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Xeon E5 is hot stuff, but not all in a good way

Harry Potter render farm likes the speed, feels a little singed by heat

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Early Australian users of Intel's new server flagship, the Xeon E5, say it is satisfyingly speedy, but one says it's also worryingly hot.

Doctor Jonathan Kozc of Swinburne University's Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing has used an early sample of the CPU to crunch numbers for his research into pulsars. Speaking at Intel's Australian launch for the E5 he said the new chip produced results “a factor of four” faster than those achieved with Nehalem processors.

Stefan Gillard, CEO of outsourced digital production facility Studio Engine (which has provided compute power to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Happy Feet Two) also reported the E5 delivers in terms of speed. Studio Engine operates a computing farm comprising around 1000 HP blades using Xeon 5640 series CPUs stacked into 128-server racks.

The new silicon blew them away, achieving a Passmark score of over 30,000. The older CPUs scored around 18,000. But Gillard also had troubles with heat. The test server he used was a 2U beast and he told the event he cannot imagine, once the E5 reaches blade servers, that a rack with specs that makes sense to Studio Engine will be comfortably cooled.

He nonetheless declared the E5 “a great product” and said it will be welcomed by the film production community he serves as its improved floating point performance will allow the creation of more detailed animations at lower cost.

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