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Author Topic: Dell T3600 as replacement for Mac Pro?  (Read 7113 times)
BernardLanguillier
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« on: May 21, 2012, 05:14:00 PM »
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Considering the lack of visibility about the future of the Mac Pro line combined with the aging of the my first gen 8 core Mac Pro (now nearly 5 years old), I am starting to actively investigate other options, namely a return to the excellent Windows platform.

As of now, the Dell T3600 sounds like the best option:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5769/dell-precision-t3600-review-dells-new-enterprise

Any comments from our hardware specialists?

Cheers,
Bernard
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Justan
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2012, 10:55:15 AM »
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Iíve put a couple dozen of the T3500s into service, mostly as CAD workstations, but havenít had the opportunity to work with this iteration.

The key details are drive and RAM. I would opt for SSD drives for the OS and page/scratch files and perhaps 2 or 3 RAIDed drives for data.

Iíd also suggest  > than 16 GB of RAM.

My experience has been that you canít go terribly wrong with a Dell workstation class computer. The few times Iíve had problems Dell has been good about solving the issue ASAP, usually within a day or 2. Their standard warranty provides for replacement parts and a tech within 1 business day after diagnosing the issue.

I think Dell has a warranty option that generally offers a 12 hour replacement policy option (iirc), but itís a lot less $$ to keep a couple of spare workstations around the office rather than pay for this pricy warranty option.

But, while youíre looking, also check out Dellís Precision 5500 series. This is their extreme upper end of performance in the Dell line, at least for workstations.

Now if you wanted ultimate drive performance, then a server platform with a good graphics card is the way to go. In fact you could do that and save several thousand $$, but thatís another story.
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2012, 11:07:10 AM »
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....
Now if you wanted ultimate drive performance, then a server platform with a good graphics card is the way to go. In fact you could do that and save several thousand $$, but thatís another story.

I'd be interested in you developing that story!
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Christopher Sanderson
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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2012, 11:15:31 AM »
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Me too !
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David S
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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2012, 08:33:20 AM »
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Please do keep us informed about your search. I suspect quite a few are going to need to do this switch.

Dave S
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Justan
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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2012, 10:44:51 AM »
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I'd be interested in you developing that story!

Okay, well, in summary, look into an off lease Dell PowerEdge 2950 or 2970 (or newer) server platform as your workstation. These are roughly the same platform. One uses Intel processor(s) and the other AMD. There are other server boxes that would do but prices in this category climb quickly.

The upside is that the 2950/70 series are inexpensive, compared to new, and offer great performance. The downside is that they can be tad noisy. This platform is a hugely popular model among enterprise class servers.

The 2950/70 is is built for high volume performance and is capable of supporting up to an office full of workstations doing all the things that workstations do. They are obnoxiously reliable. With a little shopping, they can be purchased off-lease for between 1 and 2 kilobucks, give or take for features.

The 2950/70 has been superseded starting about a year ago by the Dell PowerEdge R series.

The 2950/70 series platform can house up to 6 or 8 internal SATA, SAS or SSD drives; can accommodate multiple RAID drive arrays. They accommodate up to 32 GB of RAM. You can get all the specs at Dellís web site. They can run nearly any current generation Windows and some other OSes.

Server platforms are optimized for sustained high volume I/O. The 2950/70 uses the Dellís Perc 5/i or 6/i RAID controller for drive I/O and any of a variety of GB or > network cards.

The platform can have up to 2 Intel Xeon (or AMD) processors with up to 4 cores for each processor.

A couple of tests to illustrate performance using Photoshop CS5 and some panos with a 2950 that has 24 GB of RAM and 2 RAID 5 SATA based drive arrays (6 drives).  This is not close to ideal for performance, but great for fail-over survivability.

A pano that is a 1.8 GB .tif file loaded in about 36 seconds, including the time to open Photoshop.

If I close (not save) the file above and do a re-open - for an almost 100% cache hit - the same file will open in a little under 6 seconds.

The server saves this file in about 43 seconds.

Another file that is about 1.6 GB in size is similar in performance. Original open time was about 22 seconds, with Photoshop already running. The file saves in about 29 seconds. This is fairly typical performance with between 1 and 6 panos of this size open at the same time. As long as there is available RAM the performance doesnít perceptibly slow.

Even better than using a different RAID level, using the current generation of SSD drives would probably reduce the time by about up to half, and also eliminate all the noise related to spindle drives.

You donít need to run a server OS on these, but wonít hurt yourself by doing so.

Of course, you can buy a lot more power than what I posted above. Some server platforms intended for data centers are positively breath taking in their performance. Those start at about $30K and go up quickly from there. You get what you pay for and the 2950/70 platform is pretty good, and about half the cost of a current generation new workstation.

There you have it, blazing performance, inexpensive yet reliable hardware.

Iíve been using a 2950 for PS and related tasks for about the last year and have yet to have time to get a cup of coffee while waiting for anything related to Photoshop.

Lastly, i use this box by way of RDP (also known as remote desktop). By doing so i significantly extended the life of my current desktop machine, and also made it possible to have access to my photoshop computer and files, from anywhere there is internet access.
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2012, 11:29:17 AM »
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Many thanks! Definitely worth checking out. If & when a used server such as you describe fails, is it normally a drive issue or something more expensive? IOW which component(s) might be more suspect in an off-lease server?
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Christopher Sanderson
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Justan
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2012, 11:59:01 AM »
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Yer welcome! I've received a lot of useful advice from this site and am happy to return the favor when i can.

