After completing my last episode HomeLab Stage LXIII New UPS Setup it is time to talk about my newest project: THE ultimate workstation!!!
I have created my own workstation in the past (HomeLab Stage LVII Workstation 8K). That machine worked very well, but what would be technically possible today?
I am using Intel´s Optane P4800X for vSAN within every customer environment as a caching device. The performance is outstanding. Intel has released a new version: The Optane P5800X! This is a beauty and a beast.
Want more information about the Intel Optane platform? I can recommend to you the Intel Partner University with two really good training plans:
Let´s dive a little bit deeper into each segment
PC vs Workstation
What’s the difference between a workstation and a traditional PC? For people working in media and entertainment business, where high octane power is a must, workstations can provide a solid competitive advantage. While a standard PC can handle basic functions without an issue, the likes of word processing, web processing, and email, a standard PC isn’t outfitted with the high-powered components required by the likes photo editing, performing live renderings, animation, or video and audio creation.
While the industry’s technological advancements have enabled standard PCs to handle applications like Illustrators or Video Editors, they struggle to complete complex, multi-layered projects. This is due to a standard PCs inability to feature high-octane processing power and high definition resolution needed to support intensive workflows. More and more IT professionals must handle high resolution displays (4k, 5k and sometimes 8k).
But what exactly defines power and how much power is necessary for the kinds of tasks media and entertainment professionals often encounter? In order for smooth editing, rendering, and exporting, RAM is an essential component in combination with a powerful CPU/GPU. Actual workstations supports up to several terabytes of memory. Typical workstation memory size today is between 128GB-512GB. DDR4-3200MHz ECC modules are up to date and especially error correction is necessary for professional applications.
Beyond RAM other factors like the amount of CPU cores and high-end storage technologies are essential in the workstation vs PC comparison. By choosing a CPU with multiple cores, combined with high single thread performance—those upward of 12 or even 24 cores—users will experience a rapid lift in parallel processing ability, meaning that each core will be able to process a different action, allowing the whole to come together much faster. The memory speed is also a very important factor and the number of available memory channels. The Intel Ice Lake Xeon W 3300 CPUs are able to support PCIe 4.0, has 64 PCIe lane support and can handle 8 memory channels. This makes it a perfect workstation CPU.
In addition to CPUs and SSDs, graphics play an essential role in differentiating workstations from PCs and gaming devices. A discrete graphics card, meaning it has its own memory, is essential for high-performance when it comes to the likes of video editing. But why choose a workstation over a gaming PC? Even when it comes to gaming, the graphics cards, when working in tandem with other workstation components create an environment where a workstation PC can output perfect renders every time. Workstations running Windows 10 or Windows 11 with the Ultimate Performance energy option offer power-users top of the line discrete graphics cards from NVIDIA, packing tons of power. Plus, with workstations, you get the added support of NVIDIA Quadro RTX graphic cards, whereas gaming PCs can only support GeForce cards. But, what’s the difference between these two, and why does it matter to you? The difference is in the details. In terms of the hardware itself, there’s simply more graphical computing power in the Quadro line than in the GeForce line. The GPUs have just a little more juice. The Geforce RTX GPUs are optimized for gaming, the Quadro RTX GPUs are optimized for professional applications. The Quadro RTX cards also have more graphics memory, which can offer significant performance gains in professional workflows. For example the Geforce RTX3090 Gaming GPU has 24GB of GDDR6 memory, the Quadro RTX A6000 (which has the same core infrastructure) has 48GB of GDDR6 memory. If that is not enough, you can bundle two of these GPUs together with a dedicated NVlink connection via a hardware bridge. That would create a Dual GPU with 21.504 GPU cores and 96GB of GDDR6 memory.
When it comes to hard drives, a device equipped with a NVMe SSD will rapidly outpace a „normal“ SSD drive. By utilizing an high performance NVMe device like the Intel P5800X, editors are essentially able to speed up the reading of footage from the storage medium, allowing the entire editing, rendering, and saving process to move at a faster pace. The Intel Optane P5800X is able to shift up to 7GB/s and deliver 1.5 million IOPs. This is the fastest available flash device today and it is the ultimate SSD for a high-end workstation.
What are typical workstation applications for IT professionals?
- Working with Microsoft Office Applications
- Creating pdf documents
- Writing blog articles
- Creating Podcasts
- Creating Videos
- Photo Editing
- Video Editing
- Video Converting
- Working with Virtual Machines
- Some Gaming?
