Issue: Volume 33 Issue 6: (June 2010)


Workstation Market Takes Sizable Step Forward

Jon Peddie Research (JPR) reported robust results for the workstation and professional graphics markets in Q4 2009, as the industry successfully plowed ahead, anxious to put the misery of late 2008 and early 2009 further behind. The research firm reports that the quarter saw another solid round of gains, building off the upward trend started in Q3. All told, the industry shipped 716,900 workstations in the fourth quarter, resulting in an 11.2 percent sequential increase.

Even better, workstation ASPs finally managed a modest but perceptible 3.6 percent uptick in Q4, a gain JPR traces in part to improved confidence and looser purse strings, and in part simply as the not-quite-equal reaction to the more dramatic deflation in prices seen in the immediate aftermath of the economic downturn. Healthier ASPs meant the industry got to enjoy the relatively rare event of seeing units outpaced by revenue, which rose an estimated 15.2 percent sequentially to $1.43 billion.

In Q3 2009, HP overtook Dell in workstation unit volume, staking its claim as the new workstation market leader. Clearly, Dell hadn’t taken its demotion lightly, instead digging in its heels to raise its fourth-quarter unit share back up 1.5 points, in the process moving back into a virtual dead heat with HP.

Simply put, the professional graphics market in the fourth quarter posted results significantly hotter than expected, with units (mobiles included) up 53.3 percent year-over-year and revenue (add-in cards only) close behind at 41.1 percent.

The market for professional graphics parallels the workstation market, with the former’s performance often providing an effective leading indicator for the latter’s. And that bodes well for workstations this year. Because if the numbers for workstations in Q1 2010 look anything like those posted by professional graphics in Q4 2009, they should exceed all but the most optimistic of OEMs’ expectations. 

Dell Unveils Precision M4500

Dell pushed the boundaries of workstation performance and mobility with its powerful 15.6-inch mobile workstation: the Dell Precision M4500.

The M4500 is the first 15.6-inch mobile workstation to offer an optional SSD MiniCard for additional high-performance data storage and user-selectable thermal tables that keep systems cool and extend battery life when full power isn’t needed.The machine provides near-instant access to e-mail, calendar, contacts, the Internet, and virtual remote desktops, with a new technology called Dell Precision ON.

With a starting weight of only six pounds, the M4500 supports 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, along with Red Hat Linux 5.3 (64 bit). The product is available with a number of optional features, including: Intel Core i7-920XM Quad Core processor Extreme Edition; Nvidia Quadro FX 1800M or Quadro FX 880M graphics with 1gb of dedicated memory for large models and models with high texture; HD+ sRGB LED 15.6-inch screen with 120 percent user-selectable color gamut support; and 3MP camera and Gobi 2.0 mobile broadband support with a multi-touch touchpad.

Boxx Revs Up Rendering

Boxx Technologies has released the RenderBoxx 10400, the latest edition to the company’s RenderBoxx series.

The purpose-built, dedicated rendering module is now available with as many as four six-core Intel Xeon 5600 series processors, for a total of 24 cores of processing power, delivering a throughput of 222mb/sec. In addition to the RenderBoxx, Intel-based 3DBoxx workstations and other Boxx solutions are now available with Xeon 5600s.

With the Xeon 5600, Boxx can deliver as much as 50 percent more processing power than the previous RenderBoxx, albeit without a 50 percent increase in price. Moreover, the additional cores and improved performance don’t require more space or energy, but they offer the benefit of solid-state drives. Previous-generation 10300 five-module renderfarms featured 80 processing cores in a four-rack unit space. The new 10400 increases the amount to 120 cores in that same space.

In other news, Boxx added EnFuzion industrial-grade 3D render management software to its line of professional rendering applications that combines pools of servers and desktop machines by distributing jobs.