Spotlight - December 06
Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 12 (Dec 2006)

Spotlight - December 06

GPU - Technolgy

Nvidia Unleashes Cuda Technology
Nvidia has released Cuda technology, a new architecture for computing on Nvidia GPUs and the industry’s first C-compiler development environment for the GPU.

Reportedly up to 100 times faster than traditional methods, GPU computing with Cuda takes advantage of hundreds of on-chip processor cores that work in tandem, communicate, and share data. Cuda technology accelerates hardware performance via Parallel Data Cache, whereby 128 processor cores in the latest generation of Nvidia GPUs cooperate to perform complex computations. A Cuda-enabled GPU can work as a thread processor in this way, or as a streaming processor in applications, such as imaging, where threads do not communicate. Cuda-enabled applications will relegate data-intensive tasks to the GPU for processing, freeing the CPU to perform control and data management functions.

Complementing the new architecture is Nvidia C-compiler for the GPU.

Developers access these new features through a separate computing driver that communicates with DirectX and OpenGL, and the new Nvidia C-compiler for the GPU, which obsoletes streaming languages for GPU computing.

Cuda technology is now available on Nvidia’s new GeForce 8800 graphics card and will be added to future Quadro pro graphics boards.


Dell Updates Servers, Workstations with Quad-Core
Dell has infused its Precision workstations and PowerEdge servers with the Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors. The Precision 690 and 490 workstations, for work involving massive data sets, can now be configured with the new Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors, whereas the Dell Precision 390 supports the new Intel Core 2 Extreme CPU. The added processor cores benefit users with increased computing performance in multi-threaded applications, such as Autodesk’s 3ds Max and Maya. The Dell Precision 690 and 490, equipped with Quad-Core Intel Xeon CPUs, are said to achieve hardware performance gains of up to 54 percent on multi-threaded applications.

The 690 model features a dual CPU socket and dual front-side buses to provide up to eight processor cores with Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors, in addition to support for up to 64gb of memory and enhanced graphics via an optional dual-graphics riser card via Nvidia SLI technology. The Precision 490 also offers dual CPU socket and dual front-side buses for up to eight processor cores, as well as support for up to 32gb of memory.

The Dell Precision 690, 490, and 390 with Intel quad-core chips are certified on a variety of DCC, CAD, and CAE software programs. Pricing for the Dell Precision 390 with Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processors starts at $2213, while the Precision 690 and 490 featuring Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors sport a price tag starting at $2399 and $2149, respectively. The workstations are available now.

On the server side, Intel’s new quad-core processors can bring about up to a 69 percent performance improvement in a virtualized environment. Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors are available now in Dell PowerEdge 1950, 2900, 2950, SC1430, and 1955 blade models, which are priced at $1599, $1599, $1699, $1049, and $1799, respectively.


HP Workstations Tap Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300s

Hewlett-Packard is now shipping powerful, energy-efficient HP workstations running Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 series processors and Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core processors. In fact, HP is introducing three new models within its ProLiant rack server, BladeSystem server, and HP workstation families running on the Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 processor, an upgrade from the dual-core platform.

Quad-core processor-based HP workstations are designed to provide a stable, multi-threaded, and multi-tasking environment for shorter project cycle times and greater parallelism for those working on projects within the digital content creation, oil and gas, computer-aided design, and computer-aided engineering markets. Quad-core technology will give customers the tools they need for visualization, analysis, and product creation in extremely demanding environments.

According to industry analysts, a workstation running quad-core processors in a two-socket configuration is faster and more efficient than dual-core processors in a four-socket array. That’s because it can better manage extremely complex parallel jobs.

Intel-based HP xw8400 workstations are enabling the Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to reach new heights in visualization. HP systems with quad-core processors are powering 11 digital projectors at the planetarium to produce vibrant, realistic images of the entire universe.

HP workstations with the new Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 processor series are available now at a starting price of $2349.


Boxx Unveils 3DBoxx RTX Series Machines

Boxx Technologies has released the new 3DBoxx RTX series of high-performance 64-bit workstations designed for film, postproduction, VFX, and digital intermediate applications.

The 3DBoxx RTX workstation enables digital artists to take advantage of multi-core processing and multi-threaded software solutions. The system boasts Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 series processors in a unique chassis capable of accommodating up to 15 data drives for up to 1gb/sec storage bandwidth.

The 3DBoxx RTX features PCI Express x16, PCI-X 64/133mhz, PCI Express x8 using x4, 1394a FireWire, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, and USB 2.0/1.1 slots. The workstation also sports two internal 3.5-inch hard drive bays and 10 swappable SATA/SAS 3.5-inch hard-drive bays.

The 3DBoxx RTX Series workstations are available now in Dual-Core and Quad-Core Intel Xeon configurations. Prices vary according to system configuration.


Softimage XSI 6 Debuts

Softimage, a subsidiary of Avid Technology, has introduced Version 6 of its Softimage XSI 3D animation and character creation software.
Among the features new to XSI are Crosswalk, a tool set for transferring content to and from other 3D programs, and Motor, for moving animation and motion-capture data between arbitrary XSI rigs and other 3D software character rigs. The Elastic Reality Warper and Morpher, built into XSI’s Illusion compositor, enables users to distort images and sequences, whereas Delta Referencing aids them in modifying 3D models and scene setups. New Quick Shade provides a fast preview of rendering elements, large-scale materials management, an open framework for integrating third-party renderers, and support for Autodesk’s Mental Ray 3.5.

Softimage XSI 6 supports the .NET framework and the Python scripting language. It also includes the integrated C# object-oriented programming language used by next-generation 3D game developers.

Softimage XSI 6 Foundation costs $495; Essentials, $1995; and Advanced, $6995.