my System I will use something like three the OCZ, just not sure if 120Gb each or 256. Still deciding between some companies, but best is to wait till January and see what is happening.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2009, 06:52:01 PM by Christopher » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: November 06, 2009, 08:47:25 AM »
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I wanted to add some notes to this thread.

Regarding RAM, you can’t have too much with a 64-bit machine. In an ideal world your computer would have enough ram so that it almost never needs to access the hard drive.

Investigate using a RAM disk as a paging file/scratch disk. This is not to be confused with a SSD drive.

Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware software: Configure these programs so that they exclude the directory structure where PS/LR are installed, where your data is stored, and especially the drive where the paging file/scratch disk(s) are maintained. A/V software checks most every file you load and save. It adds a lot of processing time.

Page file/scratch disk. For best performance put these on their own drive or as mentioned above, a RAM drive. A SSD drive is also a good choice.
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