And that rocketsled is...
The T3600 uses Intel's "Patsburg" C600 chipset, of course, and has four memory slots, supporting up to 64GB of memory using 16GB DDR3 sticks running at 1.33GHz or 1.6GHz. The system has room for two 3.5-inch disks or four 2.5-inch disks, which come in SAS drive, SATA drive, or SSD variants; it uses the integrated disk controller on the C600 chipset. The T3600 has two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots, which means you can put in two graphics cards or one graphics card and one Tesla C2075 GPU coprocessor.
The latter configuration, called a Maximum setup by Nvidia, allows for the workstation to do numerical calculations and visualization of those calculations within the same workstation. The Tesla C2075 has 6GB of CDDR5 memory, and 448 cores that deliver 515 gigaflops of double-precision floating point oomph.
At the low end, Dell is supporting AMD's FirePro 2270 and Nvidia Quadro NVS 300 graphics cards for "professional" 2D graphics; AMD FirePro V4900 and Nvidia Quadro 600 cards for entry 3D graphics; FirePro V5900 and V7900 and Quadro 2000 and 4000 cards for midrange 3D visuals; and Quadro 5000 and 6000 for high-end 3D graphics. The base T3600 workstation runs $1,099.
The workstation rack for the T7600s
The Precision T5600 doubles up the processor sockets and is solely based on the Xeon E5-2600 processors. It has twice as many memory slots, and therefore supports up to 128GB across its eight memory slots. The T5600 has the same storage options and the same two x16 slots and supports the same graphics card options as the T3600 above. The base configuration of the T5600, which only has one processor presumably, costs $1,879.
The rocketsled is the Precision T7600, which comes in a slightly larger chassis that allows for more main memory and disk expansion as well as two Xeon E5-2600 processors. This machine has an optional vPro configuration for those companies that want the official Intel business blessing and the management tools that ride atop of the vPro firmware.
The T7600 has sixteen memory slots, for a maximum of 512GB of capacity using 32GB memory sticks. To get to that top-end memory configuration, you can only use 1.33GHz load-reduced (LR-DIMM) DDR3 main memory at 32GB per stick. If you want faster 1.6GHz memory for performance reasons, then your capacity is restricted to 256GB using 16GB sticks.
This T7600 is a rocketsled not because of the processors, but because it has three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots. You have to eat one of the slots for a video card, but you can put two more video cards in it or two Tesla C2075 GPU coprocessors to boost the number crunching capacity, or one extra card and one GPU coprocessor.
The same video card options for the T3600 and T5600 workstations are available in the T7600. The chassis has room for four 3.5-inch or eight 2.5-inch SAS, SATA, or SSD drives. The disks are accessible through the front of the unit, just as they are in servers (although they are not hot pluggable as they are in servers). If you want 6Gb/sec SAS or SATA, you need to use an external disk controller because the C600 chipset, which was originally slated to offer 6Gb/sec speeds, tops out at 3Gb/sec. The T7600 is expected to have an entry starting price of $2,149.
All four of the new Precision workstations support Windows and Linux, and Dell says everywhere on its promotional material that Windows 7 is the preferred operating system for the boxes. Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Professional, in either 32-bit or 64-bit versions, are supported on the boxes. So is Red Hat Enterprise Workstation 5.7 and 6.1 in 64-bit versions and, in certain regions, you can get Canonical's Ubuntu 11.10 variant of Linux for the boxes.
And in a blast from the pre-rack server past, the other thing you can get for the T7600 rocketsleds is a rack so you can stack up multiple T7600 workstations if you happen to need a cluster of these to do your visualization work. ®
"Apple, they may charge over the odds but they sure as hell know how to build solid workstations."
Ignoring the fact I've had 3 power supplies die on the Mac Pro (though all 3 replaced outside warranty which makes me think it's a known problem) and the WiFi has been flaky as hell (replaced with '500MB' powerline networking which has worked far more reliably and quickly) it has been reliable.
I disagree about 'professional support' making a PC a workstation though - it's entirely your opinion and goes against the idea of Apple offering workstations, professional support requires on-site which Apple don't do in Australia. In mine it's level of power and expandability that raises it above a regular PC, that's all.
Well, yeah granted, and I'd probably feel differently if I'd had any problems (haven't so far, touch wood). Probably Dell are a better bet in that outlook, at least they handle enterprise at the enterprise level (whereas Apple has...the genius bar?)
Or get a 3XS system from Scan. I've a couple of i7 systems from them, their Xeon builds are a fraction of the cost of Dell & Apple.
Extras are discounted from their retail prices too (instead of bloated) - i.e. 64GB EEC RAM in a 3XS E5 build is £454+VAT, whereas Apple will happily make you pay £2840+VAT.
That said, I've also got a 2006 Mac Pro here that runs as smoothly as the day I bought it. Got to hand it to Apple, they may charge over the odds but they sure as hell know how to build solid workstations.