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What Does a $16,000+ PC Look Like, Anyway? 495

justechn writes "Tom's Hardware has an article about custom PC maker Puget Systems, who had just finished a custom $16,000 PC for one of their clients. So what exactly goes into a $16,000 system? How about: Four quad-core Opteron processors, 32 GB of memory, Windows Server 2008, Asus Xonar DX PCI Express sound card, 3Ware 9550SX-8LP SATA 3 Gb/s RAID controller, Two Western Digital 300 GB VelociRaptor hard drives in RAID 1, Two 1 TB Samsung SpinPoint F1s also in RAID 1, and Four 1 TB Samsung SpinPoint F1s in RAID 5. Puget went with MagiCool's Xtreme Nova 1080 radiator, Nine 120 mm fans, Four Koolance CPU blocks, Koolance combined pump and reservoir unit, and Cooler Master Stacker 810 case. In addition to all that hardware, it also runs very quiet and very cool. The temperature of the CPUs is 36 C at idle, 45 C at load."
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What Does a $16,000+ PC Look Like, Anyway?

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  • I remember when.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:10PM (#27186287) Journal
    $16,000 bought you a high-end Compaq desktop. Not a server, only one CPU, one disk, etc.. And that was when $16k was real money!
  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PTBarnum ( 233319 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:16PM (#27186373)

    If I recall correctly from the comments on Tom's website, the buyer is using the machine to generate fractal art.

  • by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:32PM (#27186607)
    Actually, I was thinking that for four quad cores, i.e. 16 cores, and 2 GB memory per core, $16k is pretty damn cheap. Consider that 5 years ago if you wanted that kind of computing power you had to buy dual opteron boards and have eight of them communicate over gigabit ethernet (cheap but slow) or infiniband (fast but ~$1k per node, so add $8k to the price, that's half the price of this cluster just for the interconnects). I use a cluster of similar configuration and it sure cost more than $16k when it was new. Granted, with separate cores you get to bypass the interconnects but you have to use a shared memory bus which can saturate and form a bottleneck. As far as I know, whether you want a separate core or multi-core system depends on your application, but shit, $16k for what amounts to a small cluster is still a great deal especially since they preassembled it.
  • Re:24 Samsung SSD's (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:38PM (#27186679) Homepage
  • by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:40PM (#27186717) Journal

    It was purchased in the late nineties for a 3D artist at a dotcom; the company folded a year or so later. The few employees that stuck around received hardware in lieu of their final paychecks.

    Dual 333 MHZ P3s. Nvidia Riva 2. Half a gig of ram. Dual 10k RPM 14GB U160 SCSI drives attached to a Adaptec 19160 (The 19160 *still* sells for at $100, 10 years later. Who knows how much it cost at the time...). High speed (for the time) Plextor SCSI CDRom reader and writer.

    With a few minor upgrades here and there (video card, a little more ram, a few replaced power supplies), it remained my main system til about 2005. Even played WoW on it. The only real reason I don't use it anymore? Lack of 48-bit LBA support -- couldn't stick a drive larger than 137 gig on it, which in this day and age, just doesn't quite cut it for a desktop.

    Replaced it about a year ago -- picked up $300 worth of parts at Fry's, and built a machine that out-spec'd the original in every way, except drive speed.

    Those SCSI drives would still be sweet, if they weren't so damn small.

  • No, not for personal use or gaming. It will run Linux with a Xen kernel and is intended to replace nearly all of our old individual servers. Everything from the piddly servers like DNS, LDAP, Kerberos, and our minimal web services to the AFS db servers. No file services on that beast though, I'm not crazy - no disk I/O-RAM access contention please. My plan is to copy an entire OS image of /usr into a RAMFS filesystem in the top level Dom 0 domain and then cross mount that as RO in each Xen instance. We'll also stick small SQL server and other dbs copies in local tempfs RAMdisks too. Everything in RAM will be snapshotted and saved to physical disk periodically. Those deltas will then be copied to a remote fail-over server periodically as well.

    It should be both reasonably stable and blindingly fast.

    Another machine will handle AFS and some NFS file services, which has up to sixteen SATA disks attached to two 8 port 3-Ware RAID cards, thus spreading I/O load across two PCI buses. No, we don't need all that disk space - we need the I/O performance. It too should be reasonably fast. We're gearing up to connect that either by several channel bonded 1Gb to a CISCO 6509, or - if we're lucky - we'll just go 10Gb optical. We'll see how the finances work out there.