Drives and power supplies are the most predictable hardware prone to failure. Iíve seen one failed power supply so far out of a bunch of these servers that I have in service.

I got a replacement power supply for about $100. Note that in this class of computer drives and power supplies are ďhot swappableĒ devices. Hot swappable means you donít need to shut off the box to replace these parts.

The decision I made was to ignore replacing parts until there is a need. Why? The server has 2 power supplies and 2 fail-over drive arrays. As long as the host adapter doesnít fail (rare) then even if I lose a drive from each array *and* a power supply, the computer will probably work about as well as it did the day it was first put in service.

My plan is to replace 3 of the 1 TB drives with 3 2 TB drives when the server comes close to running out of space, or if a drive fails. Iíd love to replace all with SSD drives but they donít offer the capacity for a reasonable cost just yet, imo.

That reminds me, there are a few places that offer used parts for these, which is the way to go for anything other than a hard drive.

BTW, as it worked out I got a shiny new T3500 in yesterday. When I get the build far enough, along, Iíll test the same files noted above on it and report the times for the same tests.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2012, 02:21:04 PM »
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Many thanks Justan, that was informative indeed as I need to upgrade and had an eye on server solution. It just falls at the right time.

Just a quick note for old Mac foxes like Chris Tongue

Windows isn't at all now the crap thing it used to be. We would be 10 years ago, I'd never recommend to anybody to switch from Mac to Windows. But now it's a really good OS. Never had a crash, not one prob. It runs very well, highly customizable, cheaper and potentialy more powerfull. The usability and interface have improved a lot. Since Windows 7, I've never opened my Mac again. So the switch is not a big deal at all. Way easier than learning FCPX from FCP7  Tongue Tongue
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2012, 03:06:25 PM »
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For those hoping for that elusive new MacPro, put this post and this article (end of page one) together and hope  Smiley

It's intriguing that Apple would upgrade FCP X to use 12 cores without a machine on which to run it...
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 03:43:09 PM by Chris Sanderson » Logged

Christopher Sanderson
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fredjeang
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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2012, 05:09:45 PM »
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For those hoping for that elusive new MacPro, put this post and this article (end of page one) together and hope  Smiley

It's intriguing that Apple would upgrade FCP X to use 12 cores without a machine on which to run it...

Already tired of the Windows switching and the idea of PP ?  Wink I knew it !
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2012, 05:18:57 PM »
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Already tired of the Windows switching and the idea of PP ?  Wink I knew it !
Just waiting, watching and working with what I've got and not making any assumptions...'sniffing the wind'  Roll Eyes

Likely it will come down to $$ in the end
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Christopher Sanderson
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fredjeang
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« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2012, 02:58:07 AM »
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Yeah, I understand you. In the end a switch is always time and more importantly, numbers.

The good news is that it takes nothing to adapt. I did the switch when windows released the 7 os, for many reasons and it's damn easy.

On the NLE, I'm curently evaluating Lightworks, as you know that they will release those days the pro version with year license fee. A Mac and Linux version are on their way too.
I'll report an extensive post in the motion section very soon on my findings and concrete examples of the workflow but I can tell you at this point that this is the best software I've been using for decades.
After awhile with it, it's simply impossible for me to be back in my Avid, Edius or PP.
It remains to be seen how will the software handle the commercial codecs once I got the license, but I strongly recommend to keep an eye on it if you are in a wait-and-see position and not decided yet.

Coupled with an high-end HP workstation (the same recommended by Avid,Nuke etc...).

Cheers.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2012, 03:04:30 AM by fredjeang » Logged
Kevin Gallagher
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2012, 06:09:04 AM »
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  Hi all, I just found this link. It may be of interest  Smiley

 http://macdailynews.com/2012/05/25/we-want-a-new-mac-pro-petition-gathers-steam/
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mediumcool
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2012, 10:16:10 PM »
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One un-discussed consideration about switching platforms (whichever direction) is the cost of software: Adobe will permit a cross-platform transfer as a once-off deal, I understand, but what about CaptureOne and other RAW converters? Then thereís video editing software too, of course, if that is a requirement.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2012, 10:44:21 PM »
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One un-discussed consideration about switching platforms (whichever direction) is the cost of software: Adobe will permit a cross-platform transfer as a once-off deal, I understand, but what about CaptureOne and other RAW converters? Then thereís video editing software too, of course, if that is a requirement.

The cost was negligible when I moved from Win to OSX. In fact, if I leave aside the CS migration I would have done anyway, I believe the cost was zero although I own a healthy portfolio of imaging applications.

Regards,
Bernard
 
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aragdog
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« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2012, 03:46:39 PM »
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I spite of all of the rumors out there.  For some reason my dealer, a VAR vendor, thinks there will be another MacPro.  The stock levels at the distributors are very, very low.  This normally indicates that there is an update due.  May just be a guess but I think there is an update coming.  Perhaps the last upgrade.  There are some used and very recent for sale other than ebay.  So check that.
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arlon
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« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2012, 04:23:38 PM »
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Server idea is grand. With a D800 on the way I can see my needs for computing power going way past the Imac I have now. Such is life..
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