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Dual Xeon Development PC

Has anyone got a dual Xeon Development PC and if so, is the extra processor worthwhile ?

I do ASP.NET development, with SQL2000, IIS, VS.NET 2003, etc all running on my PC, with server-based IIS/SQL for testing.

I've been looking at the Dell website and you can get two 2.6GHz Xeons for the same price as one 3GHz Xeon.

Has anyone got any experience of running this kind of setup, with the two Xeons ? I imagine that two 2.6's would be "better" than a single 3.0, but I'm not sure what to go for.

Steve Jones (UK)
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I believe the new pentium extreme edition can be put into a multiproc board and gives approximately the same performance.
http://www.theinquirer.org/?article=11773 has some more detail but how true it is I don't know, perhaps worth a bit more shopping around.
We don't bother with multiprocessor machines, more RAM seems to help more than processor poke. I suspect (but I haven't measured this) that for development work the processor is waiting on the IO to memory (or disk) rather than the actual CPU speed itself.

Peter Ibbotson
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Not really.  Unless the applications and OS you are using can make use of multiple processors.  The 3.x GHZ and up do have hyperthreading so it's a horse a piece.  I'd stick with the single processor.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003

If you're developing multithreaded code, you *NEED* a multiprocessor box. There are subtle bugs that only show up when you actually have more than one CPU (or hyperthreading, I suppose).

In general, though, having multiple CPU's is mainly good so that WinAMP doesn't skip while you're compiling. ;-)

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The only disadvantage that springs to mind is 2 processor fans vs. 1 (I am assuming seeing badly written apps fail due to treading interaction errors a plus). If you can live with that, i'd take the 2x2.66.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

my company bought me a dell dual xeon 2.0GHz box with 1 GB of RAM... it's very nice, but i just have two 17" CRT monitors... I would rather have one processor, and a couple 18" LCD's, but i'll take what i get.

nathan
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I've been using a dual P3 800MHz box as my dev platform for three years. It's "snappier" than my 1.8GHz P4 box.

One question I have is the "multithreading" FUD - "it'll only help you if your applications can take advantage of multiple processors"

Okay, let's start with one that's fairly common. How about WINDOWS? Is there a developer alive who only does one thing at a time? If you've got SQL Server running, IIS, compiling/debugging, playing music, checking email, downloading files, etc - the OS is going to manage the load so every application is more responsive.

I haven't had the OS go unresponsive on this box ever. Applications may go into bye-bye land, but all the other apps still work.

I wouldn't develop on anything but a dual proc machine, given the option.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I'd say go for the dual... it's helped me pick up a few threading bugs, but also Windows multitasking (assuming that's what you're using) improves dramatically.  I didn't think that it was bad before I had a dual, but now it sucks to use a uniprocessor machine.

R1ch
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I have a dual xeon 2ghz Dell. It's a great dev box for all the reasons that people above have said. Remember to turn the hyper threading on in the bios...

Len Holgate
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I have a dual-800 at work, and a single AMD 1.8 at home, and I'm kicking myself for not getting a dual-proc home machine - my work machine feels a whole lot more responsive.

I realize this is because whatever's taxing the CPU isn't terribly efficient, since it can pound on a single 1.8GHz CPU but not on two 800MHz CPUs, but I spent less time waiting for my work machine.

For now, I'm hooked on dual-proc machines.

schmoe
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The 2.6 is going to be midly slower, single processor active, than the 3.0.

It has the potential to be much faster and much snappier with 2 processors to split the load over.  It will be easier to get other stuff done while you are waiting for the build.

With multiple processes, I can bet that, even if your code isn't multithreaded, it will be faster just by spreading active processes over several CPUs.

Sounds like a good gamble to me.

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Thanks for the feedback guys.

Looks like the two 2.66s will win out.

Can anyone confirm whether it is just the 3.0+ GHz Xeons that do the hyperthreading thing ?

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

My 2ghz Dual Xeon Dell that I bought 18months ago does hyper threading. It's a bios option (I didnt turn it on straight away) and you know when it's working because you get 4 graphs on the task manager's performance tab...

