[nSLUG] Wither workstations

M Taylor mctylr at privacy.nb.ca
Mon Feb 14 10:22:57 AST 2005

On Sat, Feb 12, 2005 at 09:26:38PM -0400, George N. White III wrote:
> NASA has announced a new version of the mission critical software we use 
> at work.  We currently run it on SGI dual processor MIPS workstations and 
> one SGI 3000 MIPS 4 processor NUMA box.  About half the users have
> workstations and the other half works on Win XP PC's with Hummingbird
> Exceed X-servers, which is perfectly adequate since we generally work
> with static images.

I can sort-of relate, we're replacing HP PA-RISC C3000 sytems with Linux 
workstations, and some of our "affilates" are looking at a more
cluster like solution because they cannot afford a high end workstation
per desk.

We are also trying to kill Exceed X-server whenever possible with
either a Linux based system, or using VNC over 100Mbps switched LAN.

> option, since the G5's draw 1/2 the power of Intel processors, but many 
> people find the heat and noise is too much for office environments.  My 
> experience has been that systems in controlled environments have fewer 
> hardware failures, all of which leads me to think about ways to move the 
> CPU's into a machine room with a controlled environment.
Due to a noisy HVAC and evironmental noice most workstation noise levels
are not a concern with us. 

Although something like a typically rack mount system (HP DL380, Dell 
Poweredge 2650) are too noisy under the desk due to the high number of 
cooling fans.

> One approach would be to replace 64-bit graphics workstations with 
> rackmount dual CPU "compute servers" and put commodity PC's (which would 
> have to run Win XP in our environment) on the desktop. Our apps are disk 
> I/O bound and the rackmount approach opens possibilities for sharing a 
> SATA raid to get better disk I/O and maybe less downtime due to single 
> disks failing (in practice each machine probably still uses a local disk 
> for booting, swap, and temporary files, but if all the machines see the 
> same user files, users could easily switch to a different processor).

We operate with our data servers and telecom in a "server room" like
you would of found in most university computing services in the 70s and
80s. Raised tiles, its own AC, UPS & alternative (e.g. diesel) power 
into the room. We use rack mount systems with hot-swap SCSI hardware RAID 
(-5) controllers and currently 100Mbps switched Ethernet, although I am 
trying to lay the foundation for Gigabit within the server room. All you 
really need is a room with its own AC, and adaquete power feeding a small
number of UPSes (1-2 large one for everything or 1 fairly large per rack)
to all the electrical sockets in the racks.

The biggest different is that we have a much smaller data volume than
you do, and we can "lose" data with little concenquence (old data
is 90% worthless to my group). I would be tempted to look at a NAS for
your storage needs. 


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