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First Look: IBM IntelliStation A Pro

By John Virata

Back in the mid 1990s, there was a company called Digital Equipment Corp. that churned out a microprocessor called the DEC Alpha. That CPU was a 64-bit RISC processor. By many accounts from animators and artists who used the Alpha, it was by far the fastest CPU out there, and it helped to create a cottage industry of animation facilities that harnessed the power of the Alpha along with a 3D program called LightWave. Companies rose out of nothing to build workstations around the Alpha. But then the silicon for the 64-bit processor known as the Alpha was quashed. DEC was acquired by Compaq Computer Corp. in June 1998 for close to $10 billion, and the Alpha became a stepchild to Compaq's grand plans, which was hinged on Intel's CPU roadmap.

Today, the digital media industry is again at the 64-bit crossroad. Apple Computer released its Power Mac G5, a 64-bit PowerPC RISC processor built by IBM. BOXX Technologies has shipped a 64-bit media workstation based on the AMD Opteron 64-bit processors, and now, IBM is preparing to ship its IntelliStation A Pro running dual AMD Opteron 64-bit processors. While Microsoft's 64-bit Windows is still in beta, Red Hat's 64-bit Linux WS 3 is available. The pieces are beginning to take shape. The creative content industry is moving to a new platform that will be 64-bit.  While our colleague Charlie White has taken a look at the BOXX offering , we'll preview here the newest from IBM, the IntelliStation A Pro.

Target Market

The IntelliStation A Pro series, powered by the AMD Opteron processors, is targeted at the heart of the DCC industry, those who are doing visual effects, digital video editing, and animation. It is also ideal for the CAD professional who must have the most power available to really push the complex CAD applications they use daily. The system is designed for the widest range of power user without sacrificing flexibility.  It supports up to 16GB of RAM, 584GB of disk space, and for expandability, a 64-bit 133MHz PCI-X slot and four 64-bit 100MHz PCI-X slots. The system also ships with an onboard HostRAID Level 0 and 1 compliant subsystem, so for those of us who absolutely need mission critical speed, the capability is there.

The Technical Specifications

The A Pro's hard drive cage
This IBM IntelliStation A Pro, which came as a pre-production model, came configured with the AMD Opteron 200 series CPU Model 248, the AMD-8000 chipset with HyperTransport technology, supporting 19.2GB/s peak bandwidth per processor. The A Pro also ships with Model 244 and 246 series AMD CPUs as well. It features 8 DIMM slots with support for up to 16GB RAM. The system is cooled via a trio of temperature controlled fans powered by the 530 watt power supply. The system ships standard with AGP 8X Pro110 graphics slot. Graphics options include the NVIDIA Quadro FX3000, NVIDIA QuadroFX 1100, and the NVIDIA Quadro NVS 280. Hard disk drive options include 80GB, 7200RPM Serial ATA drives, 160GB 7200RPM optional. SCSI options include 36.4GB Ultra320 SCSI drives spinning at 10,000rpm, 73GB  Ultra320 SCSI drives spinning at 10,000rpm or 15,000rpm, and 146GB Ultra320 SCSI drives spinning at 10,000rpm. The system also features an intergrated SATA controller as well as dual channel 64-bit Ultra320 integrated controllers. The system also features integrated HostRAID Level 0 and 1 capabilities. For some reason, IBM hasn't included any flavor of DVD burning storage as an option. The systems support CD and CD-RW drives up to 48X CD-RW drives, and CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drives in various speeds as well. DVD authoring is growing in the DCC markets and IBM needs to think about offering a drive as an option, if not standard equipment. Some applications are beginning to arrive on DVD media, so the company should offer DVD burning drives as an option. CD-RW drives are really reaching the end of their useful lives as folks who create massive amounts of data each day know the archive value of a 4X DVD drive (4.7GB) as well as the new 8X DVD drives (support for up to 8GB of data).

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Related Keywords:AMD Opteron 64-bit CPUs, IntelliStation A Pro


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