We have a product which consists of a GUI program and all the hardware goes in a rack.

Our department bought a rackmount server for the first unit, but I dont think this is adequate for applications that use graphics (correct me if I'm wrong - we bought a Dell R710).

Could you tell me of a good rackmount workstation we could buy for our product? Also, would it be risky for us to build our own rackmount?

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    You're obviously not concerned with noise, presume. OSHA (in the U.S. at least) can be very unforgiving about "Noise and Hearing Conservation". If you're planning a commercial launch of a user-environment (desktop) product, and are planning to market in the U.S., you would do well to ensure that OSHA-compliant companies are able to use your product.
    – Joe
    Mar 2 '10 at 22:04
  • I am concerned with noise since some there will be a rackmount LCD on top of remote acces. Mar 2 '10 at 23:59
  • Dell doesn't support graphics cards in PowerEdge servers, this doesn't mean you can't make it work though.
    – ITGuy24
    Mar 3 '10 at 1:44
  • the r710 cannot support a card that consumes more than 25w. hmmm Mar 3 '10 at 5:06
  • look into soundproofed racks from outfits like XRackPro, Kell systems, AcoustiRack or Alino. These are designed to sit in an office, and some (particularly Kell) make ones with faux wood panelling to look like office furniture. A 6-12U rack of this sort can sit right next to somebody's desk and you can just run longer cables into the cabinet and have the keyboard, mouse and screen on the operator's desk. Here in London, a 12U XRackPro retails for about £1,500. Jun 11 '10 at 10:24

Have you looked at the Dell Precision R5400 Rack Workstation?

Options for Dual and Quad-core Xeon processors, up to 32GB of RAM, and a stack of high-end 3D graphics cards to choose from.

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    +1, This is bascially a Poweredge server, with upgraded graphics and a client OS. 2U form factor is a plus compared to tower workstations with rack mount kits.
    – ITGuy24
    Mar 3 '10 at 1:48
  • @ITGuy24,is it possible to put a higher power videocard on the Dell r710 if they say max power 25w? Mar 3 '10 at 5:22
  • I don't know for the R710, I can tell you that the PE2950's were able to run the nVidia Quadro NVS 440 and NVS 280.
    – ITGuy24
    Mar 3 '10 at 13:37
  • As to the comparison with the BoXX machines, the R5400 also has Teradici remote graphics capabilities. Mar 5 '10 at 6:19
  • @petertonoli - that machine only has 4 DIMM sockets, isn't that a bit more 'desktop' than workstation?
    – Chopper3
    Jun 11 '10 at 8:18

I have used the HP XW series workstations with their Rack Kit. Works fine and lots of options for graphics on the Workstation. I believe rack kits are available for current models. Workstations are very quiet if you are mounting them near people as well.

Also, Workstations of this type tend to be quite a bit shallower than servers, so they will often fit in shallower soundproof racks designed for A/V equipment.

  • the fact that it is quiet, that it can use high power video cards and that it has a rack mount kit makes it a very good candidate. I just think maybe it should come with intel CPUs? Mar 3 '10 at 5:21
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    There are Intel variants. The XW4600 here is Intel h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/ca/en/sm/WF06a/… The Z800 here hp.com/canada/products/landing/workstations/files/… uses Intel and includes Xeon processors. Many choices- at least here in Canada
    – Dave M
    Mar 3 '10 at 13:11
  • my boss said HP is not good, do you concur? Mar 4 '10 at 17:10
  • I have used HP workstations and high end desktops as well as servers and have had a great experience. Some of their retail stuff and low end items may give a poor experience. I have also had great success with IBM/Lenovo. The one big thing I found with the suggested units is great graphics, expandability and very quiet. And they can be rack mounted. Anyone can have a bad experience with any of the vendors but HOP has been good. Can you explain further why your boss has the opinion he does?
    – Dave M
    Mar 12 '10 at 16:10
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    @Yan - HP professional kit is expensive but their servers and workstations are the dogs bollocks, absolutely top-notch hardware. From personal experience, I have 6 XW9300s and I'm quite satisfied with them. Jun 11 '10 at 9:20

You're right that a Server probably isn't the best fit, they don't typically have high-end graphics, they're more optimized for high reliability and fast I/O.

