Boosting 2009 2.93 8-Core Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by vogelhausdesign, Nov 18, 2009.

  1. vogelhausdesign macrumors regular

    vogelhausdesign

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2009
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    #1
    Hey everyone, been a while since I've posted. I am in need of some serious advice from Mac Pro users and professionals alike! I would like to gather information about boosting performance of my Mac Pro 2.93 Octo, I've scoured the net and found nothing much to go on. So I'll give you my specs, what I do with it, and what I'd like to get out of my machine. Thanks so much! PS. if it helps, I'm a graphic designer and 3D production artist, and I am willing to try anything to squeeze out as much power as I can!

    HARDWARE:
    //(early) 2009 Mac Pro 2.93 8-Core
    -16GB Ram (2g x8)
    -5.5TB HDD + 256gig FW 800 External
    -ATI Radeon HD 4870 512 vram
    -30" Apple Cinema Display HD
    -OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.2

    SOFTWARE
    -Adobe CS4 Master Suite: Emphasis on After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator.
    -Autodesk Sketch Book Pro 2
    -Autodesk MUD 3D
    -ZBrush 3 ( character modeling)
    -Cinema 4D R11.5 ( Animation, High Res 3D Stills)
    -Tech Tool 5.x (SL edition) eDrive support
    -Call of Duty 4: Multiplayer

    And finally, here is what I need advice/help with:
    - Can the 2.93 Octo-Core be overclocked?

    - Would I benefit from the nVidea Quadro FX 4800 for both 3D AND Gaming? Is there another card out there that can be flashed/purchased for mac, that I should consider?

    -Would my workflow benefit from a RAID card, even though I use an external backup and use 7200rpm Drives with 32mb cache?

    -Is there anything I'm completely unaware of that could boost my performance? such as software/hardware not mentioned, maintenance, upcoming product?

    You guys are the best, with your help lets compile as much data as we can and when I try everything, I'll give you a video update to this post and we'll make a great thread and blog post about it.
    :apple::apple::apple::apple:
     
  2. Dr.Pants macrumors 65816

    Dr.Pants

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    #2
    Not AFAIK. EFI doesn't allow a user to modify its settings like a BIOS does in terms of voltage regulation, etc. There's software OCs about, but I thought they were for EFI32 machines in addition to the fact that they screwed up the system clock, and were much more trouble then they were worth.

    No. AFAIK, the 4800 is based off of the GTX260. Not to mention Quadro drivers work more towards an artifact-free environment then driving games.

    I was under the impression an arsetonne of video cards were supported via the Netkas Injector, but I could be wrong. (Dunno much about the Netkas Injector, I was under the assumption it needed a helper card)

    You could use a SAS card and use some Seagate Cheetahs or Fujitsu-Siemens MBAs, but other then that.... NoScript for Firefox?:p

    An advantage to a hardware RAID card (besides the fact that it could run RAID-5) would be its onboard cache, and some cards have a removable RAM DIMM to expand storage. 4GB cache in some cases. Large cache can solve part of RAID-5s write-hole issue.. but of course, that's if RAID-5 is right for you.
     
  3. vogelhausdesign thread starter macrumors regular

    vogelhausdesign

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    #3
    ^ good tips. I AM however doing motion graphics as well as gaming. So the Quadro FX4800 wouldn't be beneficial compared to some of the upcoming or mod cards? the price tag is pretty sizable, and i wouldnt need stereo imaging out of any card, however, the specs make me drool for just under $1700 wholesale. I am most interested to hear more about available GPU upgrades, overclocks, ect.. How is the GTX260 compared to the 4870HD?

    I would LOVE more speed out of my drives, any suggestions on RAID card purchasing? also, I need stability and reliability too.. client documents will be stored on drives.

    So thats a no on ZDnet's osx overclock for mac pro? I read old post of people able to reach almost 3.4ghz on a single pcu from 2.66

    *Also forgot to mention i do have the option of booting windows, via parallels and or bootcamp.
     
  4. Techhie macrumors 65816

    Techhie

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    #4
    The performance of the Quadro FX4800 largely depends on the driver and the software utilizing it. The chip itself is based on the one in the GTX 285, but altered to allow for massive buffers and calculations because of professional graphic demands by Maya etc. In Mac OS X, the driver obviously was not designed for gaming performance, and would be a poor choice for anything other than a professional with a large budget. My question is, why do you not just use a cheaper Windows-based card, more games are available/perform better on Windows :p
     
  5. vogelhausdesign thread starter macrumors regular

    vogelhausdesign

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    #6
    I see, well I don't use Maya often. And I seldom use windows, unless a really really great game is available *maybe CoD4:MW2 comes along, I probably would never use windows over OS X.

