New Mac Pro suitable for Java,C development and Virtual Machines?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by johngwheeler, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. johngwheeler macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...

    I am intrigued by the nMP, but was wondering whether it will be a good fit for developers and running virtual machines?

    A 6 to 12 core Xeon should be fine for heavily multi-threaded apps such as Java application servers, but I'm not sure whether the twin GPUs will really add much for this usage, and it sounds like they could be an expensive overhead that doesn't add any real benefit.

    I'm aware that there is a tendency towards using GPUs for non-graphical tasks such as running Java apps, but I get the impression that this is not yet available in the real-world. Does Mac OS or XCode make any use of OpenCL running on the GPUs?

    Would the nMP be a good Virtual Machine server? Xeons support the usual VT-x, VT-d extensions, and fast SSD and Thunderbolt storage arrays are great for VMs. But VMs also like lots of cores, so sacrificing CPU cores for (unused) GPU processing ability might not a good deal.

    What do you think?

  2. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Xcode doesn't make use of the GPUs. The FireGLs aren't as useful for you.

    However, we don't know what the configuration options are. Dual GPUs are standard, but we don't know what kind of GPUs the base configuration comes with. It may be there is an option for lower end GPUs that fit what you do better.
  3. mslide macrumors 6502a

    Sep 17, 2007
    I'd think a mini with enough RAM would be enough for that but then again, I don't know what you're really doing with those VMs.
  4. netkas macrumors 65816

    Oct 2, 2007

    for that workload you will need many cores and lots of memory. Dunno how much memory new mp will have
  5. Cubemmal macrumors 6502a

    Jun 13, 2013
    That's my main use case. Just about any loaded Mac will handle it fine, even the Air's, so the nMP is overkill for what we want to do. However it will undoubtably be the fastest machine we could get for such a purpose. The graphics cards won't be utilized much for that, except possibly virtualization could take some extra advantage.

    I also want a computer which I can game with, and one which is basically dead silent so I'm looking to buy one depending on how it goes.
  6. Gonk42 macrumors 6502

    Jan 16, 2008
    near Cambridge
    Depends what you mean by suitable

    I currently use my Mac Pro to run many copies of a program on different data input which is similar to the usage you are asking about.

    For such usage what is needed is lots of cpu cores and lots of RAM to go with them.

    Having computer power in GPGPU is only useful if you're willing to write the code to make use of it which in many circumstances is not an option because of the investment in time and effort needed for software which may not have many users and which needs to be easily changed. Besides which GPGPU is aimed at many processes acting on the same data which is a different form of parallelism.

    The new Mac Pro is designed for lots of GPGPU power but only one CPU and only 4 RAM slots.

    If you max these out you can have 12 cores and perhaps 64GB of RAM which is pretty powerful but it would be mega expensive (using 16GB RAM modules) and you'd get much more bang for your buck on a traditional workstation that allows two CPUs and has perhaps 12 RAM slots.

    On top of this expense you'd be paying for a second graphics card you probably wouldn't use. And both graphics cards are likely to be expensive workstation cards, though there may be a low cost option - I don't want to prejudge things.

    One plus though would be the very high speed SSD (via PCIe) but again this would be very expensive and limited in size.
  7. ness96 macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2013

    I'm running a Mac Pro 5,1 as my main box. I'm a software engineer. The Pro can be awesome for development, but not all development.

    First off, the GPUs are not going to do anything for your day-to-day development work. I don't think any IDE in existence makes use of OpenCL, CUDA, etc. for it's internal functions (Though I could be wrong). You're asking the wrong question. The GPUs are only going to matter to you if you are writing software to explicitly take advantage of them. If your writing software to take advantage of them, then wouldn't be asking this question. Rather, you would already know the answer.

    Why I love the Mac Pro as a developer: Virtual Machines. I work in many different environments (Windows, OS X, Linux, and BSD). Running multiple VMs on the Mac Pro is a dream. I can so quickly and painlessly switch between VMs. Not to mention each VM runs fast. It's like rebooting into a new OS without actually rebooting.

    Because of the user experience of OS X, I prefer it as my main OS. While Hackintoshes are interesting, I'm just not interested in maintaining hardware. I would like my box to just work. I'm not a laptop fan, and I don't think iMacs are quite there power-wise. Mac Pros are my best option.

    Do you actually need to be running Virtual Machines? Are you going to be doing work that takes advantage of OpenCL? If so, then maybe a MP is a good option for you. Maybe not.

