Local users pilot new dual-core Xeon

Intel's new-generation architecture, codenamed "Woodcrest", has already captured the attention of a number of local enterprises looking to boost their computing power.

Woodcrest is the dual-core Xeon processor, which has the new Intel "Core Microarchitecture" aimed at increasing the speed of data transfer through the processor and supporting chipset.

Mike Thomson, head of 3D at animation studio zspace, said the company's new Woodcrest-based server was nearly twice as fast as the numbers "say it should be", and rendering is four times as fast as the older system.

Comparing zspace's new two-way 2.66GHz dual-core Intel Xeon processor with a 5000P (codenamed 'Bensley') chipset to a two-way 2.2GHz Xeon-based system, processing a test 5000 pixel square image took about 7 minutes rather than 33 minutes.

Woodcrest also provides both 32-bit and 64-bit capabilities, which gives zspace the option of adding more memory when its key applications, like Maya and Mental Ray, support 64-bit.

"Using 32-bit systems at the moment, we're kind of limited," Thomson said. "When we start doing particle simulations, we can hit the roof and run out of memory on the third or fourth frame. If we want to do millions of particles, or a complex crowd simulator, we can get really bogged down. With 64-bit servers, we will be able to install as much RAM as we can afford, then use almost unlimited numbers of particles."

With a server farm of six two-way Xeon-based and, at night, up to 34 additional Pentium 4 desktop PCs, zspace's render farm can access a single set of graphical elements stored on another Xeon-based server running Red Hat Linux with 4TB of storage.

Another early adopter is Swimming Australia for its SwimNet records system, which houses over 400,000 records in its database and over 7000 individual results from each new meet.

Swimming Australia upgraded its Microsoft SQL Server 2005 database and re-deployed the application on a new two-way, dual-core 3.43GHz Xeon system with 4GB of RAM. The upgrade reduced batch processing time from 27 minutes to four.

Swimming Australia's IT services coordinator, Regan Harrison, said in the long term, the new platform will let the organization move data processing from the state level down to the local club level, so the work is distributed over a greater number of people and results are available sooner.

Intel Australia's strategic relations manager, Brett Hannath, admitted the processor giant had lost some customers, including hosting company WDG, to rival AMD, but is confident of winning them back.

"They [WDG] were running on Opteron which was a better product for them 18 months ago," Hannath said. "With Woodcrest they can now do their modelling a lot more quickly and can sell off their high-performance computing environment to third parties because they are not consuming that time to run their own modelling."

Hannath said software development for the new processors will also be easier because Intel now has a common microarchitecture for mainstream servers, desktops, and notebooks.

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