    Unless of course you're talking about flashing one for mac. But, how is the GTX 285? Is it build for mac? How does it compare to the HD 4870? because I'm really not all that impressed with my HD 4870. In fact, with snow leopard installed I saw a noticeable FPS reduction in gaming, and minor snags with 3D rendering.

    @Badger^2, are you pointing to a RAID card? if so which one would best suit me for performance?
     
  6. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    Location:
    Munich, Germany
    #7
    It sounds like budget isn't much of an issue here. In that case I would go for more RAM either 8x 4 or 4x 8 + 4x 4 if you can afford it. You can use the biggest part of the RAM for a RAM drive. 48 GB should see you really flying, particularly when PS releases with 64-bit in summer.

    You can also RAID several SSDs with a RAID card. I have done two in the optical bay with an Areca Arc-1210. No reason why you cannot fit 3 or 4. I used an Addonics 5,25" internal case there which fits four 2,5" drives. If you use three with your RAID card you can have one for Windows, either with a conventional 2,5" HDD or SSD which could use the second optical drive port.

    Your HDD ports can be utilized to have mass data storage of up to 8 TB. Half of that could be backup. If you prefer external backup one of your four ARC ports can be used as eSATA and run your backups much faster than the FW.

    In terms of graphics card I would wait for the next MP release in the first quarter 2010. They will likely bring something stronger like the 5870.

    Read the thread below for some explanations how the speed up would work.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=820476&page=2
     
  7. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #8
    The biggest improvement I've ever made to a system was adding a pair of SSD's.

    There's a whole range of options and price points you can go for... if you want the balls-out solution, get an Areca ARC-1231 with 4+ Intel 160GB Gen2 SSD's in RAID0. Alternatively, just a pair of SSD's in software RAID0 will make you smile.

    IMHO, the next (or perhaps the single) biggest productivity gain... is adding a second monitor. I know you already have a 30" ACD... why not add a second one? While you're at it, drop the Mac version of the GTX 285 in there to drive them.

    :D
     
  8. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #9
    I don't understand some of this advise. If you go with four SSDs you certainly do not need a capacity of 640 GB. It would be a waste of money to keep old projects and mass data on an SSD array. The Areca card also seems a bit overblown for what it is meant to do.

    Re. the GTX 285 I seem to remember that the drivers for Pro apps are sloppy work and make it slower than the 4870.
     
  9. vogelhausdesign thread starter macrumors regular

    vogelhausdesign

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    #10
    I agree entirely with what you're saying. Also, I would like to mention doing graphics and having a gigantic album collection makes it impossible to toss thousands at SSD's just for a little boost.

    Anyone else want to refer back to the original post I made?

    Thanks again guys
     
  10. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

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    Jan 5, 2008
    #11
    Skip Nvidia cards for the foreseeable future. Stick with what you've got. If something better in terms of a GPU comes a long, we'll post on it to death in these forums.

    Maximum OS/Apps storage would be a couple Intel SSDs striped together (If you're made of money, X-25Es are the fastest). Aside from that and the RAM previously mentioned, I would go for at least one more display.

    You only really need a RAID card at this point unless you want to run a massive external RAID or run more complex RAID levels like 5 or 6. You haven't expressed a need for it, so I would just follow the advice you've already been given.
     
  11. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #12
    Not at this time, as there's no access to the firmware. A 3rd party utility might be a possibility in the future.

    To take advantage of the FX4800, you need the right software. Unfortunately, what I'm aware of, is for Windows. So I'd say skip it.

    EVGA does make a Mac version of the GTX285, and currently is the fastest card you can get (that's EFI firmware out of the box). Injectors and flashing the ROM has been done on PC cards to save funds or give options that otherwise aren't available, if you want to consider that route.

    Yes, as the parallelism of drives can significantly improve throughputs. But you need to understand that this isn't the easiest or inexpensive thing to do.

