Put me in front of a dual processor motherboard and a pair of eight core Xeons with HyperThreading and I will squeal with delight.  Then I will take it to the cleaners with multithreaded testing to actually see how good it is.  Watching a score go up or the time taken to do a test going down is part of the parcel as a product reviewer, so watching the score go higher or the time taken going down is almost as good as product innovation.

Back in research, two things can drive the system: publication of results and future relevance for those results.  Understanding the system to get results is priority number one, and then being able to obtain results could be priority number two.  In theoretical fields, where a set of simulations can take from seconds to months and even years, having the hardware to deal with many simulations (or threads within a simulation) and the single threaded speed means more results per unit time.  Extremely useful when you get a weeks worth of results back and you missed a negative sign in the code (happens more often than you think).  Some research groups, with well-developed code, take it to clusters.  Modern takes on the code point towards GPUs, if the algorithm allows, but that is not always the case.

So when it comes to my perspective on the GA-7PESH1, I unfortunately do have not much of a comparison to point at.  As an overclocking enthusiast, I would have loved to see some overclock, but the only thing a Sandy Bridge-E processor with an overclock will do is increase single threaded speed – the overall multithreaded performance on most benchmarks is still below an i7-3960X at 5 GHz (from personal testing).  For simulation performance, it really depends on the simulation itself if it will blaze though the code while using ~410 watts.

Having an onboard 2D chip negates needing a dedicated display GPU, and the network interfaces allow users to remotely check up on system temperatures and fan speeds to reduce overheating or lockups due to thermals.  There are plenty of connections on board for mini-SAS cabling and devices, combined with an LSI SAS chip if RAID is a priority.  The big plus point over consumer oriented double processor boards is the DIMM slot count, with the GA-7PESH supporting up to 512 GB.

Compared to the consumer oriented dual processor motherboards available, one can criticize the GA-7PESH1 for not being forthcoming in terms of functionality.  I would have assumed that being a B2B product that it would be highly optimized for efficiency and a well-developed platform, but the lack of discussion and communication between the server team and the mainstream motherboard team is a missed opportunity when it comes to components and user experience.

This motherboard has been reviewed in a few other places around the internet with different foci with respect to the reviewer experience.  One of the main criticisms was the lack of availability – there is no Newegg listing and good luck finding it on eBay or elsewhere.  I send Gigabyte an email, to which I got the following response:

  • Regarding the availability in the US, so far all our server products are available through our local branch, located at:

    17358 Railroad St.
    City of Industry
    CA 91748

As a result of being a B2B product, pricing for the GA-7PESH1 (or the GA-7PESH2, its brother with a 10GbE port) is dependent on individual requirements and bulk purchasing.  In contrast, the ASUS Z9PE-D8 WS is $580, and the EVGA SR-X is $650.

Review References for Simulations:

[1] Stripping Voltammetry at Microdisk Electrode Arrays: Theory, IJ Cutress, RG Compton, Electroanalysis, 21, (2009), 2617-2625.
[2] Theory of square, rectangular, and microband electrodes through explicit GPU simulation, IJ Cutress, RG Compton, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, 645, (2010), 159-166.
[3] Using graphics processors to facilitate explicit digital electrochemical simulation: Theory of elliptical disc electrodes, IJ Cutress, RG Compton, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, 643, (2010), 102-109.
[4] Electrochemical random-walk theory Probing voltammetry with small numbers of molecules: Stochastic versus statistical (Fickian) diffusion, IJ Cutress, EJF Dickinson, RG Compton, Journal of Electroanlytical Chemistry, 655, (2011), 1-8.
[5] How many molecules are required to measure a cyclic voltammogram? IJ Cutress, RG Compton, Chemical Physics Letters, 508, (2011), 306-313.
[6] Nanoparticle-electrode collision processes: Investigating the contact time required for the diffusion-controlled monolayer underpotential deposition on impacting nanoparticles, IJ Cutress, NV Rees, YG Zhou, RG Compton, Chemical Physics Letters, 514, (2011), 58-61.
[7] D. Britz, Digital Simulation Electrochemistry, in: D. Britz (Ed.), Springer, New York, 2005, p. 187.
[8] W.H. Press, S.A. Teukolsky, W.T. Vetterling, B.P. Flannery, Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
[9] D.E. Knuth, in: D.E. Knuth (Ed.), Seminumerical Algorithms, Addison-Wesley, 1981, pp. 130–131
[10] K.Gregory, A.Miller, C++ AMP: Accelerated Massive Parallelism with Microsoft Visual C++, 2012, link.
+ others contained within the references above.