In the past, I've seen ads for companies that sell rack-mount workstations, but I can't find one right now. If you search for "rack mount workstation" many of the results are for industrial computer companies, and that's certainly an option: we've used products from CyberResearch for data acquisition applications, but you can get models with fewer industrial features.

Another option would be to roll your own - buy a 1 or 2U case, buy your preferred motherboard and video card, and so on. More work, but gives you total control over what your application is running on.

  • The one we bought doesnt have a good onboardvideocard but it has the pci-express 16x slot so can we presume performance will be ok on that end? We do not require the same specs as the latest video games, we are running a qt application. Mar 3 '10 at 0:33

When we looked at something similar to go into an AV solution, we bought a good workstation, making sure it complied with ATX standards (many early Dell's back then didn't) and then transplanted it into a 4U rack case.

The reason we went this path was there were simply no rack-mounted computers with AGP back then.

These days with PCI-E being far more prevailant in servers, I don't see why you couldn't re-purpose a server that has the appropriate expansion slots (by installing a high-end graphics card, or whatever hardware is required). That's what Apple do with their Mac Pro's.

As far as building your own rackmount, it's no more risky than building your own whitebox PC. If all the computers in your office are whiteboxes, I don't see why you couldn't do it that way.

  • yeah we are looking into getting a riser to connect a high end graphics card on that server...thx for the info Mar 2 '10 at 22:12
  • Does the riser have to bend at a 90 degree angle? Or is it literally just a riser? We found a great supplier from the UK who supplied us with the risers made out of ribbon cable, so it can go at a custom height (need to make sure you get the correct left-hand or right-hand version if you're going to bend 90 degrees though) Mar 2 '10 at 22:17
  • Because no regular server would have neither the power nor the additional power connectors required to drive a modern high-end videocard (likely consuming more power on its own than the entire server by default). Jun 11 '10 at 9:46

I used to do 3d animation for a living, before I made the move to IT, so the company I'm about to suggest tailors to that market but they are certified for many CAD/CAM applications as well.

Have a look at BoXX. All of their workstations are 19" tall and have an optional rackmount kits available. They make very nice monster workstations.

They also make a PCoIP workstation....I haven't used that product so I can't comment on how well it works.

  • They're nice, but even with ECC, it shouldn't cost another 1.7k for 24gb of RAM.
    – Xorlev
    Mar 2 '10 at 22:08
  • Man those machines look sweet, but I don't even want to hazard a guess as to their RRPs! Mar 2 '10 at 22:08
  • @Xorlev, that's a fairly standard price for RAM in those kinds of systems. Speccing up the price of ECC FB-DIMMs can be heart-attack inducing... Mar 2 '10 at 22:09
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    You can price out a system online...they ask for your email address but you can just press no thanks and configure away. They actually work out to be pretty competitive to Dell. At one point they were significantly cheaper than a similarly configured Dell but then Dell decided it wanted to compete in the workstation market and that changed 3 or 4 years ago. But this company is pretty much the gold standard in the 3d animation and effects world. Mar 2 '10 at 22:16
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    It's using the Teradici PCoIP protocol which from what I can remember from reading up on it last year when we were evaluating thin clients is a gpu based dedicated remote desktop protocol and hardware. So it could be the same gpu that's in the matrox product. But this technology is not Boxx's tech...they are just using it. I'm sure if you look HP, Wyse, IBM, and other thin client vendors are also offering products based on this protocol/hardware. Mar 2 '10 at 22:30

Basically, all "server" rack systems have VGA out (except hardcore-UNIX stuff such as Sun servers), so there's no hard reason not to use them as "workstations".

However, there's a big cost difference between a Windows desktop OS and a server one. And (at least according to my experience with Dell), you will have a hard time running a desktop OS on most rack systems (lack of support and drivers).

I'm not aware of any big-vendor such as Dell, IBM, etc. offering rackable systems with a "desktop" server OS- or "desktop hardware".

You might want to consider building your own box from vendors such as Supermicro et al., which offer rack cases and parts.

  • actually the poweredge 2970 doesnt even offer the possibility to have pci 16x Mar 2 '10 at 22:14

Cray CX1. There is no substitute. Can be put under the desk with appropriate aviation ground crew ear protection or rackmounted as I have done with mine. I am using mine for CFD, but I have seen it used for video, weather and life sciences.

I'd also look at getting a nvidia tesla - not much off the shelf code, but if you need speed this is where its at...

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