Posted by Craig Barr
I am always asked about the ultimate hardware configuration for running Autodesk products and, inevitably, people are curious what I run. I get the opportunity to try many machines and devices out there in preparation for and while presenting demos at various tradeshows and other events. I thought I’d put in a couple of blog posts that discuss running Autodesk Mudbox and other applications on some different hardware. First up: BOXX Workstations.
3D Workstation Brief: The Uber-Workstation: BOXX 4920 Xtreme
It’s been just over a year that I have worked with the BOXX 4920 Xtreme as my main workstation. In that time, I can assure you that I have pounded-on and pushed this workstation to the limits. Pushing huge models and textures around in Mudbox and other apps can give a machine a solid work-out. I pride myself in making machines whir and scream.
However, the BOXX 4920 Xtreme makes punishing processors a challenge. The machine has an amazing liquid-cooling system built-in that keeps things running cool and smooth when pushed hard. This BOXX machine was built for high-end 3D work and it delivers.
Being a true hardware and software nerd (in the event that the statement above about pride and punishment didn’t make that clear), it is very cool to pop open the side panel on a BOXX machine and easily access or change components. Sure, many companies boast “tool-less” machine cases but they don’t compare to what BOXX delivers. Some very serious and very good considerations have gone into the design of BOXX cases. Everything is easily accessible and cleanly placed. The guys at BOXX have thought things through, and there is certainly no shortage of extra bays and slots for future expansion. Tough, well-designed, and very well-assembled are the basics of describing the machines that BOXX produces and, they are designed AND built at their Austin Texas headquarters.
For some more images and in-depth dissecting of this machine:
The configuration that I have been working with is as follows:
BOXX 4920 Xtreme Workstation with:
Intel Core i7 3960X (“Sandy Bridge-E”) @3.3 GHz – [OVERCLOCKED to 4.5 GHz] – 6 cores, 12 threads
32 GB (8X4 slots) of DDR3-1647 Quad Channel RAM (expandable to 64 gb)
NVIDIA – “Maximus Configuration” - Quadro 6000 6gb (recently, I’m trying out the k6000) and a Tesla c2075
Intel 520 Series SSD drives (240 and 480 GB)
Nvidia Maximus – this configuration is fully utilized when running simulations or performing real-time rendering (in iRay for example). The pairing works by optimizing, or off-loading certain functions. The Quadro handles the graphics while the Tesla crunches the computations. The results are truly felt when dealing with massive particle scenes, and nice-crisp high-res renders while tweaking the overall design on the fly.
Think of a Tesla as a nitrous-oxide, turbo-boosted engine, bolted on to your GPU.
I mentioned above 2 Quadro GPUs: the 6000 and the k6000. In this machine, I have used the 6000 extensively over the last year and it is powerful. I’m now giving the newest member of the Quadro family a go: the K6000 with a whopping 12GB (12GB, yep…TWELVE GIGABYTES) of GPU RAM.
More info on the Maximus configuration can be found here:
Maya and fluid sims and Maximus:
3DS Max and Maximus:
Sculpting and Texture Painting in Mudbox: RAM and Read/Write
For sculpting, modeling and painting, a big GPU is a blessing. Pushing millions of polygons and working with huge texture data requires good graphics power. Speaking of textures, the 32 GB of RAM helps push massive texture sets, big texture resolutions and numerous paint layers. My advice to anyone that wants to push poly and texture limits is always the same: GPU and RAM….push it to what your budget will allow.
There is another area that is a BIG help when texture painting: storage, or for that matter, FAST storage. I’m running Intel Solid State Storage (SSD) (specifically the 480 GB 520 Series) and the read/write of Solid State Drives these days is fantastic. When working locally, texture painting in Mudbox greatly benefits from this. Reading and writing paint layers can get heavy on a machine and Solid State provides the benefit of fast read/write to and from Mudbox.
Intel Solid State Drives:
If you want a workstation designed for 3D work with power, stability and expandability in mind, BOXX is the solution. The last thing worth mentioning is the support team at BOXX. I had a few questions about some areas of the hardware that I was not familiar with and a simple email prompted a very quick and detailed response. The support is very knowledgeable and quick to help out. I actually know a few BOXX users that have the personal cell numbers of BOXX Tech Support. Impressive stuff.
More info on BOXX and the 4900 Series machines can be found here:
BOXX has since released the 8900 Series of machines that takes 3D content creation even further.