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HP Workstation Event: HP takes lead in workstation virtualisation

Published 30 March 2009

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: workstations, hp workstation event, virtualisation, windows 7, parallels

#3: Despite being one of the most interesting technologies to appear at HP’s workstation event, it was surprising that this new workstation virtualisation technology was given so little stage time. Parallels Workstation Extreme enables users to run multiple Operating Systems on a single workstation, meaning Linux and Windows users don’t have to work with two workstations concurrently or resort to dual boot. But the real beauty of the technology is that it is claimed to run applications at 95-100% of their full speed.

I had a very interesting chat with James Raquepau, OEM Alliances Director, Parallels, who explained more about the technology and how he has already had interest from the automotive and aerospace sectors. For those that don’t know, Parallels is best known for its software that enables Windows to run at speed on Apple’s OS X. The new workstation-class product will do a similar thing for Windows and Linux so engineers could switch between their Linux-based CAE software and Windows-based design software, accessing the same data off the hard drive array, driving efficiency and reducing the costs and power requirements of maintaining two workstations.

Schlumberger, a specialist in the oil and gas sector, demonstrated Parallels Workstation Extreme at the event running on a HP Z800 workstation with two 30-inch monitors. It showed it running a Linux-based simulation using all eight cores while continuing to perform interactive 3D modelling operations under Windows at full speed. Changing control of the application was as simple as moving the mouse from one screen to the other with the keyboard following suit automatically.

Schlumberger’s excitement for the software was evident, particularly as many of its customers regularly need to run legacy Linux code alongside more modern Windows applications.

James Raquepau told me the requirements for the system are two identical graphics cards (HP currently supports Nvidia’s Quadro FX3800, FX4800, and FX5800), lots of memory and ideally a dual socket (CPU) workstation. The technology is made possible by new virtualization technology built into the new Intel technology and while it should run comfortably on any dual socket Intel Xeon 5500 platform, Parallels is initially partnering with HP for the launch of the product. It will retail for $399.

This looks to be an essential technology for those with multi OS requirements, and Raquepau also told me this could include those that want to work with the forthcoming Windows 7 whilst maintaining legacy Windows XP applications. Interesting times.

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HP Workstation Event: HP targets collaboration with SkyRoom

Published 30 March 2009

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: hp, workstations, collaboration, hp workstation event

Jim Zafarana, Vice President and General Manager, Global Business Unit, Workstations, demonstrates HP’s new SkyRoom collaborative technology running SolidWorks’ eDrawings with a live connection to Jeff Wood, Director, worldwide workstation marketing

#2: For a few years now HP has had an excellent technology for collaboration, but a bit of a problem in communicating that to customers. The name, Remote Graphics Software (RGS), never exactly rolled off the tongue!

But now HP is in the process of re-branding and re-packaging its proprietary compression technology and combining it with its high-end Halo Studio technology to form a product that it is going to call HP SkyRoom.

HP describes SkyRoom as a ‘professional-quality visual collaboration and conferencing solution that preserves the value of highly personal human interaction.’ In short it combines video conferencing in a collaborative design environment where users can share any application on each other’s desktops, but at a much higher quality and frame rates than can be achieved with current generation tools

Jim Zafarana, Vice President and General Manager, Global Business Unit, Workstations, demonstrated the technology with Jeff Wood, Director, worldwide workstation marketing, over a TCP/IP network and the results were superb. The technology also appeared incredibly easy to use. Zafarana simply highlighted the portion of the screen to share (demonstrated using SolidWorks eDrawings). Up to four people can be connected at one time and they can also see what is in the ‘lens’.

The software is being architected to run on multi-core systems and also supports HyperThreading with Jeff Wood stating that the experience would be much richer on these systems. The base line of a Dual Core 2GHz machine was also mentioned. However, HP chose not to talk about bandwidth requirements as the product is still in beta at customer sites. With this in mind I’m a bit skeptical of how good an experience users will get over the Internet, or indeed if this system is designed to work on such bandwidth limited connections. I guess we will find out more when this collaborative design technology is launched later this year, which incidentally will run on all hardware and not just HP’s.

