First Try

The first thing that we tried was building a separate server out of some spare parts. We threw a dual Opteron 246 together with a 120GB 8MB Cache SATA hard drive and 1GB of memory. The hardware itself worked fine, although I/O was a bit of a bottleneck due to the mediocre IDE hard drive. Compiling larger .NET projects is very I/O intensive. The main problem, however, lied with the software side of the implementation, particularly debugging. In order for Visual Studio to debug projects on remote servers, there are several hoops that you have to jump through, and after you finish doing that, you may or may not be successful.

After spending a day or two trying to get remote debugging working correctly, I decided that developing the .NET projects locally was the reliable choice. The next decision: which hardware were we going to use? I/O wasn't that great on our home-built server, and we wanted to use the latest technology to build a powerhouse workstation that would serve our needs for years to come (rebuilding workstation/servers isn't something that we like doing often).

As luck would have it, we received a SuperMicro 7044A-82R from SuperMicro, which certainly fits the "Powerhouse" workstation bill that we were looking for. Not only is our new workstation outfitted with the latest technology, it has the redundancy and workstation/server chassis to go with it. We've used some Supermicro products through the years, and it has always served us well. In fact, we still have an old SC750-A Supermicro case around the labs, which was one of the first server cases that we used at AnandTech.

Index The New Powerhouse
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  • JasonClark - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    mikepeck, it certainly is overkill, we're speed nuts like the rest of you. Compile time for building isn't much at all, but compile time after a change (as .NET re-compiles all of the files) does take some time. As said in the article the opteron did just fine, but 7200 RPM IDE drives aren't all that quick during heavy compilation. This article was more information, not a benchmark or comparison between opteron/nocona as a workstation.

    We are interested in doing some real workstation benchmarks, but need some input as to what people would like to see.
  • mikepeck - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    Wow. This is what happens when you have a hardware nut from a hardware site put together a "workstation". Also, not sure how a measly dual opteron wouldn't hack it. How long of compiles are you talking about here? I've done serious .NET development on systems FAR less than what you speak of. Perhaps it is a bit of jealousy, but for a .NET development machine, ya, just a BIT of an overkill.
  • Booty - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    I know this is a bit off topic, but I've looked around for some good how-to's for building your own high-end workstations and/or servers, and haven't found much. There's tons of info out there about building your own PC, but not much for servers. Hell, I wouldn't even know where to go to buy the hardware - Newegg doesn't seem to carry much server stuff.

    Say I wanted to build the equivalent of a Dell PowerEdge 6600... anyone know of any good resources for someone wanting to get into that type of thing?
  • JasonClark - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    One thing this article brings up is the need for workstation articles. If any of you are interested, what benchmarks would you like to see, besides compiling.

  • JasonClark - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    Ryan, we keep most of the hardware we test around the labs for future articles/comparisons. Spare is a term to be used lightly in the lab, until its needed :).
  • RyanVM - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    You know, if dual Opteron 246s, 1GB memory, and a 120GB SATA hard drive are "spare parts", I want to rummage through you guys' junk pile! :P
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    I was under the impression that AMD K8 processors (Opteron, Athlon 64) are considerably faster than than Intel's best Pentium 4's for compiling. Given that a 3.6GHz Nocona is to all intents and purposes a P4 560, with 64-bit support which Windows Server 2003 does not use, and an Opteron 250 is equivalent to an Athlon64 FX53 (S940); the 3.6GHz Nocona is a long way behind the Opteron 250 in the Visual Studio compile test.

    That gap will almost certainly widen in a dual-processor system.
  • JasonClark - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    Exmaster76, you'll see an article very shortly about Opteron 250 vs Nocona 3.6..

  • JasonClark - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    daniel, I had a look at that app as well, not bad but I wanted everything running at the same time as some sites depend on others.

  • daniel1113 - Friday, September 10, 2004 - link

    I've got one word for any web developers out there that use Windows XP Pro rather than a server OS:


    It allows you to easily switch between websites in IIS. Of course, you are still limited to one website at a time, but if you work on multiple sites on your home computer, this little program works wonders.

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