    You can try software based arrays (0/1/10 is possible via OS X). Cards offer additional levels, performance, and features (aimed at stability and ease of recovery). A proper card will contain an NVRAM solution for parity arrays (solves the write hole issue), and also helps with performance. The clue is to make sure it has it's own processor (such as an Intel IOP or PPC chip), and cache installed. Otherwise, it's using the system's CPU/s to do the work (it means there's no NVRAM solution at all, so parity based arrays are NOT advisable with these). Generally, such cards are inexensive, and refered to as Fake RAID controllers (system resources + drivers).

    Assuming you go with a decent card, and you want to keep it internal, you'd need an adapter kit from MaxUpgrades ($165USD) that allows you to connect the HDD bays to a 3rd party card.

    You'd need to think about the RAID levels, and decide what you're after in terms of balancing performance and redundancy.

    You also have to figure out the capacity usage (i.e. how many GB/month) in order to see how fast you're running through capacity. From this, you can figure out how many drives you need to start with, and ports the card would need (then add 4 for future expansion, as it's much easier and cost effective to add drives rather than swap them). Use enterprise level drives, and keep a spare or two handy (depending on the drive count).

    So for example, if you needed to start with 8 drives, you'd want to get a 12 port card. Assuming you need more than 4x drives, you have to obtain external enclosures and cables. Compared to consumer systems, RAID is on the expensive side. But you get what you pay for.

    You can boot OS X off the array, and there are cards that can boot on a Mac, as they have EFI firmware (you do have to flash it, as the default is BIOS). I'd recommend Areca first, as they work in Macs, and offer a really good value. Atto is a bit easier to use (UI is cleaner), but they're also more expensive, and can lack a particular useful feature - the ability to upgrade the cache size (helps with performance, and can store more data in case of a power outage).

    You also want to use the battery backup unit with a card, and a good UPS as well.

    More details, namely with drive counts/capacity requirements, including the growth rate, would be immensely helpful.

    Increasing the RAM might also be in order.
     
  12. vogelhausdesign thread starter macrumors regular

    vogelhausdesign

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    Jan 7, 2009
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    #13
    Ok, so I think for now I'm actually good for a while on just the 6TB I have, the drives are separated as follows:

    HD ( applications/peripherals)1TB
    Backup ( time machine) 1.5TB
    Designs (2d/3D Renders) 1TB
    eDrive ( partition of designs drive) 15GB
    Media ( music) 1TB + 1TB external
    LaCie fw800 ( downloads/Misc) 256GB
    Caviar Black External ( movies/completed animation) 1TB via USB2

    My backup is used for client files and files essential to operating client work immediately following a crash.

    My reason for wanting RAID is mainly stability and performance increase, with the possibility in the future to expand hyper polygonal renders (completed HD).

    As for a graphics card, I'm willing to try anything.. from what I'm reading you all are saying stick with my 4870 HD for now and wait for something better to come along? correct?

    As for ram, I do need to upgrade. How much of a performance increase do you think is possible with most of the graphic software capping out around 3g, with possibility of 6g via scratch. And by the way, after checking my system further I found that I do not have 16g, i have 14g, 2g x6 + 1g x2 factory ram. Same speed, everything is matched and installed correctly in the right slots, just the size difference in slot 4/8. Am I messing with my bandwidth by configuring this way?
     
  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #14
    You'd want to seriously consider it, but do the research on the RAID levels (the RAID wiki is a good start). If you want a parity based array, you need to use a proper hardware controller, as Fake RAID won't cut it. You can use an eSATA card (inexpensive & driver support is all that's needed) in combination with Port Muliplier enclosure/s for backups.

    Different RAID levels affects how much of the total capacity is actually usable, so details would be needed for the specifics.

    Also keep in mind, you'd need to go with enterprise drives for the array, so the ones you have would be usable for backup purposes only, once you transfer all of the data needed to the array. At least they're not going to be left unused. ;)

    If possible, yes. Personally, I'd think the 4870 could hold you over for a bit, until something better ships. By implementing other aspects to improve the system's bottlenecks (i.e. RAID and RAM disks for PS), you might get better performance out of the existing graphics card, as the system can feed it fast enough.

    But if you must have something now, the GTX285 is the only Mac capable card available that works OTB.

    It's possible to get around the 3GB limit for PS by using RAM disks. You can conatenate (JBOD) them together for a large memory space. It's far faster than HDD's, and the array can keep them fed with data as well. Check out this thread, as it could prove useful to you.

