18 Replies Latest reply on Jan 21, 2011 5:11 PM by Charles Culp

    Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation

    Bernhard Hubl

      Hello,

       

      We want to buy a new workstation, which should be mainly used for

      SolidWorks Flow Simulation.

       

      At the moment I use a 4 year old HP Workstation

      with the following specifications:

      2xIntel Xeon 5160/3GHz/1333 MHz/4MB

      RAM: 32 GB DDR2-667 SDRAM

      Win X64

       

      We are mainly interested in increasing the speed of solving Flow Simulation problems.

       

      Is it possible to reduce the calculation time by a factor of 2 or 3 with new hardware?

      Which hardware and OS do you recommend, if I want to invest 5000 EUR?

       

      Can I reduce the calculation time significantly, if I invest much more than 5000 EUR?

       

      Any help or suggestions are very appreciated.

      Thanks in advance!

       

      Bernhard

        • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
          John Sutherland

          My impression is that the limitation is the Intel CPU.

           

          Traditional engineering workstation manufacturers now supply only Intel chips.  IBM has its own chip, and they think a 20% speed advantage over Intel is a selling point, but I would not get out of bed for such a trivial improvement.

           

          Further, it seems that all computers today are really business servers; serving is not demanding compared to engineering calculations.  If HP called yours a workstation then you bought some badge engineering.

          • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
            Harold Brunt

            I am not sure how the improvements that I have had since my upgrade will translate but I had been using a Dell 690 with a single 5160 for ray trace and lighting simulations. The time for Anna's punch holder for that workstation was 110 seconds with SW2010. The new workstation runs the benchmark at just over 46. The best part is the significant improvement in simulation times. A 10M ray simulation that would have run in four to eight hours now runs in just over an hour and I'm only using four of the available 24 cores.

             

            You'll need to investigate how Simulation / Flow takes advantage of multiple cores to know if the 8550 is appropriate. Perhaps the 4850 which is less cost but very fast (actually faster for basic SW operations) would suit you.

             

             

            Specs:

            BOXX 8550 XTREME

            Dual Intel Xeon 5680, 4.2Ghz Liquid Cooled

            12GB DDR3

            NVidia Quadro 4000

            300GB 10K rpm SATA Drive

             

            Win 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

            SW 2011 Standard x64 SP1.0

            • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
              Bill McEachern

              In my experience, the parallel execution scaling in Flow sim heads south pretty quickly after 4 cores are used. So get the fastest CPU you can afford with 4 or maybe six cores with 12 to 24 GB of RAM.

               

              I got a sales email from the BOXX guys the other day.So I went and priced a Flow Workstation with the six core water cooled config. They added charge to increase the memory to the 24 GB option was like ~$1,500 if my memory serves me correctly, which seems a bit insane since a 4 GB DIMM costs less than $100 retail - might even be $60. Maybe they can explain why that is since the guy from BOXX was commenting on this thread.

               

              Sorry, it wasn't a BOXX guy but maybe Harold can comment since he owns one.

                • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                  Harold Brunt

                  I have no idea how the pricing structure is configured for any PC builder but I am aware that it is always cheaper to buy the bare components uninstalled. That doesn't always mean it will cost less since the workstation needs to be dependable and installation and assembly takes time - in other words I'm better off keeping my fingers out of the PC.

                   

                  If the cost for an item seems out of line I would suggest getting on the phone. I am very happy with the service at BOXX. My positive postings regarding the 8550 really have little to do with the service or the performance of the machine, it's the free Tee-shirt....

                    • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                      Harold Brunt

                      Has anyone purchased one as yet?

                       

                      https://forum.solidworks.com/message/198971#198971

                       

                      I didn't see them listed in this comparison test nor have I noted one in Anna's spread sheet.

                       

                      http://www.boxxtech.com/Downloads/reviews/DE_Review_01-11.pdf

                       

                      I'm curious though but not so much so that I'll be buying one.