    This is how departmental IT is done. Or, at least, it's how it *should* be done. I spent less than $25K on these two computers and they will replace well a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of accumulated hardware purchased over the last ten years and now fully depreciated.

  • Re:What a waste (Score:1, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:56PM (#27186981)

    No, unfortunately, its not just FUD.

    You can bench it yourself. With Windows, doubling the processors gives about 1.4 times a single processor's performance.

    With almost any flavor of nix, its much closer to 1.9. With some kernel options in linux its even higher.

    Adding processors beyond 2, the return diminishes, but much more quickly on Windows than Linux.

    Microsoft has continually been spinning the story that they scale well into huge processor/core counts but in every instance comparative tests show that they don't.

    I thought they had made progress on this front. But when benching 2008 Server against OpenSuse on a quad core machine I was blown away by the difference. And further tests reveal that Windows 7, running two cores outperforms Vist ultimate running 4 cores.

    You can't handwave this away by reading Microsoft fud papers.

  • by StuffMaster ( 412029 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:36PM (#27187493)
    Believe it or not, some people do like Windows Server 2003/2008 as a workstation OS. Some Examples: 1 [] 2 [] 3 []
  • by Belisar ( 473474 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:50PM (#27187635)

    Because his system has 4 CPU sockets (with a quadcore CPU each) and I believe the licensing for all non-Server Windows version will only let you use at most 2 CPU sockets.

  • by Architect_sasyr ( 938685 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:05PM (#27187819)
    Just for the record, you can game and use Windows 2008 as a client computer all you want - it's far more stable than Vista in any event. My colleague does exactly that (even runs it on his Mac Book Pro). Someone on /. left this link around ages ago [] which details using the software in such a manner. Judging by the hardware specs I would say this is what the machine is built for.
  • by nsheppar ( 889445 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:13PM (#27188599)

    Why would anyone choose to run Windows 2008 Server as their desktop OS

    Apparently Server cuts out a lot of the bloat: []

  • Sounds familiar... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mahohmei ( 540475 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:16PM (#27188637)

    I used to be the sysadmin for a high school. The thoroughly incompetent Web design teacher had a very simple method of ordering computers: go to Dell's website, build-to-order the most expensive computer, and select the most expensive of every option.

    I burst her bubble by telling her that the school district had standardized on one OptiPlex and one Latitude. She had a screaming fit because she couldn't get some overpriced Inspiron that lets you listen to CDs with the cover closed. The district purchasing director said she could have it if she could justify needing that for job. So she didn't get it.

    This $16,000 WS2003 box sounds like something a trust-fund baby would get.

  • by keith_nt4 ( 612247 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:44PM (#27188877) Homepage Journal
    I didn't see anybody else mention it so I guess I will:
    There's a whole cult following/whatever around turning a server OS into a workstation. One of the larger sites on this is called Win2008 Workstation []. It has a lot of tips that are useful anyway. Apparently it's a very well performing Vista (I haven't tried it yet myself). There's a whole series of steps to getting up and running as a workstation on there, a compatibility list, everything.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @09:04PM (#27189059)

    I just built an 8 core Opteron with 16 gig of ram and 2TB of raid for only a thousand bucks!

    So they have twice the capacity and but costs 16 times as much!??!

    I can build two of these and it will have better scale and redundancy for 8 times less than they have.

    Someone didn't do their homework...or they have a budget to dump or else they will loose it next year...businesses can sometimes be so wasteful.

    That's part of what's wrong with the economy...a lot of people don't treat their employer's funds like it's their own money. I always have...I guess that's why I'm still employed and getting raises!

  • by Daswolfen ( 1277224 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @09:10PM (#27189099)

    I would have replaced the drives with a single RAID 0 of the Intel X-25e SLC SSDs (@ 32gb each for a total of 256 for your system drive) then a second raid card with 8x Velociraptors in a RAID5 array.

    I would also dump the watercooling for a phase change cooling system as well. Not only would the system be vastly quieter, it would also be a bit cooler, should you chose to overclock.

    If I was to build this system in a few months, the 6gb SAS should be out, and Id probably swap the raptors for those. The advantage would also be I could increase my storage as needed because of the scalability of SAS.