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Nvidia unveils new Quadro FX line up

Published 30 March 2009

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: nvidia, quadro, parallels

With two of these new Nvidia Quadro FX3800 graphics cards you can run Windows and Linux at the same timer on the same workstation with little or no drop in 3D performance

On what is arguably the biggest day for workstation-class hardware releases for some years Nvidia has unveiled its new top-to-bottom line of Quadro FX professional GPU solutions, many of which will soon be available in new workstations from all the major manufacturers.

Joining the Quadro FX 5800 and Quadro FX 4800, which were announced last year, are the Quadro FX 380, FX 580, FX 1800, and FX 3800. Apart from promising better performance than its previous generation cards, one of the most interesting new features is the introduction of Nvidia SLI Multi-OS, a technology that enables workstation virtualisation.

Supported in the Quadro FX 3800 and above, SLI Multi-OS works in association with Parallels Workstation Extreme virtualisation software and Intel’s VT-d technology, assigning both the host and guest virtual machine its own dedicated GPU and boasting close to 100% the 3D performance that you would get from running each OS on its own workstation.

Click here for my first experiences with Parallels Workstation Extreme virtualisation software

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Dell unveils new Precision workstations

Published 30 March 2009

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: amd, nvidia, quadro, dell, workstations, firepro, xeon 5500, ati, nehalem, windows

Dell officially unveiled its new range of workstation-class systems today with the launch of the Precision T3500, T5500 and T7500. Like all new workstations being announced this week, the new Precision family is based on Intel’s Xeon 5500 Series (Nehalem) architecture, which offers incredible power for multi-threaded applications; particularly those that take advantage of HyperThreading, such as 3ds Max and HyperShot.

Like most of the major workstation vendors, Dell has bypassed Intel’s Core i7 platform for its new Precisions, instead waiting for ECC (Error Correcting Code) memory for better accuracy, which is not supported on Core i7. The new Xeon platform also, uniquely, supports Direct Cache Access (DCA) which enables the cache of inactive cores to be accessed by those that are active.

Dell has expanded its range of graphics options with new cards from Nvidia including the Quadro FX 580, FX 1800 and FX 3800, but has also increased the number of AMD ATI FirePro cards it carries in the range with standard options available on the FirePro V3750, V5700 and V8700. Up to two Quadro FX4800 and FX5800 are available in the high-end T7500.

Acoustics has been a major design concentration for the new Precisions with low duty fans aiding the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) designed airflow. Dell has also done a lot of research into ‘what if’ scenarios, modelling what would happen if one vent was blocked off, for example.

In terms of machine positioning, the single socket T3500 will take up the entry-level role, but Dell will continue to offer the Core 2 Duo-based T3400 for those on incredibly tight budgets. The mid-range T5500 is a particularly interesting machine, specifically because Dell has managed to pack so much technology into such as small chassis. Dell gave DEVELOP3D a sneak preview of the machine and we were astounded by the engineering that has gone into this, with the second processor and memory located at 90 degrees to the motherboard on a riser card. With such a small footprint, however, the T5500 is fairly limited in its expandability and this is where the T7500 fits in with capacity for up 192GB RAM and a ridiculous amount of hard drives. It also includes an on-board SAS controller.

While the new systems will ship with Windows Vista by default, Dell will continue to offer Windows XP downgrades (with XP recovery disks) as well as Linux. However, thorough its custom factory integration program Dell can supply workstations with XP pre-installed, and it is also possible for customers to supply disk images for Operating System, network and applications, which Dell installs prior to shipping.

Dell is also in the process of developing a new Flash-driven workstation advisor website, which is designed to make it easier for customers to choose workstations according to which applications they use. This is coming in Q2 2009.

Look out for review of the new Precision range soon.

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