My ultimate workstation setup:
I want to create the ultimate workstation with the best available hardware options on the market!
Let´s start with the hardware list:
1 x Intel Xeon W-3335 Ice-Lake, 16 Cores, 3.40 GHz base frequency, Turbo frequency 4.00 GHz
8 x 64 GB DDR4-ECC 3200MHz memory =8 channel Ice Lake =512 GB RAM
1 x SuperMicro X12-SPA-TF mainboard supporting socket LGA4189 CPU
1 x SuperMicro TPM module for Microsoft Windows 11 support
1 x Intel Optane P5800X 1.6TB flash device on PCIe adapter card
2 x Nvidia RTX A6000 GPUs with NVlink 2 slot bridge support 112.5GB/s bandwidth (PCIe 4.0)
1 x Nvidia Networking (Mellanox) Connectx-4-LX NIC (40GbE)
2 x Dell UP3218K 32” 8K Monitors running a 7680×4320 resolution
1 x Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus Pure Edition (PCIe 3.0)
1 x Corsair AX1600i Power Supply with 80 Plus Titanium Efficiency with USB monitoring
1 x Noctua NH-U12S DX-4189 CPU cooler with dual 120mm fans low noise
1 x Coolermaster C700M case
1 x Goverlay internal monitoring display
Some RGB fans and lights….
How does it look?
Additional hardware for my workstation setup:
- Noctua Chromax Custom fans
- Corsair RGB Case fans
- Corsair Commander Pro Controller
- Logitech Craft Keyboard
- Logitech Trackball
- Logitech BRIO Webcam
- Logitech Overhead Webcam
- Elgato KeyLights
- Elgato Greenscreen
- Elgato Link 4K Camcorder
- Elgato Streamdeck XL
- Avermedia LiveStreamer Nexus
- Studio Condenser Microphone
- Bose Sound System
How to test performance of that workstation? Starting with the Microsoft Windows 11 optimizations and tunings:
Next configuration option is the NVIDIA GPU part:
The GPU utilization is visible also inside the NVIDIA RTX settings application:
Testing performance with the build in Windows 11 option
The Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT) is a module of Windows operating system and is found in the control panel. Its purpose is to evaluate the performance of your computer and the hardware capabilities which it is running. It reports the results as Windows Experience Index (WEI) score.
This WEI score allows people to match their computer hardware performance with the software they are running.
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) score gives an overview of the system. It is possible to run a dedicated storage performance test with the winsat diskformal command.
ATTO Disk benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark measures performance in hard drives, solid state drives, RAID arrays as well as the host connection to attached storage. It can be used to test any OEM RAID controller, storage controller, host adapter, hard drive or SSD drive.
The SPECworkstation 3.1 benchmark includes more than 30 workloads containing nearly 140 tests that exercise CPU, graphics, I/O and memory bandwidth. The updates in version 3.1 offer significant improvements in how workloads partition and distribute threads across multi-core CPUs, expand support for next generation GPUs, and add features such as vectorization that leverage advanced CPU hardware to accelerate performance.
Camtasia Video Editor
Camtasia is a software suite, created and published by TechSmith, for creating and recording video tutorials and presentations directly via screencast, or via a direct recording plug-in to Microsoft PowerPoint. Audio or other multimedia recordings may be recorded at the same time or added separately from another source. This is used to load, modify and export video content, for example for training purposes.
PCMark 10 is a system benchmark for Windows machines with a focus on modern office tasks. It offers a variety of workloads categorised into four groups. The Essentials group includes web browsing, video conferencing, and app start-up time. The Productivity group includes tests based on spreadsheets and writing. The Digital Content Creation group includes photo editing, video editing, and a rendering and visualization test. The final group, Gaming, includes tests for real-time graphics and physics.
When running the PCmark 10 benchmark, you should not use your machine….
The benchmark is performing several tests including Web Browsing, Video Editing and Spreadsheets.
3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool to determine the performance of a computer’s 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. Running 3DMark produces a 3DMark score, with higher numbers indicating better performance. The 3DMark measurement unit is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different PC hardware configurations (mostly graphics processing units and central processing units).
3Dmark scoring of 23585 is quite high, compared to the Top machines worldwide:
This Intel based high-end workstation is able to perform every workload without any issue. The Intel Xeon W-3335 CPU in combination with the 8 memory channel Intel IceLake technology offers extreme performance. The Intel Optane P5800X device is delivering outstanding throughput and IOPs with minimal latency. I think I really created THE ultimate workstation…… What do you think?
Stay tuned for the next episodes….