                        • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                          Anna Wood

                          On a side note I updated all my benchmark results spreadsheets today.  Nothing earth shattering new on the speed front from the last time I updated the punch holder spreadsheet a few months ago.  Not a surprise really since there have not been any new releases from Intel until the last couple of days with the Sandy Bridge cores. I will be curious to see how the Sandy Bridges do on the benchmarks.

                           

                          www.solidmuse.com

                           

                          Cheers,

                           

                          Anna

                            • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                              Harold Brunt

                              Thanks for updating the spreadsheet Anna (I know you mentioned your current work load is challenging). I'll have to submit my SW2011 results at some point. I'm not sure why but the benchmark runs a couple seconds faster.

                               

                              To Bill's point though: Bill, if you take a look at the performance of the Workstations and the associated price then reference the manufacturer you'll notice a pretty big disparity between the purchased and home-built cost. My guess is that the cost does not include what each of those engineers would have charged a client for thier time which is how I make myself feel better about it. On the other hand I'll bet it was fun and very rewarding.

                               

                              Thanks again Anna for maintaining the data.

                               

                              Harold

                                • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                  Bill McEachern

                                  I have to admit I was fishing. I have a supplier that will not even sell me a i7980X based system with 4GB DIMMs installed. They say it is very difficult to get reliable operation out of the 980X & X58 chip set when using the six core chip & 4GB DIMMs. If you search Google you see a couple of over clockers with this issue but they seem to get them resolved but it didn't look easy. I was fishing when I thought Herald was a BOXX rep since he had the system specs in what I thought, at a quick glance, was his signature block.

                                   

                                  I did a bunch of research to find out if the Sandy Bridge would offer anything compelling for this type of work and I concluded that it did not - though I can't remember why at the moment. Unless you are running a dual or more socket motherboard there is no advantage in paying for Xeon's over the i7's (in my humble opinion at any rate). I also don't feel that highly parallel offers any real advantage in Flow Simulation for single job run times - ie multi-socket systems over single socket. The scaling just becomes very uneffective after you hit about four cores give or take a couple depending on the physics enabled. However, if you have a high volume of Flow Sim jobs to submit I can see them being worth the money with a lot of memory - trust of Windows, Solidworks and Flow Sim gets me a little worried (in that order) with this scenario though I have no real evidence one way or the other to justify the worries.

                                • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                  David Paulson

                                  Anna,

                                   

                                  Has anyone to your knowledge ported your punch holder to ProE or SolidEdge or any other 3D modeling program for a speed test against SolidWorks?

                          • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                            David Paulson

                            Bernhard,

                             

                            I use Flow (2009) on a regular basis on my custom built workstation with one Xeon E5440 four core processor (now almost 2 generatrions old) with 8 GB DRAM and my Thinkpad W510 laptop computer with a Newhalem I7 quad core processor with 10 GB DRAM.  The workstation uses all four cores and the W510 shows 8 processors being utilized, four of which are virtual processors.  On a problem that requires 30 minutes of processing time on the workstation, the W510 will do in about 25 minutes.

                             

                            I like to alternate processor generations on my computers, so I will be updating my workstation with Sandy Bridge Xeon processors when they become available.  I will utilize a dual socket mainboard (usually Tyan)  with 16 GB DRAM.  Although many people on this forum advocate buying the fastest processor available, I find the increased speed to be sub-fractional, especially when I factor in my brain's own processing time on SolidWorks.  With Flow the number of processors has a much greater effect than processor clock speed.  I cannot tell you how many processor cores that Flow can effectively use, but I think the number is at least eight, but eight will NOT be eight times faster than one.  Twelve core are currently possible on a dual socket mainboard and I believe that number will increase during the lifetime of the system.  The question remains if SolidWorks will improve the Flow solver to maintain performance relative to available hardware.

                            • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                              Bernhard Hubl

                              Hello,

                               

                              Thank you very much for your answers!

