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What software should I use if I’m building my own workstation/server?

If you’ve read my previous 10GbE posts, you’ll know that for Adobe CC video/photo editing, 10GbE performance is best on either Windows 8.1, or Windows 2012 Server due to SMB3 multichannel features. In many tests between workstations, Windows 8.1 performed just as well as Server 2012 as far as large file network file transfers were concerned. Windows SMB3 multichannel will attempt to establish up to four threads per network interface (NIC) per session by default.

We also learned in previous posts that RSS (found in advanced NIC configuration) will try to spread this workload over available CPU cores. This is likely why a processor like the i7 4770K with four physical cores, showed better performance than the i5 processors (2 physical cores) I tested in 10GbE network tests.

A Windows 8.1 based NAS, with an i7 processor and fast RAM will perform very well as a 10GbE server, or workstation. Just remember that Windows 8.1 is limited to 20 SMB inbound connections if you plan on using it as a “server”.

Here are some pretty impressive numbers generated between two Windows 8.1 workstations, both sharing RAM disks over 10GbE connections. RAM disk software creates a virtual hard disk in workstation RAM, removing the testing bottleneck created by local SSD or hard disks.

Two Windows 8.1 workstations - Intel NASPT

Two Windows 8.1 workstations - Intel NASPT

PCIe SSD drives are the only single drives right now of sustaining these speeds, some in excess of 2000MB/s.

Two Windows 8.1 workstations - Windows filecopy

Two Windows 8.1 workstations - Windows filecopy

So how did we manage server builds to allow 900MB/s data transfer? After many builds, OS tweaks and tests, here are my official workstation and server build recommendations for the tech savvy DIY builder looking to edit video via a shared storage 10GbE solution.

WorkStation Build

The parts list for the workstation build is shown in Table 1. Note this does not include a Windows 8.1 license. This configuration could also be used as a less powerful server for small workgroups.

Component Description Price
Case Rosewill BlackHawk
(an older Antec case is pictured below)
Motherboard Asus Z87-A or Z87-WS $149 / $349
CPU Intel Core i7 4770K @ 3.4GHz $359
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S $77
Memory GSKILL RipJaws X Series (4 x 8GB -> 32GB) $520
Video Card Nvidia GTX 760 or GTX 780 $250 / $520
SSD 500 GB Samsung Evo $330
10GbE NIC Intel X540-T1 $388
Power Supply Corsair TX750 (750 W) $89
Total $2241 - $2711
Table 1: 10GbE Workstation

Being a fan of Asus for several decades now, there are several motherboards I would suggest looking at as the foundation for a performance Adobe CC editing computer. The Asus Z87-A ($150) has sufficient PCIe slots for basic applications. But a previous-generation Z77-V board performed quite well during 10GbE testing both as a server and workstation board.

You can see the Z77-V here configured with 32 GB of RAM, a RocketRaid RAID 2720 SGL card (supports 8 hard drives) and the Intel X540-T1 10GbE NIC.

Asus Z77-V motherboard

Asus Z77-V motherboard

My own editing workstation shown below is based on the Asus Z87-WS motherboard, using two Nvidia GTX 650 Ti Boost cards. They are connected with an SLI cable (just in case you’re a gamer too). However, when using Adobe CC, you need to disable SLI using Nvidia’s driver interface. Adobe Premiere CC will find and use all the CUDA cores it can for rendering etc. Combining two cards, Adobe Premiere CC will see 1536 CUDA cores and 4GB video memory.

You can see the Intel X540 NIC nestled between the video cards, nicely cooled by the Nvidia video card’s cooling fan right beside it. If you compare this case arrangement with the Corsair 550D used later in our server build, you can see a large improvement in terms of cable management, and therefore airflow using a newer case like the 550D.

The Noctua NH-U12S CPU cooler is one of the most efficient units out there, and supported overclocking in this system to 4.3 GHz in Turbo mode with no issues. The i7 4770K processor presents 8 cores to the operating system, so even a small overclock can have significant impact on video rendering times. As a video editing machine may operate for hours during a render at 100% CPU loading, an efficient CPU cooler is important.

You can see I’ve spec’d RAM at 32 GB. This is more an advantage if you’re using Adobe CC After Effects, where RAM can be assigned to CPU cores in order to speed up rendering times. If you’re not doing much in After Effects, 8 or 16 GB of RAM might serve your needs just fine. You would see very little difference in the Adobe Premiere CC Benchmark tests.

10GbE editing workstation

10GbE editing workstation, Asus Z87-WS, i7 4770K CPU, 32GB RAM, dual Nvidia GTX650 Ti Boost, X540-T1 10GbE

That's all for now. The next and last installment will provide a few more alternatives for the workstation build and spec out the high performance 10GbE server build.

Dennis Wood - CinevateDennis Wood is Cinevate’s CEO, CTO, as well as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. When not designing products, he’s likely napping quietly in the LAN closet.





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