    The caveat would be this system would cost MUCH more then 16k... probably in the realm of 25k-30k. But you MIGHT be able to run Vista with Aero or Crysis at full :)

  • by Crass Spektakel ( 4597 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @09:45PM (#27189355) Homepage

    I build a faster computer which only costed a small percentage of that Opteron-Beast:

    An Intel5400-Board with two 4Ghz QuadXeons and two GT280. Ok, it only has 16GB and four drives but this would be easily corrected nowadays.

    I personally use an Intel5000XVN-Board with two 2,5Ghz QuadXeons, 16GB RAM, two 500 Harddrives and an Geforce 8800, waiting for the GT2xx-Line to become mature and passive cooled ---- BECAUSE MY WHOLE SYSTEM IS PASSIVELLY COOLED BESIDES ONE SINGLE 40CM FAN RUNNING AT 50RPM.

    The whole System did cost a lot less than â2000 and consists of standard hardware allover.

  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <.plugwash. .at.> on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:32PM (#27189621) Homepage

    Depends on whether space is expensive for you or not.

    First assuming space is not at a premium

    Netbooks/nettops have atom processors with only one core, low clocks and not brilliant performance per clock. For double the price you can probablly get a desktop with a quad core processor with each core being faster than the atom in the netbook/nettop

    Server hardware is way more expensive than desktop hardware per unit of CPU power. OTOH for some workloads the larger ram and caches may be a superlinear benifit.

    So depending on the workload either midrange desktop hardware or midrange server harder.

    If space is at a premium then you want something that will let you pack the cores densely without paying ridiculously over the odds. Probablly 1U servers with dual quad core processors.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:28PM (#27189853)

    For $16.000 I expect a case with good enough ventilation to make sure my $16.000 investment doesn't turn into an insanely expensive paperweight after a single session of Crysis. And with that many fans, it's kinda hard to get something to look Ferrari-ish, whereas the whole "little mainframe" look fits that perfectly.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:43PM (#27189957)

    Seriously, for the individuals that want to Nitpick about the name, there is no place called "America".

    Right, and wrong. Under the US' educational system, South America and North America are distinct, separate continents, but for other countries the continent is America and the division of north, south and sometimes, central is solely to simplify reffering to areas of such a large continent. Like East Asia or Northern Africa, neither of which is a separate continent.

    I'm pretty sure that "North American" is universal understood to be someone from any country in North America.

    Not really. Since most people in latin-speaking countries understand "American" as "someone born in the continent of America", on most dubbings of TV shows it is translated as "estadounidense" (meaning "someone from the United States"), but it is also sometimes translated as "North American" and casually, if someone says that "northamericans are a bunch of idiots", Canadians usually need not be offended ;)

    Seriously, for a pejorative term started by the british (to differentiate the "American English" from the real, true Englishmen), you guys have taken this *way* too far. Just invent a new word already, or try to translate "estadounidense" in a manner that doesn't sound too bloody stupid, and give "America" back to the continent named after Amerigo Vespucci. Or just STFU when we call you USians ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @01:44AM (#27190443)

    Why go with Raptors or SATA at all if you have that sort of budget? It wouldn't be much more to choose FC drives instead, and get much better throughput. Raid 5? Why that choice? was it because the raid card wasn't capable of something else?

    System built for silence? Yet they use 120mm fans instead of a single larger, quieter, and higher flowing fan?

    They mounted the radiator to the case using brass standoffs - with no shock isolation, thereby transferring all vibration from those 9 fans right into the case.

    Everything about this rig is amateur. Its cool only in that someone spent that much money on commodity hardware - with a bit more research, this system would have been much more capable and quieter..

  • My little beastie (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @09:00PM (#27196891)

    I just put together a little beastie for about $2000 (14000 less). Instead of 4 quad core opterons, I have 1 quad core i7-920 on an Asus P6T deluxe-oc, 12GB of DDR3 ram, 2xSeagate 500GB sata drives, and a Happaugge 1800 tv tuner all running Linux/Ubuntu 8.10 with kernel 2.6.29-rc8. I'm using an Enermax Infinity 720w supply in a cooler master cosmos case with a thermalrite ultra extreme 120 (T.R.U.E.-120) keeping the cpu to 30C at idle and 59C under very heavy load. Its all on air (although the case has all the provisions for liquid chillers).

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors