CG Workstation – The Baby “Titan” Supercomputer

PCFoo_banner_FT77A_Titan

If you have tried GPU accelerated rendering and you think you can work fine within its limitations, this big-little machine can be your single box renderfarm solution.
It is far from “cheap”, but for a studio that can harness the 21.5K CUDA cores it packs, this “Baby Titan” supercomputer will certainly appear to be a worthy investment!

CG Creation and GPGPU

Despite the inertia within the CG industry re-adapting to the speed and flexibility parallel GPU computing (GPGPU) allows for, many other scientific disciplines have been using GPUs for computing complex simulation models for a long time now, in fields ranging from medical research, to stockmarket prediction algorithms and complex simulation math models.

My first experience with GPU accelerated rendering was with the 1st beta of Octane. Since then, many CG software houses have introduced their own version of GPU accelerated engines, including Chaosgroup’s VRay RT and nVidia’s iRay, a GPU accelerated engine related to MetalRay that is included with 3DS Max since v 2011.

Most CG artists are aware and curious about GPU rendering, trying to squeeze an extra GPU or two in their workstations. Multi-GPU solutions were popular for gaming the last decade, and fortunately most GPU accelerated software is fully utilizable by “gaming” GPUs which otherwise are severely underutilized in viewport acceleration.
With modern high-end desktop GPUs packing more and more VRam, dedicated GPGPU units like nVidia’s Tesla cards, are almost obsolete for the majority of CG artitsts, and most premium desktop motherboards for both AMD and intel CPUs allow for 2, 3 or more GPUs to be utilized – ofc with gaming in mind.

For quite some time now, the high-end X79 boards for intel’s SB-E CPUs are available with as many as 6 or 7 PCIe 16x slots, that can immediately can get wild thoughts in your mind. Unfortunately, these E-ATX or CEB sized boards have size limitations that cannot allow for more than 4x double width GPU cards to be plugged in without blocking every other slot. Unless you are willing to produce a custom case and use long, flexible PCIe 16x risers / ribbons, you won’t be able to mount more than 4x cards. This enough for the consumer profile of the multi-GPU user, which is a gamer interested in SLI or Crossfire X configurations that currently don’t allow for more than 4x cards anyways.

What if we want more than that for GPGPU?

Page 2: The TYAN FT77AB7059 & FT72B7015 barebones

10 thoughts on “CG Workstation – The Baby “Titan” Supercomputer

  1. Hi Dmitris, Once again I need you advice. I think to update my GTX 680 to Titan or 780ti EVGA is going to release GTX 780ti with 6Gb of RAM, but the question is do I really need floating point precision of Titan for VrayRT and Cycles? Thanks, Roman

    • No, I don’t think you will see major differences between the Titan (Black or not) and a 780Ti. It should be the same card as far as VRay RT / Cycles / Luxrender / Octane.

      I’ve seen very predictable performance scaling with all Kepler cards so far (e.g. you add 2 cards with the same cores * clocks aggregate as a Titan, you will get Titan-like performance, you add 2 Titans or 2* 770s = 2* performance etc)

    • I don’t believe OS GPU limitations are that relevant. As long as the GPGPU program detects a CUDA enabled device, should be able to use it, and you can do so even over LAN. Win OS might be limited to 7 or so GPUs driving monitors, but in this built one of the GTX cards or if you wish for an 8th dedicated viewport card is needed to do so. The rest is pure compute.

    • Do some research. Chances are that this chassis will be available in competitive prices. Now that Haswell-E is out and s2011 platform is obsolete, Tyan & its vendors will probably try to push the stock off the shelves. GPGPU performance won’t be affected either way. Using GTX980 – hopefully the 8GB version is not that far, should be ~$700ish – you will probably get better compute all-around, for less power consumption & probably noise. Important when we are talking 8 GPUs.

  2. Dmitris, Just got the info from guys over Octane’s forum that GTX 980 which is maxwell architecture apparently is not quite fast comparing to GTX 780 (keppler). I think i would stick with GTX 780 for now. I read from other forum , that somebody got problem with 8x GTX 780 on Tyan FT77A . it only run 7 GPUs. That make me wary a bit. link attached below: http://hashcat.net/forum/thread-3330.html

    • The performance of Maxwell cores – at least with OpenCL instructions – is far superior that that of Kepler, on par or better than R9 290X in some cases (which is lotsa faster than GK110). I guess Maxwell GPGPU engine will be revised in the future, but if 780s suffice for you atm, you should be fine. Especially if 3GB VRam will do it for you, there are lots of offers and rebates on 780s that need to “go” and make room for 9xx orders. 6GB 780s are in far shorter supply and I doubt you can find them @ great prices. As far as the 8 card limit goes, I think you can still install manually the 6th-8th card if Windows and/or NVidia driver fails to automatically detect them. It is a BIOS issue I think and not that of the OS. I know ppl using 8-GPU setups, tho I never had one setup myself. You should manually guide the GPU(s) the were not connected to find drivers from the location those are deployed (C:\nvidia for example) through the Device Manager > Install Drivers > Have Disk option.

  3. Seriously considering one of these for home use. When doing compute work, I’m sure it’ll be noisy, but curious if those 180mm fans spin down enough to be acceptable while sitting in the same room.

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