    Personally, if there is a consumer grade option for GPUs in the new Mac Pro then I will buy one. If not, I'll stick with my 5,1 for now. For the tiny amount of OpenCL work I do, a mid-range consumer card is more than enough. Though, I am a bit enticed by 4K displays....I'm not sure that I can justify the cost.


    I'm running a 5,1 Quad Core w/ 24gb memory. I find it to be more than enough for running two simultaneous VMs.
  8. elistan macrumors 6502a

    Jun 30, 2007
    Denver/Boulder, CO
    The GPU in the new Mac Pro, as shown in the sneak preview, is thought to be a $3000 card. And there are two of them. Which are useless for a virtual host. So you'd likely be flushing six grand down the drain.

    Here's a server for $8,194:

    Dell PowerEdge T420 tower
    Dual E5-2440 CPUs. 6 core, 2.40 GHz each.
    128 GB RAM. Eight 16GB DIMMs, 1600 MHz advanced ECC.
    Two hot-plug 300 GB 15k RPM SAS drives for the OS. RAID 1 mirroring via onboard H310 controller.
    Onboard dual-port 1Gb NIC.
    Additional dual-port 1Gb NIC.
    Two redundant power supplies.
    Three years of next-business-day onsite support.

    I have not included any external storage interface cards, but you can choose from a $140 SAS card, $770 dual-port 10Gb Ethernet card, $1440 dual-port 8Gb FC card, etc.

    a vSphere Standard v5.x license would be an extra $2,100 if you don't already have a hypervisor, and want to go the ESXi route.

    (That's not to say that Apple won't release a version of the Mac Pro with two 12-core CPUs and a basic non-accelerated GPU, but we just don't know at this point.)
  9. johngwheeler thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...
    Hit the nail on the head! Only worthwhile with low-end GPU options

    I think these are all good points. My main requirement is to run VMs fast, mostly Linux/Windows Server running Java app servers & databases.

    VMs tend to like:
    (1) Lots of RAM
    (2) sufficient dedicated processor cores
    (3) dedicated fast storage for virtual disks, (not shared with host or other VMs)

    An 8-12 core Xeon, plus lots of (external) SSDs connected via Thunderbolt would make a pretty good VM host, I think.

    The limitation of 4 DIMM slots isn't ideal. This means it will be expensive to get 64GB (close to $1000 for 4 x 16GB ECC & who knows what Apple will charge!). 4x32GB is currently prohibitive.

    I won't be writing custom OpenCL code, and I'm pretty sure that none of the app servers I use will make use of GPUs, so I think high-end GPU options would be a waste of money for me. I only need to plug in a couple of screens, and I'd even settle for integrated graphics for this if they exist on the new Xeon E5s!

    If the nMP comes with a single low-end GPU option, combined with a reasonable core count (min 6 or 8), then I'd be interested. However, Apple has a tendency of not allowing "mix & match" of low-end and high-end features (e.g. low-end graphics, with high-end CPU & max RAM).

    I do like the idea of a compact (i.e. easily portable) workstation because I travel a lot and work between home & office often. I bought a Mac Mini server (maxed-out with 16GB & SSD/HDD) for this purpose, and it's been a great little machine for travelling - how many servers can you fit in your laptop bag!

    I like using Mac OS as a VM host because it's easy to use, and I can use the machine for other productivity tasks or native/iOS development.

    The alternative would be a Mac laptop plus a compact ESXi server, built in a small enclosure (like the SteamBox). I haven't yet found one as small as the new Mac Pro that will run 6 or 8 core CPUs though!
  10. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    I think the Mac Pro will likely required dual cards (It needs them to run all the Thunderbolt ports.) But, there isn't any reason why Apple couldn't also ship it stock with two $100 cards or something.
  11. MacVidCards Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    I'd count on it.

    If you look up images for Fire V3600 and compare to an Apple 2600XT you will notice that they are nearly identical.

    In PPC days the Apple X800XT had more in common with FireGl X3 than a PC X800. And the Apple 6800GT was more like the Quadro version than the PC gaming 6800GT.

    They frequently use "professional" cards without calling them that as the actual differences are small.

    So count on an entry level "Fire Pro" version of 7750 as entry level. The FirePro 9000 versions are going to be AT LEAST $800/each extra. ($1,600-2500 for a pair on top of whatever base is)
  12. johngwheeler thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...
    I was under the impression that the Thunderbolt ports are connected to the PCIe bus, and not directly to the GPUs, i.e. the GPUs connect to the PCIe bus, as does the CPU, and thunderbolt is merely a dual-purpose I/O that can carries DisplayPort data or generic PCIe data.

