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Upgrades Hardware

Best Motherboards With Large RAM Capacity? 161

Posted by timothy
from the when-more-is-more dept.
cortex writes "I routinely need to analyze large datasets (principally using Matlab). I recently 'upgraded' to 64-bit Vista so that I can access larger amounts of RAM. I know that various Linux distros have had 64-bit support for years. I also typically use Intel motherboards for their reliability, but currently Intel's desktop motherboards only support 8GB of RAM and their server motherboards are too expensive. Can anyone relate their experiences with working with Vista or Linux machines running with large RAM (>8GB)? What is the best motherboard (Intel or AMD) and OS combination for workstation applications in terms of cost and reliability?"
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Best Motherboards With Large RAM Capacity?

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  • Tyan? (Score:3, Informative)

    by therufus (677843) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @07:28AM (#21873354)
    Have you looked into Tyan mainboards. They're more for the server market, which is really what you're aiming for.
  • Tyan (Score:5, Informative)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @07:29AM (#21873362)
    Look no further then Tyan. The Tempest line (Intel CPUs) can hold 32GB of ram and the Thunder line (AMD CPUs) can hold 64GB of ram.

    Now I am curious about one thing you said about Intel mobos:

    and their server motherboards are too expensive
    If you are too cheap to buy a mobo that in your own words was "reliable, and solid", how the heck are you going to pay for the 32GB of ECC RAM?

    I run a Tyan Thunder with two Opteron 270's (and 4GB of RAM) as my primary workstation, and I have never been happier. I can honestly say that this is the last workstation I will buy until it dies, I no longer need to worry about "but my computer can't run X".

    With the memory sizes and data sets that you are talking about I wouldn't consider anything other then AMD CPU's. The bandwidth that the CPU and memory are shared on Intel boards, and each AMD cpu has a dedicated memory controller and dedicated RAM slots.

    You posted this on /. so you know that Linux will be the preferred OS.

    Go with AMD, you won't be disappointed.
  • Battleship (Score:4, Informative)

    by eddy (18759) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @07:47AM (#21873414) Homepage Journal

    >Consider swapping to and from a flash device or a series of flash devices.

    Good performance [nextlevelhardware.com]. Gets expensive though. $7000 for nine Mtron 16GB Solid State Drives alone, then you need very high end RAID cards to cope with the throughput.

  • Re:Tyan? (Score:5, Informative)

    by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @09:10AM (#21873660) Homepage
    I would concur. Tyan Opteron motherboards are probably the best choice for this. The only annoyance is that most of them are EATX and fit only in high end huge cases.

    The other thing to do is to abandon Windows. Matlab behaves considerably better on Linux or Solaris than on Windows (especially on big data sets). Most Matlab users I know have long stopped trying to run it on Microsoft platforms. They are simply not fit for purpose. AFAIK Vista is no exemption. So if you really make a living off matlab you should move your other windows stuff onto a cheap and cheerfull small PC and switch the matlab monster to a "proper" OS. That is the way I have maintained it for my matlab users in the past and they have been happy with the arrangement.
  • Re:Tyan (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @09:41AM (#21873786) Homepage
    Funny thing about this, actually.

    I jumped on the dual-processor bandwagon pretty much the instant that commodity CPUs officially supported it. Namely, the Athlon MP. I got a Tyan Tiger motherboard and a friend did the same. Shortly thereafter I lost contact with that friend.

    A few years later I went to turn on my computer as usual and it wouldn't turn on. A bit of troubleshooting later and I realized that the PSU connector had burned itself into the motherboard power socket because something on the motherboard had randomly decided to short itself. Four of the pins had fried (in a distinctive pattern, see here [nyud.net] and here [nyud.net]) and I ended up buying a new motherboard from a different manufacturer and a new power supply (thankfully, the other components had survived fine.)

    About a year after that I ran into my friend. We were talking about upgrades and I dug out those pictures. Turned out he'd lost three Tyan Tiger motherboards, with the exact same burn pattern, before changing manufacturers.

    So, yeah, I'm not touching Tyan again. I've never actually had a computer component burn itself to death before, and one time was enough.
  • Your AMD Options (Score:5, Informative)

    by this great guy (922511) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @09:46AM (#21873820)

    All current socket AM2/AM2+ AMD processors (Opteron 1000 series, Phenom, Athlon X2, etc) support a maximum of four unbuffered DDR2 memory sticks. All current socket F AMD processors (Opteron 8000 and 2000 series) support a maximum of eight registered DDR2 memory sticks. (You can find this info in AMD's public datasheets [amd.com]).

    As of today, unbuffered and registered DDR2 memory sticks of 4 GB or more are extremely expensive because the technology cannot be inexpensively mass-produced (yet). Only 2-GB DDR2 sticks can be found at reasonable prices.

