Originally Posted by kweechy
The support and guaranteed build reliability from them is what you pay for. They will be at your door within hours of a machine going down, and will replace parts even when you've screwed them up. I ruined my motherboard when I pulled out a WiFi PCI card from my Dell workstation while it was on (was in a huff about my net constantly crashing and very pissed since it was costing me a deadline) and they came the next morning and replaced my motherboard for me while I made myself a cup of coffee.
I work in the film industry doing CGI effects, and we lean almost entirely on i7 rackmounted machines. Not Xeons. However, if something fails, all that happens is we lose a single 3-20 hour frame calculation (depending on scene complexity) that we can just submit again. I also do commercial and film work from home and own several OC'd 3930K boxes for that purpose, so I've probably got quite a bit of experience along the lines of what you're looking to do.
At the office, all of our floor workstations are Dells because even WITH a tech department that does nothing but deal with machine and software related issues...I don't think we could handle support on 150 computers built from ordered parts; even though the initial cost investment would be a couple hundred thousand dollars cheaper. That buys you 2-3 solid IT guys for a year, but you need those machines to hold up for 3-5.
If we were working on things that took days to compute with no margin of error, we wouldn't dick around with i7s and non-ECC memory...nor would we sacrifice performance. We'd simply spend $1-2K more per machine and be done with it.My advice to you:
Every time I overspend on computing power for my personal business that I do from home; I never have regretted it once. I recently spent thousands pulling the Z67s and 2600s out of every box I own to replace with X79s and 3930s. I regretted it at first, it cost me a lot of money to gain 30% more power. Yet now I'm rendering a commercial that has been on my render farm for days now even WITH the 3930s...and I had to fork over $1,500 for a cloud rendering service because my stuff couldn't keep up. If I'd been more prepared, I'd have had a couple more machines and been out $3K instead of $1.5K, but at least own the gear and be able to use it "for free" next time.
To put it simply, you will never need LESS computing power than you do right now. So make the investment, carry over the write offs to next year if that helps more. Do not put a price ceiling of $1,500 on a machine that you're going to be relying on to do your work for you. $1,500 should be reserved for boxes that don't get tasks that can keep them at 100% for days.
Buy Xeon E5 Engineering Samples off eBay to save money without sacrificing quality or reliability, and stick them in a good 2P motherboard with 64GB of RAM. Make sure the motherboard supports ECC memory...cosmic rays become less of an issue every time technology shrinks, but in my business, cosmic rays may ruin a pixel or a single frame...in yours, they may ruin an entire analysis.
Get yourself set up with a RAMdrive, and work entirely from that. SSD drives, while fast, whimper off with their tail between their legs when put up against a RAM partition. We're talking 500MB/s versus 6600MB/s speeds.