The best measure of any new system is what other users find when they put the machine to the test in real-world environments. How does the workstation perform in a real office? How does it deal with real multi-tasking? How does it render complex models and graphic elements with other activities going on in the background…or the foreground? How easy is it to "live with?"
HP set out to find answers to these questions as it introduced its new line of Z-Series Workstations by making HP Z800 Workstations available to a variety of different users to test out in their own environments. The results are more than encouraging.
Number-crunching performance is key for workstation users, and the more complex the designs, the more compute power is needed. According to Lisa Campbell, vice president of marketing, Platform Solutions and Emerging Businesses, for Autodesk, "There has been this major evolution over the last 8-15 years from just working in a 2D world to working in a 3D world, and now it's really a model-based design world."
“The compute power that's necessary for this has really increased over time," she continues, "which is where the Z Workstation has become critical to our customers. Because they are doing more complicated models and they're trying to do more complicated things with those models."
New Intel chipsets and processors drive performance sky high
The latest Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5500 Sequence processors provide this computational power for the HP Z800 Workstation. The new Intel technology offers up to 8 processing cores and 16 Hyperthreads served by up to 192 GB*, 1333 MHz** of six-channel DDR3 (3 channels per processor) memory in12 DIMM slots. Upping the ante even further is Intel Turbo Boost technology, which allows the processors to run faster than their specified operating frequency, turbocharging performance in both single and multi-threaded applications.
For Morgan DeFoort, co-director of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University, the ability to explore new ideas and try different variations on any model is a key benefit. For DeFoort's lab and graduate students, the increased performance and compute power of the HP Z800 Workstation enables innovation. With the HP Z800 Workstations, "We get about a 30 percent improvement in performance," he says. "We are able to significantly reduce the time it takes to see if a model is going to converge and see what results we are going to get from it. It really is a big deal for us because it allows us to try more designs, more iterations."
For The Engines and Energy Conversion Lab, more iterations means more chances to find that extra bit of performance or efficiency that may pave the way to the next generation of energy efficient, high-performance engines.
New graphics options such as the ATI FirePro V7750 with 1GB of graphics memory, the NVIDIA Quadro CX and NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800 with 4 GB of dedicated graphics memory also provide additional performance advantages, reducing rendering times and virtually eliminating machine "hangs" and other graphics issues. The ability to mount two integrated, high-performance graphics cards gives the HP Z800 Workstation the capability to support up to four, full-performance 3D monitors or eight 2D displays.
Solid state drives drive greater productivity
The new Solid State Drives (SSD) available for the HP Z800 Workstations truly revolutionize the high-performance workplace by bringing solid state performance to data retrieval. Aside from the speed and reliability, SSD technology can dramatically reduce the ambient noise of the workplace, making it a much more pleasant and productive environment.
According to Guillaume Jacquemin, head of IS-IT, Renault F1 Team, "At Renault F1, we’ve got offices where we've got bare concrete on the walls and previous workstations we've been using were, in fact, very loud. We believe that with this new workstation, where the acoustic is very good and the noise is very, very reduced, we could have a far more relaxed environment for the guys to innovate and design the car."
Branden Spikes, chief information officer of SpaceX, agrees. "The SSD drives in the Z-Series workstations really perform quite well in a number of scenarios and also are quite a bit quieter. I've noticed that the hum of 15000rpm high-performance drives can really be a distraction. The Z with the SSDs is like today's modern electric sports cars - they offer incredible performance, but you barely hear anything."
Spikes also noted the significant performance advantage over previous workstations. "The new Z Workstations are dramatically faster than the workstations that we’d previously standardized on for our development platform. It is roughly 45 percent faster in our real-world tests using our CAD applications and design software."
Scalability and headroom
Scalability and upgradeability also drew many comments from testers. Simon Hayhurst, director of product management for Adobe, was especially enthusiastic on this point. "I love the Z800 because it gives us the possibility of putting in more RAM, running with 8 cores and 16 Hyperthreads so that I can get more performance on rendering."
The capacity of the HP Z800 Workstation to handle up to 192 GB of RAM when running 64-bit versions of Windows, provides huge capacity for managing large data sets in memory rather than paging back and forth to storage and virtual memory. This is a powerful advantage as models, animations, and simulations grow increasingly complex. It also provides users like Hayhurst the ability to perform multiple machine intensive tasks simultaneously. "I can be editing in the foreground whilst the computer is doing extra work for me in the background," he says. "A good example of this is running Speech Search. Where in the background (a software application) can go through and listen to the audio and transcribe it for me. It gives me searchability in the production workflow so I can just skip through the parts of clips I am looking for. I can edit visually if I need to, skimming the tracks, and when I take that same content online, it's a fully searchable, deep linkable video, and yet it took me only one extra click, and HP did the rest."
Serviceability and upgradeability
Another aspect of long-term contentment with a workstation platform is how easy it is to service the machine and upgrade components. The HP Z800 Workstation and all Z-Series Workstations are designed around easy access, visually cable-less, tool-less chassis. Most components plug neatly into modular bays and slots without the need to fumble with and route cables and the like, making it easier and faster for technicians to get the job done and opening fewer opportunities for inadvertent damage.
Russ Sagert, geoscience technical advisor for Schlumberger, puts it simply and persuasively: "Adding or removing or changing out components is 'dirt simple.' I’ve never seen a design so well thought out and just so easy and friendly to use."
HP's roots are sunk deep in engineering. The new Z-Series workstations give users a new level of performance that provides real benefits and efficiencies, allowing users to gain real advantages for their own innovation, creativity, and imagination.
For more information on HP’s new Z-Series workstations, click here.
To see video testimonials from these and other users, click here.