    Filling the 4th DIMM slot per CPU does cut bandwidth to dual channel operation. But most software can't utilize triple channel DDR3, and of what can, none of it is what you use, so you're fine with filling all DIMMs. So go for capacity IMO.

    You can go with triple channel if you wish for the possibility future software will use the bandwidth, but that's up to you.
     
  14. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #15
    If I had the funds I would go for 4x8GB and 4x4GB. It should be a combination that gives a massive RAM capacity with very little bandwidth loss if at all. As the memory bandwidth of the MP4,1 is absolutely massive you are very unlikely to ever use it unless run all 8 cores at the limit. As soon as the 64-bit version of photoshop runs you will not need a RAM disk to use the RAM.

    Re SSDs and a RAID card I did not criticise the idea of their use. I just thought a lower cost card and smaller SSDs would also do the job.
     
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #16
    SSD's on RAID cards is expensive, and in high write environments, the proven reliability and much lower costs of mechanical drives makes much more sense right now.

    SSD's great for read use, but the cells worst case write limits are really low (specification data by the flash manufacturer). 1E4 for MLC, 1E5 for SLC.

    They make up for it with wear leveling, but the numbers the drive makers generate, are based on manipulated statistics. It's not data from 100% of the cells, but the best 90th percentile. The missing 10% is going to die much faster, and why it's recommended you don't totally fill them to have cells for wear leveling. That's where the 10% unused space comes from for wear leveling. Some even hide it, such as Intel. But it's a bare minimum amount. More is better, but as the capacity is typically small, may not be practical due to their storage needs.
     
  16. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #17
    Well, I did say the 4 SSD's was the "balls-out" option... In fact, I think I was simply echoing your suggestion of a RAID card and 4 SSD's. :confused: You were also the one who seemed to suggest budget wasn't an issue. :confused: Perhaps you should re-read your own post. :rolleyes:

    Anyway, I would still suggest an SSD or two for your OS/Apps... it will make a noticable difference... more than any other suggestion here so far.

    The GTX285 was merely a suggestion to drive two 30" displays... which for this kind of work would almost seem essential.
     
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #18
    If a RAID is implemented though, the funds could be better used for additional parallelism, lending it to outperform SSD in most things, save random access. But even random access is improved by RAID. Thinking in terms of balance, it's not worth it. SSD's will make the OS load faster, and the applications on their initial load as well. But once up, it remains in memory. After that, the array becomes more important.

    If budgets aren't an issue, then fine. But that's not common, so the funds could be better utilized elsewhere. Either the RAID or in additional memory, which is faster than SSD's. :p
     
  18. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #19
    In my previous PC, I ran four WD Raptors in RAID0 on an Areca 1210 with 256MB of cache and the performance of that, at least subjectively, doesn't hold a candle to the dual SSD's in RAID0. I think the 4K random read benchmarks would also back that up.

    I think anyone who's run SSD's knows what I'm talking about, and knows that there's no going back to magnetic storage for OS/Apps. It does make a huge difference in perceived performance if nothing else.
     
  19. gugucom macrumors 68020

    gugucom

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    #20
    I agree with VirtualRain on that. The disadvantage of running four huge disks at high speed all the time is the energy use. It also means you have to use up your HDD ports for the system array and you will have the additional cost and space of external storage for backup.

    Running two or three small SSDs from a RAID card enables you to have a generous system drive of 160-240 GB which will not wear out quickly if you do your housekeeping. The mass data storage and backup has still four HDD ports left so that you can run without external storage at all. That makes for a clean setup without a bunch of cables and clutter. Because the HDDs will do very little running you can use green drives and they will not wear out quickly.
     
  20. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #21
    Keep in mind, I'm talking about budget constraints as well. SSD's are faster a 4k, and with random access. But if there's a limited budget, a mechanical array can make more sense.

    There's also the issues associated with SSD's, as their relatively new. Particularly the write capabilities are unproven in comparison for RAID use, especially if you go with say a parity array. And for sequential performance, SSD can't touch mechanical drives for writes in most cases.

    It's going to depend on specific needs and budgets. But given the OP's information, and presuming funds aren't unlimited, it seems to me that a mechanical array would be better than SSD's.

    In enterprise environments, power use makes a huge difference. But for a small quantity of drives (workstation, consumer, or SOHO), ~12W per disk for mechanical isn't that big a deal at all. Especially if performance is of a high priority.