System Benchmarks


View All Comments

  • mayankleoboy1 - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    Ian :

    How much difference do you think Xeon Phi will make in these very different type of Computations?
    Will buying a Xeon Phi "pay itself out" as you said in the above comments ? (or is xeon phi linux only ?)
  • IanCutress - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    As far as we know, Xeon Phi will be released for Linux only to begin with. I have friends who have been able to play with them so far, and getting 700 GFlops+ in DGEMM in double precision.

    It always comes down to the algorithm with these codes. It seems that if you have single precision code that doesn't mind being in a 2P system, then the GPU route may be preferable. If not, then Phi is an option. I'm hoping to get my hands on one inside H1 this year. I just have to get my hands dirty with Linux as well.

    In terms of the codes used here, if I were to guess, the Implicit Finite Difference would probably benefit a lot from Xeon Phi if it works the way I hope it does.

  • mayankleoboy1 - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    Rather stupid question, but have you tried using PGO builds ?
    Also, do you build the code with the default optimizations, or use the MSVC equivalent switch of -O2 ?
  • IanCutress - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    Using Visual Studio 2012, all the speed optimisations were enabled including /GL, /O2, /Ot and /fp:fast. For each part I analysed the sections which took the most time using the Performance Analysis tools, and tried to avoid the long memory reads. Hence the Ex-FD uses an iterative loading which actually boosts speed by a good 20-30% than without it.

  • Klimax - Sunday, January 06, 2013 - link

    Interesting. Why not Ox (all optimisations on)

    BTW: Do you have access to VTune?
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, January 09, 2013 - link

    In case /Ox performs an optimisation for memory over speed in an attempt to balance optimisations. As speed is priority #1, it made more sense to me to optimise for that only. If VS2012 gave more options, I'd adjust accordingly.

    Never heard of VTune, but I did use the Performance Analysis tools in VS2012 to optimise certain parts of the code.

  • Beenthere - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    Business and mobo makers do not use 2P mobos to get high benches or performance bragging rights per se. These systems are build for bullet-proof reliability and up time. It does no good for a mobo/system to be 3% faster if it crashes while running a month long analysis. These 2P mobos are about 100% reliability, something rarely found in a enthusiasts mobo.

    Enterprise mobos are rarely sold by enthusiast marketeers. Newegg has a few enterprise mobos listed primarily because they have started a Newegg Biz website to expand their revenue streams. They don't have much in the line of true enterprise hardware however. It's a token offering because manufacturers are not likely to support whoring of the enterprise market lest they lose all of their quality vendors who provide customer technical product support.
  • psyq321 - Sunday, January 06, 2013 - link

    Actually, ASUS Z9PE-D8 WS allows for some overclocking capabilities.

    CPU overclocking with 2P/4P Xeon E5 (2600/4600 sequence) is a no-go because Intel explicitly did not store proper ICC data so it is impossible to manipulate BCLK meaningfully (set the different ratios). Oh, and the multipliers are locked :)

    However, Z9PE D8 WS allows memory overclocking - I managed to run 100% 24/7 stable with the Samsung ECC 1600 DDR3 "low voltage" RAM (16 GB sticks) - just switching memory voltage from 1.35v to 1.55v allows overclocking memory from 1600 MHz to 2133 MHz.

    Why would anyone want to do that in a scientific or b2b environment? The only usage I can see are applications where memory I/O is the biggest bottleneck. Large-scale neural simulations are one of such applications, and getting 10 GB/s more of memory I/O can help a lot - especially if stable.

    Also, low-latency trading applications are known to benefit from overclocked hardware and it is, in fact, used in production environment.

    Modern hardware does tend to have larger headrooms between the manufacturer's operating point and the limits - if the benefit from an overclock is more benefitial than work invested to find the point where the results become unstable - and, of course, shorter life span of the hardware - then, it can be used. And it is used, for example in some trading scenarios.
  • Drazick - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    Will You, Please, Update Your Google+ Page?

    It would be much easier to follow you there.
  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    Our Google+ page is just a token page. If you wish to follow us then your best option is to follow our RSS feeds. Reply

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