Len Holgate (www.lenholgate.com)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Thanks Len.

Did it make a difference ? Apart from the four bars on the Task Manager window.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Yeah, quite noticable when I first turned it on. Kicked myself for not turning it on earlier...

Len Holgate (www.lenholgate.com)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

I've got a Dell dual 2Ghz Xeon and was recently forced back to a single CPU machine. I certainly noticed the benefits of the extra processor when I was forced to do without.
The main advantage for me is the performance on other apps while CPU intensive work is happening in the background.
It means I can have a devstudio build running at the same time as I'm running some complex image convolution processes and still have plenty of performance for writing up documentation, checking email and reading JoS :-)

SteveM
Thursday, October 02, 2003

A 2-CPU machine my be "snappier" etc., but on the other hand the (not the latest) versions of Visual Studio that I've used build one object at a time, so build times don't (even nearly) double with an extra CPU.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Don't you mean "build times don't (even nearly) halve with an extra CPU"?

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Our developers got dual 2 Ghz Xeons (Dell) a few months ago. They're generally excellent, particularly for large compiles which are easily 4-5 times faster than before (~1 vs ~5 minutes).

At home I have a single 1 Ghz P3 and while it's not as fast, it's closer than you'd think. The difference is that at home I have SCSI, at work IDE. I know that access times, throughput, etc. for IDE is getting closer to SCSI all the time. But it just *feels* faster for many operations. I wish we would have had the $$ to get SCSI at work, maybe soon... :-)

Chris Winters
Thursday, October 02, 2003

I've had a new machine for about a month.  It's a Dell Precision 450.  It has the dual 2.0GHz Xeons, 1Gig of RAM, a large hard drive and I work with 2 19" monitors.

I'm doing mostly C++ work with Visual Studio.  I love it!  A lot of my work is computationally intensive, and often we need to have two of these running to see how they compare.  With this configuration, I can have them both running, and still pull up Word or work in Visual Studio without slowing down.

It also greatly reduced my compile times.  Versus a single processor machine of near equal speed in the office, my compile times are about 25% faster.

I have hyperthreading enabled, so Windows shows me 4 graphs when I look at processor usage.  It's almost like having 4 real processors.

Walt
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Ah but are you using a server version of Windows, as Windows XP is only licensed for two processors?

See http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=74788

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Christopher - you're falling into the same trap I bitched about earlier.

Fine, VS.Net isn't multithreaded. But Windows is. So if you're doing a long build, you can actually do something else with your machine while it's building.

All you folks who are down on SMP as "not worth the money" - you've NEVER had your machine slow to a crawl while you're doing something CPU intensive? You know, the "click on a menu, wait a minute, the menu drops down, click on an option, wait a minute..." thing? Multiprocessor boxes don't DO that.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, October 02, 2003

>Multiprocessor boxes don't DO that.

And if they do, because you're doing something really stupidly CPU intensive and it's eating all of all of your CPUs then at least you have the option to tell it not to use one of them so you can still continue to browse the web while you wait (possibly longer) for it to complete...

Len Holgate (www.lenholgate.com)
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Sometimes you simply need 2 machines. I have had to deal with slightly naively written software (mostly by me hehe) or missing file mounts  that freezes up or slows down the opening of IE URLs/File Explorer. So whenever I type in google.com it would wait 10 seconds before resolving. Or I can't open Explorer at all. So if you have custom software doing long term batch jobs it will just ruin your desktop for normal work. You'll want to run such jobs on a remote server when possible. Like a multi-session terminal server or something.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, October 02, 2003

> Sometimes you simply need 2 machines.

At least. And virtual PCs are nice too. How does having or not having a dual proc dev box affect that?

Hmm, let me see, I have my main dual proc dev box, my old dual proc dev box (exchange, sql server, file store), my domain controller(another sql server, active directory), 2 laptops, an old Pslow something or other that I sometime use as an NT 4 server when I need to work on stuff for a particular client... They dont all run at once, but they're there if i need them.

Len Holgate (www.lenholgate.com)
Friday, October 03, 2003

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