The New HP Z-series Workstations


The New HP Z-series Workstations

Raising performance to new heights

New workstation lines arise on a regular basis, offering advances in virtually all aspects of workstation operations.  Usually these advances are significant, but HP's new line of workstations, christened The HP Z-Series Workstations offer Dassault Systèmes CATIA V5 and V6 users some truly dramatic leaps in performance right at the outset, and promise even greater things to come later this year.

At first glance
The first thing you notice looking at any of the new Z-Series Workstations is the sleek industrial design with brushed aluminum side panels and built in handles for ease of movement.  But the beauty is far more than skin deep.  Open the tool-less chassis and the first thing that grabs your attention is the absence of visible cable clutter inside. Modular, direct-connect design eliminates cable clutter. This clever internal design makes for more efficient airflow (and thus lower acoustic noise and more efficient cooling) and perhaps more importantly, simpler maintenance and upgrades.  There is another feature here that will grab you, but we'll get to that later.

Intel QuickPath Technology inside
Common to all Z-Series workstations, Intel® QuickPath Technology and Intel® QuickPath Interconnect systems harness the power of parallel processing for Dassault Systèmes using engineers and designers to significantly boost overall system performance. Each processor core features an integrated memory controller and high-speed interconnect, linking processors and other components for dynamically scalable interconnect bandwidth and full utilization of system resources; outstanding memory performance and the utmost in tightly integrated interconnect reliability, availability and serviceability. The result is a series of workstations that offer unmatched performance, scalability and energy efficiency at all price-points.

Entry-Level performance boost
The HP Z400 Workstation is HP's latest entry-level workstation, but as with all HP workstations, entry-level hardly describes the features and performance offered by this machine.  Built around Intel's new X58 Express chipset and Xeon® W3500 series of multi-core processors, the HP Z400 can handle tasks that would have stymied high-end workstations of just a year or two ago. Simple stats such as processor speeds up to 3.20 GHz, 8 MB cache, 16 GB of speedy 1333 MHz memory*  and up to two NVIDIA Quadro FX1800 graphics cards, or one NVIDIA Quadro FX4800 graphics card are impressive enough, but that's not reckoning with new Intel Quickpath Technology and its ability to use these resources more efficiently than ever before.

Mid-range marvel
The ability to mount two quad-core, Intel 5500 series “Nehalem” processors in its Intel 5520 chipset, dramatically boosts the raw power of the HP Z600 workstation. Again, Intel QuickPath Technology links the processors with all other system resources including up to  24 GB* of triple channel 1333 MHz DDR3 high performance memory and massive  8 MB cache to push performance to the limit..  Two internal and two external drive bays provide up to 4.5 TB of storage. Support for up to dual NVIDIA Quadro FX1800 graphics as well as other world-class graphics from ATI and NVIDIA ensure perfect graphics and video performance for your most demanding rendering, modeling and animations.

Power-users powerhouse
The HP Z800 workstation boosts performance into the stratosphere with the broadest pipelines, blistering processor speeds and up to 192 GB* of available three-channel memory for unprecedented large-file performance in the most demanding Dassault Systèmes CATIA V5 and V6 environments. Users running 64-bit versions of today's powerful engineering applications can experience the efficiency of being able to run multiple, complex animations and models in memory at the same time, without the need to page back and forth to disk.  Couple this with up to two separate, but integrated graphics cards and the ability to run up to  four full-performance 3D monitors or eight 2D monitors simultaneously and you have a designer's dream machine.  With ample internal expansion space (four internal, three external drive bays and six PCIe Gen 2 and Gen 1 slots as well as one PCI slot), the HP Z800 Workstation packs more power in its tool-less case than some servers.

Cutting edge cooling technologies
Now for the really cool stuff, literally cool stuff. It has long been axiomatic that the more powerful the system, the hotter it runs, creating a need for more aggressive cooling measures, usually more  and faster fans.  This all translates into more noise and acoustic pressure, sometimes so much that the work-environment becomes unpleasant, uncomfortable and in extreme cases, even unhealthy. Recently, HP introduced liquid cooling technology to the HP xw9400 Workstations.  This innovation allowed HP to push the performance limits of the existing technologies without the normally attendant increase in noise and vibration. Now liquid cooling technology is being made available across the Z-Series, from entry-level HP Z400 right up to the super-powerful Z800 workstation. This new cooling option, like virtually everything else in the Z-Series cases is modular, simplifying maintenance and upgrades and keeping things clean and uncluttered inside. As of publication, this new technology is scheduled for release in July of 2009.

The HP value proposition
One thing that has remained unchanged with the HP Z Series Workstations is the unrivaled quality and support provided by HP in every workstation.  HP's long partnership with Dassault Systèmes ensures that HP workstations work flawlessly with your mission critical CATIA V5 and V6; and every HP workstation comes with the unique HP Performance Tuning Framework, a powerful utility that allows you to optimize your workstation to your unique needs and simplifies virtually every aspect of maintaining and living with your workstation. 

