At an international press event, HP unveils the offerings while high-profile customers detail how the technology is changing their way of doing business.
In a great deal of style, HP introduced its latest offerings to journalists from around the world at its workstation launch event in Santa Monica recently.
Rather than simply presenting the new hardware and detailing the specs, HP illustrated the power of the machines through customers that are pushing their business to new heights thanks to the offerings. Proof was in the pudding, so to speak. An endless list of specifications ceases to have meaning after a while; illustrating newfound and impressive capabilities that can be readily seen was far more impressive.
The first day of the launch began at Raleigh Studios, the oldest working studio in Hollywood, where the video and audio for Disney’s Fantasia were synched so long ago…with an HP product. Today, the studio is using Z800s to process motion-capture data in real time in its Best Practices Lab.
The Z Series As Jim Zafarana, VP and general manager, pointed out, HP workstations are now prominent in the high-computing arena that was once dominated by the likes of SGI. And in the center of it all for the past year has been the HP Z line of workstations. Last year, the company unveiled the Z800, Z600, and Z400, powerful machines for a reasonable price. The modular Z line sported more than 20 design innovations, and took advantage of the latest Intel processors. At the top end was the quad-core Z800, with the Intel Xeon 5500 Series processor, while the Z400 fell at the lower end of the scale.
This year, HP upped the ante to six cores with an Intel Xeon 5600 (Westmere) processor available on the Z800s, Z600s, and even the Z400s. In fact, the new processors in these Zs can accommodate up to two Intel six-core processors with Hyper-Threading turned on, offering 24 threads of power to run at one time—all desk side.
The HP Z800 offers the latest Intel Xeon 5500 and 5600 series processors, providing up to 12 processing cores, up to 192GB of ECC memory, up to 10TB of high-speed storage, and up to dual Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 graphics. The HP Z600 also offers Intel Xeon 5500 and 5600 series processors with up to 12 processing cores. It additionally provides up to 48GB of ECC memory, up to 6TB of high-speed storage, and professional 2D and 3D graphics up to Nvidia Quadro FX 4800 or dual Quadro FX 1800 graphics. The HP Z400 offers up to six processing cores using the latest Intel Xeon 3500 series processors, providing up to 24GB of ECC memory, up to 8TB of high-speed storage, and up to Nvidia Quadro FX 4800 or dual Quadro FX 1800 graphics.
“The new Intel Xeon Processor 5600 series runs multi-threaded workstation applications up to 45 percent faster than its predecessor, the Intel Xeon Processor 5500 series,” says Intel’s Anthony Neal-Graves, general manager, Workstations. “Workstations powered by the new Intel Xeon Processor 5600 series give application developers the reliability, capacity, and performance to help them bring innovative ideas to life faster than ever before.”
The HP Z400, Z600, and Z800 are available now. Pricing starts at $929 for the HP Z400 workstation, $1579 for the HP Z600 workstation, and $1799 for the HP Z800 workstation.
During an event that was large in scope, HP was thinking in small terms—that is, a small form factor. Adding to its Z workstation line, HP introduced the Z200 SFF ultra-compact tower, sporting a dual-core processor option based on the Intel Core i3 and i5, or a quad-core option based on the Xeon 3400 series.
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With a starting price rivaling those of traditional desktop computers ($739), the HP Z200 SFF breaks new ground with a space-saving design that is almost two-thirds smaller than the Z200 mini-tower workstation. Available now, the HP Z200 SFF supports up to 16GB of ECC memory and up to 2TB of high-speed storage. It also includes professional 2D and 3D graphics options. In addition, the HP Z200 SFF is designed for ease of use and serviceability, with a tool-less chassis, convenient USB ports located on the front of the system, and a FireWire 1394a card option.
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On the mobile side, the company introduced its most powerful mobile workstation to date: the EliteBook 8740w, sporting an optional HP DreamColor display. Featuring a 17-inch diagonal display, a range of Intel processors including Core i7 Extreme Edition, and support for up to 16GB of memory, the 8740w can meet the needs of the most demanding applications. The inclusion of USB 3.0 provides increased bandwidth and performance, while an optional backlit keyboard is offered for the first time on an HP EliteBook.
The DreamColor display option enables professionals to work with deep, accurate colors for precise results every time. Able to display more than one billion active colors--64 times the capabilities of a traditional display--the 8740w utilizes a 30-bit notebook LCD panel to provide a level of color control previously found only on the deskbound HP DreamColor LP2480 Professional Display.
Workstation-class graphics solutions maximize on-screen performance. The 8740w offers a choice of the ATI FirePro M7820 with 1GB of GDDR5 video memory or the Nvidia Quadro FX 2800M or Quadro FX 3800M, both with 1GB GDDR3 video memory. Users selecting the ATI FirePro configuration benefit from Direct X 11 and multi-display support. Through a single GPU, the mobile workstation can simultaneously support up to four independent display outputs, plus the native notebook panel, for a total of five displays. The EliteBook 8740w will be available this month for $1999.