    For these financial and technical reasons, your are restricted to a total of 8 GB per socket AM2/AM2+ processor, or 16 GB per socket F processor. Therefore the cheapest option for an AMD mobo supporting more than 8 GB of memory is to buy a single socket F model. Newegg sells one for $136 [newegg.com] (open box, though). Add a $180 Opteron 2212 [newegg.com] processor, $240 for eight 2-GB sticks [newegg.com] of registered DDR2-667, and you end up spending only $556 for a dual-core 2.0 GHz 16 GB barebone server assuming you have a chassis and a PSU lying around.

    I'll leave other people comment on your Intel options. I am not very familiar with Intel server motherboards.

  • Re:Tyan (Score:4, Informative)

    by toddestan (632714) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:39AM (#21874382)
    I jumped on the dual-processor bandwagon pretty much the instant that commodity CPUs officially supported it. Namely, the Athlon MP.

    Wandering off-topic, but you were kind of late for that bandwagon. Dual processors was supported by the original Pentium, though the Athlon MP might have been the first attempt by AMD to do so.
  • Re:Audio recording (Score:2, Informative)

    by gazbo (517111) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:25PM (#21874714)
    I'm not the OP, but you may want to check out the Studio Central forums [studio-central.com]. Filled with equal measures of twats and great advice. You'll probably want to check out the DAW forums (digital audio workstaion, in case you've not come across that term before).

    Don't expect to find very much about Linux though.

  • Re:Audio recording (Score:3, Informative)

    by niceone (992278) * on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @01:58PM (#21875310) Journal
    I use XP for music stuff (linux for everything else)... I'll probably get an Intel DP35DP motherboard (pretty popular with DAW builders) and Core 2 quad Q6600 (best bang for buck). There's good advice to be had over at the SoundonSound forums (the PC Music board) and there's even a Linux section: http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/postlist.php?Board=LinMus [soundonsound.com] . The other way to go is to look at what the pro DAW builders are using - www.adkproaudio.com are pretty well respected and seem to be on top of the issues.

    Good luck!
  • Re:Tyan? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Erpo (237853) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:23PM (#21875964)
    If you're running Matlab on Linux, you'd better pick one version of one Linux distribution and make sure the version of Matlab you're using supports it. If you change distros or get updates, expect problems, like crashes when you multiply [1,0]*[1;0].

    If you're a free software advocate, you could blame this on the mathworks for not providing the source to Matlab so that it can be endlessly tweaked and rebuilt to keep up with FOSS development.

    If you've got any common sense, you can blame this on OSS developers who do things like making binary incompatible changes to libraries and doing nothing to make sure old programs don't accidentally load the new, incompatible libs. It doesn't make one iota of difference if it's "wrong" for a program to access errno directly! There are programs that depend on being able to do it, and taking away "extern int errno" breaks those programs (including Matlab).

    Then there was that whole NPTL mess. *sigh*
  • Re:Tyan (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bastardchyld (889185) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @05:17PM (#21876816) Homepage Journal
    To elaborate a little more on the previous answer. This memory limitation is not a limitation with xp/vista this is a memory limitation with 32 bit xp/vista. If you are using 64 bit xp/vista the 3+gb limit disappears.

    -matt
  • by try_anything (880404) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @06:05PM (#21877090)

    Is your working set honestly over 8GB? Your dataset might be extremely large... but I would think that for the most part you'd get along just fine with swapping out to a decently fast device and your working set would be considerably below 8GB.
    ...

    more L1/L2 cache available to access. Though this assumes your applications are somewhat parallelizable...
    That's a big assumption. Give the guy a break! Maybe he's just working on a problem where there's no known way to achieve predictable data access patterns. After all, not everyone doing math on computers is solving differential equations. When somebody says their working set is over 8GB and you make the jump all the way down to L1 and L2 cache, it's obvious that you are used to working on nicely behaved numerical problems. Not everybody is so lucky! And, indeed, a lot of heavy work goes into making those problems so "nice." Differential equations have been the center of the applied math world for over two hundred years, and they have important military and industrial applications. Centuries of brilliant mathematical work, massive investment, decades of clever programming, and all this for problems that naturally lend themselves to partitioning and parallelization anyway. The field is so mature that people who work on these kinds of problems get used to the idea that arbitrarily large datasets can be processed in arbitrarily small chunks just by using common sense and known techniques. In general, this assumption is much too optimistic. There are plenty of problems that are not so nice or not so well understood.
  • Re:Tyan (Score:3, Informative)

    by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @08:24PM (#21878034) Homepage
    Yep, S2460.

    I like your diagnosis about the PSU. I'll have to dig out that old PSU (I still have it somewhere because the burnt connector is so awesome) and see if it has bad caps. But yeah, even if it was the PSU, the motherboard definitely contributed somehow - I've posted that picture quite often and the only people who've ever said "Hey, I had the exact same pattern!" were people with S2460s.

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