    I've seen it written elsewhere that the GPUs are required to support the number of thunderbolt ports, but maybe this is only if you are connecting displays to the ports, not other kinds of peripherals.
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Yes it would work VERY well. But it would not be cost effective. Software development does not need a lot of resources. It does, some times require lots of screen space. A 27" iMac is the best. I have the new quad core 27" iMac and if you add RAM it runs VMware just fine.

    That said, some times you DO need a very powerfull machine for development. If for example yu are writing code that will need a Mac Pro then you need a Mac Pro for testing. One of the las things I worked on was a database application that needed a 16-core SPARC server to run at reasonable speed. Had I tried to write this on a notebook I could have done the compiles and editing fast enough but my test runs would have taken hours and days. So it depends. I say you need to have a machine as powerful as the end user will need

    There is also a BIGGER danger of using a too-powerfull machine to test with. You think your software is "fast enough" but only because yu have a $10,000 computer. The average user will not have that. So my rule is to use the same computer your end users will have for testing.
  14. ness96 macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2013
    I could not agree more. I've worked as a dev on an enterprise level software package that had minium requirements of 4xCores and 16GB of memory, with recommended specs of 8+Cores and 32GB memory. This was heavy duty, high volume, & high resolution image processing.

    Our test server? A really old Xeon dual core (maybe single core) with 2gb memory. If you could make your updates work decently in that test environment, they'd work anywhere. New guys would see the setup and always complain, but I thought it was brilliant. Our personal machines were 4 cores w/ 16gb memory, but to meet approval, our updates had to work in test.
  15. Cubemmal macrumors 6502a

    Jun 13, 2013
    You sound exactly like me which is why I go Apple. Also I notice that at Hackathons the most common computer is Apple MBP.

    But yes I run loads of VM's, I don't want to muck with the hardware or software (too busy doing other stuff), and I like the UI experience.


    Exactly what I've been saying, I have a hard time seeing why they wouldn't have a low end machine that brings in the prosumer market and turns the pro into more than just a "graphics professional" computer. All it takes is a couple of low end GPU's.
  16. thirdkind macrumors member

    Oct 20, 2005
    I agree with your entire post. I just sold a Mac Pro 5,1 hexacore with 24GB RAM and a 240GB OWC SSD that I used for web development. I'd typically run several VMs simultaneously with different operating systems, and I was able to allocate a good amount of system resources to them so they'd run at pretty much native speeds. It was a great setup and I regretted selling it immediately.

    Doing the same kind of work on my backup machine, a 2010 Macbook Pro i5 with 8GB of RAM, has been...trying :) But I think I can hold out until the new Mac Pro ships.

    To the OP: the twin GPUs will do nothing for you other than perhaps making multiple large displays run a bit more smoothly (you do run multiple displays, right?). If they end up driving the price of the new Mac Pro through the roof, then maybe it's not the best option, but I have no doubt that the new Mac Pro will continue to be the ultimate cross-platform dev environment regardless. As others have said, hopefully we'll get some less expensive GPU options. Based on the high productivity I experienced with my 5,1 thanks to the great hardware and great OS, I'll gladly hand over up to $4K for the new Mac Pro. Anything more than that and I'm forced to consider other options.
  17. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    If you are not using any kind of 3D stuff inside or outside the vm then yes they are useless. However, modern virtualisation apps such as VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop are able to use the 3D capabilities of the GPU quite well.

    I wouldn't say that buying the Mac Pro is throwing money down the drain if you don't use the GPUs. The Mac Pro consists of much more than just the GPU which can be of great use to someone. If virtualisation would be the only task that needs to be done then a simple ESXi (or any of the other hypervisors) server would do but in this case it needs to do more than just that. I went from virtualisation on a Mac Pro to an ESXi server. This allows me to use the vm's independently. I can no shutdown/sleep the Mac Pro, use the vm's with my MBA or even from my iPhone. Something like that would be a good reason to use 2 machines: 1 Mac, 1 virtualisation server.

    You can also use the free version if you don't need all the bells and whistles and use a max of 32GB of memory. The same applies to the suggested server. It's a powerhouse but the question remains if you really need it. VMware products are very memory and I/O hungry. CPU doesn't really matter but comes in handy for the multithreading (you can give a vm more than 1 vCPU to test the multithreading). If one can do all this on an ordinary workstation than such a server setup is overkill (aka you can save money).

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