Providing a close-up look at the power behind the Z machines were a handful of customers. The big attention-getter was Luczo Dragon Racing, which uses a range of HP products, from workstations and mobile PCs, to OfficeJet printers, to manage the nuts and bolts of its operation. HP technology is used in every aspect of performance, engineering, reliability, management, mobility, robustness, raw computing power, and design. “During a race, we need to run a lot of data through the systems at one time,” says Gil de Ferran, president and managing partner of Luczo Dragon Racing. “The compute power that HP provides is critical to our performance and our drivers. We can rely on the HP workstations and notebooks to provide fast performance every time without crashing.”
Off the track, engineers use HP workstations to enhance parts design, data collection, storage, analysis, simulation, and optimization. To prepare for each race, engineers on the Luczo Dragon Racing team run simulations to understand how the car’s setup will affect performance for a given track. The team needs to understand the behavior of the car and the effect of changes in performance. Effectively, the team tries to develop and optimize the car through simulations and optimization routines. These simulations and test runs generate massive amounts of data. The multicore processing power of HP servers and workstations allows the team to run multiple simulations and optimizations at once--increasing the team’s efficiency. After miles of practice runs, the team identifies areas on the car that need to be fine-tuned for maximum reliability and functionality--using HP workstations the team is able to redesign each aspect of the car for optimal performance.
On the track, the team uses HP notebooks to monitor every move the car makes and remotely adjust suspension, telemetry, and engine systems for optimal performance during every second of the race. While the car speeds around the track at 220 miles per hour, it is critical for the team to be able to analyze the information they’re receiving from sensors on the car and immediately understand where performance deficits may lie. “In the past, running simulations to prepare for a race would often take 10 times the real-time speed,” says de Ferran. “With today’s technology from HP, extremely complex lap simulations can happen faster than real time. This has allowed us to change the way we do business-- keeping us ahead of the game instead of one lap behind.”
On Day Two, HP hosted the press at partner DreamWorks, where the studio’s CTO Ed Leonard noted how, with the help of HP, DreamWorks has undergone a huge technological investment that is “flipping our business upside down.” That technology includes the use HP Z800 Workstations, HP ProLiant blade servers, HP Halo Telepresence Solutions, HP DreamColor displays, storage solutions, and HP Designjet printers. For ultimate performance, production artists at DreamWorks Animation used powerful HP Z800 workstations to design everything on the film from characters to lighting. According to DreamWorks Animation, the HP Z800 proved to be significantly faster than its predecessor--providing speeds up to 50 percent faster.
“Part of my job is to ensure that our animators can dream without boundaries—to bring to life characters on screen with every detail as perfect as their imagination, sequences so detailed and so visually rich that they would be impossible to execute within the confines of modern technology” says Leonard. “Impossible, that is, without the amazing technology provided to us from HP.”
Released in 2001, DreamWorks Animation’s original Shrek film used more than 6TB of data and required nearly five million render hours. With the artistic bar rising ever higher, the production of How to Train Your Dragon (see the April issue of CGW) used nearly 100TB of data and more than 50 million render hours.
DreamWorks Animation’s current renderfarm--a grouping of computers that work in concert to process animation sequences--is the largest and most powerful renderfarm ever used in the studio’s production of a CG animated film. Relying on a renderfarm that comprised more than 25,000 computing cores, the production of How To Train Your Dragon kept nearly 10,000 cores busy almost 100 percent of the time--24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 28 weeks.
“DreamWorks Animation is a leader in bringing the next big thing in animation,” says HP’s Zafarana. “HP thrives on working with customers like DreamWorks that continually push us to bring them the technology they demand to make their business more productive.”
To achieve new looks in lighting, DreamWorks Animation worked with award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC. Using HP Z800 workstations to control a powerful array of back-end HP ProLiant blade servers, Deakins was able to interactively explore and design the lighting in full final-frame quality with DreamWorks Animation VFX and CG supervisors. HP Halo helps DreamWorks Animation connect DreamWorks Animation teams are enjoying deeper, more effective collaboration as the studio continues to use HP Halo Telepresence Solutions. For How to Train Your Dragon, creative teams in Glendale and Redwood City, California, met face to face, virtually, via HP Halo. Using the system’s high-definition collaboration screen, teams were able to work on the detailed, CG characters and environments that bring the film to life. In particular, HP Halo was an instrumental part of collaboration between directors, art designers and the effects artists on How to Train Your Dragon. The filmmakers’ ambition was to match the unique personalities of each dragon with a distinct fire style while maintaining the overall artistic direction. Having the ability to pull the different development teams into one virtual room for reviews and feedback helped to enable that artistic achievement.
DreamWorks Animation uses HP Designjet Z6100 Printers in nearly every production to print large color images, such as visual development shots for large landscapes or final character images for marketing, tours and presentations. A printed drawing allows the production crew to see both the larger picture and the subtle nuances of the shot.
Fun facts about How to Train Your Dragon
* At 1,630 shots, the film has the highest shot count produced by DreamWorks Animation
* More than 800 Vikings appeared in a single shot
* More than 2500 dragons in another single shot