    That bit of capacity may be too small though, especially for video/graphics work, given the posts and emails I've had with such users. Capacity is consumed rather quickly it seems.

    Then there's the differences between read and writes in terms of reliability. There's no long term data to support the fact it can last for years for writes, just manufacturer data (which I accept with some hesitation, due to omissions/manipulation of the data). Especially if RAID is used. Some seem to have been rather disappointed with SSD stripe sets IIRC.
     
  21. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #22
    It seems every thread gets into a religious debate about the pros/cons of SSD's (usually between you and me :p since Tess is notably absent these days). It's a shame because it is a religious experience to have an SSD or two, but it's not anywhere near that having mechanical RAID... IMHO... and I've used both.

    We should ask the mods to post a sticky where we go 12 rounds on the subject and then just link to that every time someone asks about how to improve their systems performance. ;)

    Also, I'm not sure where you got the impression the OP is on a budget... if he is, he's on a much healthier budget than most!... He's got a fully loaded 2009 Mac Pro with eight 2.93GHz cores, probably over $10K in software, and he's asking about how to improve the performance! :p :eek: :rolleyes:
     
  22. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #23
    I like SSD in concept, and I do think they're wonderful for OS drives (or any high read usage).

    But they're not the best technology right now for high writes, as it's yet unproven in reliability terms. I'm accustomed to having to deal with very high reliability, so I approach things like this with caution. If the data's not out there, I'd want to test it myself, and so far, there's no long term studies with SSD in high write situation data. I'm also accustomed to drive makers manipulating data (the use of a 90th percentile statistical analysis is a major clue IMO), or representing it in a specific manner (not real world so to speak, as it's typically for a unique situation). So the only information I can really go with, is the fundamentals with current Flash technology from the chip manufacturers. Which isn't that wonderful.

    SSD's are also rather expensive, which is another problem.

    Maybe not a bad idea. :D

    Life experience. There's always a budget, for any size company, even if it's been thought out properly for the needs.

    If I have a client that says "they're in a big hurry and money's no object", I turn them down, or come up with a payment schedule as the job proceeds.

    The reasoning is, I've witnessed and experienced first hand situations like this (total payment due at completion), and the end result was always the same. They didn't pay the bill, and filed for bankruptcy instead. No assets, so there's nothing. Just a waste of time.

    So presuming there is a budget, even a well planned one, the OP would have to figure out if SSD's really an option. As it's really only going to help with booting (OS drive), I don't see it as worthwhile, as the system is likely to be left on most of the time, if not 24/7. So using the mechanical array makes more financial sense. The money saved by not going with an SSD/s (if an array was attempted), could be better used to pay for the mechanical array (better for a high write environment) or additional memory, which is also advisable.

    If the budget is truly high enough where it doesn't matter, the OP can go ahead and stuff up to 2x SSD's on the logic board without throttling the ICH10R in an '09. If so, then any mechanical array must go on a card to avoid throttling the throughputs, as I must presume simultaneous access with the usage described.
     
  23. vogelhausdesign thread starter macrumors regular

    vogelhausdesign

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    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    #24
    Hey guys , sorry for the short update. I'm on my iphone right now and will read and give replies to each individual who has posted in this thread since my last reply.

    I have a QUICK question however, what does http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=811768 this thread mean for my setup? is their now a graphics option available to me that wasnt there before? If the hyperlink does not work for some reason, it is the post on the new ATI Flashing GUI

    Sorry for not addressing your suggestions in this post, I will get to everyone individually in a short while.

    I'd like to thank you all again, and hope that you continue to suggest everything worthy that comes to mind. I truly appreciate it.

    EDIT: At this time, I see a substantial decrease in the cost/GB{SSD} in the VERY near future. So , not because of my budget, but because I would really feel a lot of money going to waste if at this time in 2009 I spent resources on drives I for see costing 50-60% less in 2010. For now, I will gladly take advice on a system running no more than (1) SSD as boot, and or a raid configuration maximizing efficiency and performance.

    I'd like you to note this, do not take my budget into consideration. I wouldn't spare any reasonable expense for my personal, or client work.
     
  24. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    May 6, 2008
    #25
    This would be fine, but you need to look at the different RAID levels, and choose. Also recall that the ICH10R in your system is throttled. So I'd recommend going with a RAID card for the mechanical array to maintain throughputs.
     

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