All HP workstations also come with HP's commitment to more responsible environmental stewardship. 85% plus efficient power supplies are standard on all HP workstations and all HP workstations are available in EnergyStar certified configurations.  HP is also committed to recycling and reuse of resources throughout the product lifecycle.

No matter how you look at it, the new HP Z-Series Workstations represent a leap forward in workstation performance, dramatically expanding the frontiers of productivity, enabling Dassault Systèmes CATIA V5 and V6 users to achieve even greater efficiency and innovation in engineering, architecture, design and animation.

* Maximum memory capacities assume 64-bit operating systems. Microsoft Windows® XP (32-bit) supports 4 GB (with Microsoft 32-bit, the amount of usable memory will be dependent upon your system configuration. It may be less than 4 GB); 32-bit Linux can support up to 8 GB; expected availability May, 2009.

Do You Really Need a Workstation – It Depends

Wes Shimanek, Technical Computing Marketing Manager, Intel Corporation

Do you really need a workstation?
While I am biased, the actual investment difference between an entry level Intel-based workstation and an Intel-based business desktop with similar graphics features has compressed so much that today the answer is yes.





So what is an Intel-based workstation when compared to a business desktop? Similar to the difference between a professional athlete and recreational athlete; workstations are typically faster and smarter at what they do. Workstations are purpose built to do a job.


Business Desktop or an Entry Single Processor Workstation
Not too long ago the price premium between these two quite similar products was large enough to make you think twice with respect to where to place your investment. Today, Intel-based entry level workstations are nearly the same price as a similarly configured and featured business desktop cousin, but the difference of course is that the performance of the workstation is still far superior to the business desktop.

So beyond speed what else make workstations perform so well and why are they more purpose built than a business desktop?

For starters, workstations employ professional grade graphics and associated drivers that are built for performance and visual accuracy.  While initial specifications may appear similar when comparing consumer and professional grade graphics adapters; the professional graphics adapters deliver the 2D line performance and 3D shaded and textured polygon performance that can enhance your creative spirit.  If you look at the two side by side, the visual performance difference between a business desktop and a single processor workstation is obvious. And the price difference is amazingly small.

Beyond the graphics is the compute and infrastructure to support necessary workstation options. Business desktops generally are not capable of supporting the necessary expansion opportunities as a workstation (see table below). Often, a business desktop is limited to a single graphics bus which can only support a single graphics card; however, a workstation is able to support a cadre of graphics cards.

Traditional PC and high-performance workstation comparison
Traditional business PCs are currently the most widely used computers, and they are best suited for standard applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, email, and Internet use.

High-performance workstations are designed for computationally intense applications that require more graphics capability, processing power, and multi-tasking capacity than a standard PC or notebook PC.




An Entry Single Processor Workstation or a Powerful Mobile Workstation
Which one do you need and why? According to IDC, the trend has definitely been mobile and this year's stable of mobile workstations will probably accelerate that trend. It used to be that certain features and/or performance vectors were not achievable in a mobile form factor—not anymore.  Recent Intel-based mobile workstation performance tests suggest that a mobile workstation now delivers nearly the same performance as its deskside workstation relative. That means the performance you need to be creative can now go with you. You can create with your customer, not just for your customer.

Entry Level Single Processor Workstation or Dual Processor Workstation (aka Virtual Workbench)
Not to be taken lightly, these dual processor workstations can help you create, test and modify new ideas at the speed of the thought.

Workstations powered by two Intel® Xeon® 5400 series processors are delivering supercomputing power right at your desk. They will enable you to work with larger assemblies than ever before and thus can change the way you work. However, to really reap the benefits of a “virtual workbench” you should introduce new workflow ideas like concurrent analysis driven design or rapid prototyping or model generation into your workflows. These applications are generally multithreaded and run in the background while engineers, designers, animators, and analyst interactively transform their idea into reality.

Dual-processor workstations also give you the opportunity to create your own virtual workbench where you employ your tools and your knowledge to innovate faster. Virtual workbenches powered by two Intel® Xeon® 5400 series processors will liberate you from productivity predators.  For example:

  • You no longer have to break designs into smaller parts.  Dividing out your design into smaller parts can result in inferior parts, prolonged development time and increased product cost.
  • You can concurrently run simulations at your workstation thus avoiding potential set-up or parameter errors. This will prevent delays in analysis and get you from idea to product faster.
  • You will not lose interactive performance as design regeneration and update are being processed. This benefit allows you to continue your innovative thought process and walk away during a compute-intensive job.

Intel® Xeon® Processor 5400 series
With eight processing cores and optimization for intensely visual workloads, the Intel® Xeon® processor 5400 series provides incredible performance for processing and visualizing massive, complex data into amazing content.

So, which workstation is best for CAD—and why?
Here is a table I have used, it may help. Green indicates that it exceeds expectations; yellow means it meets expectations, and red means that it functions below expectations. Find the tasks you do most often and see if moving to a workstation will benefit you and your design team.




For more information
HP Smart Buy Workstations at PC prices:
Intel processors for workstations:

Recent Stories
Volunteer Spotlight

AMD Workstation Graphics Accelerators Boost Real-time Performance of Large Assemblies

The New HP Z-series Workstations