Dual iMac EWQL workstation idea

Discussion in 'iMac' started by D*I*S_Frontman, May 11, 2011.

  1. D*I*S_Frontman macrumors 6502

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    May 20, 2002
    Location:
    Lombard, IL
    #1
    Okay, let me float this one past you all:

    I would like to put together a new system for orchestral composition using East West Quantum Leap sample libraries (EWQL). As always, I want to do this as economically as possible. Keeping that in mind, here is an idea I would like the tech-savvy to discuss:

    The latest generation of quad CPU iMacs have a new feature: "target display mode". When activated, an iMac's screen can be used by another external computer, and any open and running applications on the display-donor system continue working. So...

    If a person bought two 27" i7 version iMacs, upgraded each with 16 RAM ($200 from OWC), one could use the first as the main system, spanning the desktop across both displays. On that machine (we'll call it the "left" one) one would run Logic and plug-ins. On the target display mode machine (the "right" one) one would install a dramatically pared down OS, a copy of VE Pro (a popular sample engine for VSL and EWQL users), copies of node-worthy 3rd party plug-ins, and several EWQL sample libraries (either on the internal drive or external drives using TBolt). Both machines would also be connected via gigabit ethernet so that a) the "right" machine can run VE Pro and feed the data to Logic on the "left" one, and b) spare CPU cycles on the "right" machine would be available for use as a Logic node by the "left" machine (whatever the system isn't already using to run VE Pro).

    Seeing that the i7 chips use hyperthreading, each machine reads as having 8 cores in Logic.

    The result would be a 3.4ghz 16-core 32GB RAM system with dual 27" monitors included for under $5k for the hardware. Yes, I know there are limitations to what can be done with Logic node sharing, and two 8-core machines do not equal a 16-core computer. But with everything I've heard about VE Pro, I bet this configuration would do some heavy lifting. Two Mac Pros without the monitors or RAM upgrades (running slower @ 2.8ghz) would cost more.

    iMacs cannot be expanded like a tower can, but with Thunderbolt a lot of future i/o external options will be available.

    Reflections?
     
  2. aggri1 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    #2
    No idea on your application usage, but I got to wondering about the connection between the machines. You mention that you were using gigabit ethernet. What happens when you also connect them with Firewire and make a Firewire network, as well as the Ethernet one? Will that make faster communication, or somehow confuse it.

    Further, can we make Thunderbolt networks like with Firewire? That would surely be amazing for cluster computing applications. Can you use a Thunderbolt channel for a network at the same time as the other channel is being used for the display signal?

    Cool idea with the dual iMacs dude!
     
  3. D*I*S_Frontman thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    I hope the next Logic upgrade allows for stable 64-bit node utilization via all of the faster network connections: FW800, GBE, & TB. That would be an important consideration before moving forward. If Apple engineers don't fully nail that down, however, this system idea wouldn't be worth it.
     
  4. D*I*S_Frontman thread starter macrumors 6502

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  5. zephonic macrumors 65816

    zephonic

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    Feb 7, 2011
    Location:
    greater L.A. area
    #5
    I don't use Logic so nodes are out for me. I think VEP is a better idea, but you wouldn't need target display for that. Just a network cable and Bob's your uncle.

    I would never buy 2 iMacs, though. With VEP it makes more sense to have an iMac as front-end and use PC slaves. That's what I would do, anyway.

    Plus I'd hate two 27" displays on my desk as they'd force the nearfields too far apart. For me 24" is the max for dual displays with nearfields.
     
  6. D*I*S_Frontman thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    I hadn't thought of nearfield monitor placement. Good point.

    Using cheaper PCs as slaves with VEP makes sense and a lot of people do it that way, but with that set-up the slaves cannot be used as Logic nodes as well as samplers. Would a few Minis be a reasonable compromise, then? Perhaps the next generation if they ship with Thunderbolt and upgraded CPUs?
     
  7. zephonic macrumors 65816

    zephonic

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    #7
    I guess, although I find the Minis seriously under-powered for the price. Maybe the next-gen will be better.

    Are you sure you need Logic nodes? I though Logic was very efficient.
     
  8. D*I*S_Frontman thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    When you run CPU-pig plug-ins, being able to farm them out across extra processors is helpful. For some of the pop/rock stuff I work on, I use a lot of PSP Vintage Warmer 2 and for guitar sounds I like Guitar Rig 4. If one multitracks guitar parts, with each part using its own plug of GR4 and VW2, cores begin to heat up.

    If I were only working on orchestral stuff, I'd be less concerned with CPU load and more concerned with RAM and drive i/o. Then the Mac-PC slave system is by far a better bang-for-the-buck, all thanks to the VSL people who engineered VE Pro--every review I've read from users has been very positive.
     
  9. zephonic macrumors 65816

    zephonic

    Joined:
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    #9
    Yeah, VEP is just what a lot of people need right now.

    But I feel they fill a niche that should have been recognized by the DAW-builders. Logic did to some extent with the nodes thing, but the others dropped the ball on this.
     

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