                               

                              Do you know, when the Sandy Bridge Xeons are avaiable?

                              Does it make sense to wait?

                               

                              Bernhard 

                                • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                  David Paulson

                                  Bernhard,

                                   

                                  Sandy Bridge Xeons are due out in 2Q 2011.  If your needs are more immediate, you can always use the Sandy Bridge Core 2 processor which can have up to 6 cores.  The only advantage to waiting for the Xeons is that they support two socket mainboards and thus at least 12 cores.  I'm not sure how many cores Flow may support in the future, but hopefully way more than 12.

                                  • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                    Charles Culp

                                    The Sandy Bridge processors are currently only available in 4-core. The 6-core version won't be coming out for little while. While I do strongly suggest the Sandy Bridge processors for regular SolidWorks users (I just submitted for one at work myself), you are asking for more than every-day modeling use!

                                     

                                    If you wanted the best performace today, try the Xeon W3680. It is a 3.3Ghz 6 core with hyperthreading, and is the single fastest processor you can buy today, or any time in the next 6 months. It is $1,060-$1,250 USD. Not cheap, but still a great choice for your budget. With the W3680, you will get single-thread performace of about 2.2-2.4 times faster than your current setup. Multi-core gains depends on how well you were really using those extra threads before, but I have a feeling you will probably get all you can out of the extra threads with the W3680.

                                     

                                    Also, you can switch to a Solid State Drive (SSD) for your main drive, which will also increase performance.

                                     

                                    In addition, if you really want the best, the Xeon X5680 is the dual processor equavalent of the above chip. They will cost around $3,000 USD for two of those, and I'm not sure if it would really be worth it; but they are available!

                                      • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                        Bernhard Hubl

                                        Thank you very much for your answers!

                                         

                                        I will ask our IT department for a offer of both a W3680 and a X5680 based machine.

                                        Then I can decide.

                                         

                                        Bernhard 

                                          • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                            Jim Zink

                                            The 2P Sandy Bridge Xeons won't be available until Q3.

                                             

                                            The 1P Sandy Bridge Xeon-E3 1200 Series will be available this quarrter.  They share the same LGA 1155 socket as the Core i7/i5 branded Sandy Bridge desktop CPUs.   The primary advantage of the Xeon-E3 series over the Core-branded CPUs will be support for ECC memory.   The need for ECC emmory for CAD is controverial, but I'd recommend ECC for anyone working with large amounts of memory - esp with applications like flow simulation or rendering where you want the system to crank away unattended for lengthy periods of time.  It doesn't take more than a crash or two to make up for the slightly higher cost and very slightly slower speed associated with ECC RAM. 

                                             

                                            Xeon or not, the new Sandy Bridge CPU's will offer terrific price/performance and be a good choice for the vast majority of SolidWorks users.  I'm particularly excited abou the new mobile CPUs.  Should be 50-100% faster at any given price point.  That will be comparable to the move from the P4 to the Core2 on the desktop a few years back.

                                             

                                             

                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Bridge_(microarchitecture)

                                              • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                                Ron Reiners

                                                OK, I have read through this thread a couple of times as well as other resources. There is a lot of information on various configurations (RAM) and future release processors. My question is, with everything else the same (RAM, Video, Hard Drive, etc..) which is the best currently available processor to get for running 1-4 flow simulation at the same time? My processor options are Xeon E5630 2.53GHz, I7-860 2.8GHz, or I5-680 3.6GHz Dual core.

                                                 

                                                Thanks,

                                                 

                                                Ron

                                                  • Re: Hardware Recommendation for Flow Simulation
                                                    Charles Culp

                                                    The Xeon 5630 is a newer generation, however,

                                                     

                                                    the higher frequency of the Core i7 860 actually makes it a faster chip.

                                                     

                                                    The Core i7 860 was released in September of 2009, it is now a year and a half old technology. If you are running simulation all the time, are you sure you don't want to go with a faster chip? There are newer ones available for a very reasonable price.