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I work in a research institute and a number of programs we use are computationally intensive (I actually wrote one of them). Right now we have one computer that is dedicated for one of these programs (with local accounts only, as in users physically sitting in front of that PC) and the other programs are run on individual workstations assigned to people.

I have been looking around to common brands such as Dell and HP, for a some sort of a small/medium scale server, which can be used as a workhorse by sending tasks remotely. It appears as if there is nothing in between workstations with one 6-core processor and a bunch of extras (like fancy graphics etc) and rack mount servers with ridiculous amount of RAM and HDD expansion capabilities but still relatively little number of processors/cores.

I wonder if what I am looking for is such a small niche product? Are there other solutions that I might not be aware of? Does anyone know of a multi proc- multi-core workstation/server that is still within the reasonable

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How many physical CPUs do you want? 2 is feasible on "high end workstation" boards, 4 on server boards, and more than that gets very expensive. Don't undersupply it with RAM either. – pjc50 Jan 24 '12 at 10:33
Well I presume either 2 or 4 is reasonable as long as it adds up to at least 12-16 cores in total. As for RAM, for the processes at hand I believe 2GB per core would be quite enough, but expansion possibilities is of course important – posdef Jan 24 '12 at 10:50
I assume you have checked to see if the applications actually parallelize across the cores you have? If not, more CPUs/cores wont help. – Keltari Sep 8 '13 at 15:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

We faced the same question in our working group. I suppose there are few multi-processor workstations left because most people's workloads are I/O bound nowadays, and a six-core CPU is enough for them.

With the current 6-core CPUs, there are only some two-socket configurations (yielding 12 cores) left on the market.

One obvious choice would be Apple's Mac Pro, which really is a very nice machine (cableless HD trays, nice cooling concept, quiet and well-made), but pricey.

Small system builders tend to offer such machines more often, see for example this 12 core box from Thomas Krenn.

However, one thing I note is that single thread performance of most processor series has stagnated over the past two years. So if your jobs are not well parallelizable, I would rather think about one of Intels Core i7 top models -- I don't know about its SMP capabilities, though.

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Mac Pro is indeed a beautiful beast, however it's really old and its future is shaky at best. The link you've provided (Thomas Krenn) is interesting, but it makes me wonder how much support one'd have from a relatively small brand. – posdef Jan 26 '12 at 10:23
OK, this is starting to sound like an advertisement, so I should clarify that I'm not affiliated with them in any way and just chose one of several small system builders at random. Thomas Krenn, however, has been in business for quite some time, and I generally hear very good things about them. – jstarek Jan 27 '12 at 10:37

If you are willing to build the workstation yourself, then I recommend to build it around the ASUS KGPE-D16 motherboard. It is an AMD motherboard that supports G34 socket CPUs, the 61xx and 62xx series CPUs. It has 16 memory slots so you can install plenty of memory. I use it with 2x opteron 6212, 16 cores, 64GB ECC RAM. It was well below 2000USD. There are CPUs with more cores.

A good review of the CPUs.

And about the motherboard

The motherboard is big 11"x13" so a big case is needed.

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