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Old 14-Aug-2008, 00:55   #1
Spaceman-Spiff
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Default Most Efficient Harware Setup for Folding?

I just read today on this guy's folding farm: http://www.overclock.net/overclock-n...gpu2-farm.html . While it's a great effort (and I applaud that), it's very resource consuming. The guy probably pays $400-500 for electricity every month.

After reading that, I had some discussions on building a more efficient folding system (and farms). Through your experiences, which hardware setup do you find is more efficient? Perhaps an Atom-powered system with multiple GPUs folding (even on PCI slots)? or is PS3 still the best current hardware for folding?

Does anyone know how much faster folding in PS3 is compared to modern GPUs? Also, which one consumes more energy (assuming the GPU is placed in a medium-end PC).
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Old 18-Aug-2008, 10:58   #2
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PS3 is NOT faster than a modern GPU. You can find more info on this at the Stanford folding site.

When compared by points of day (PPD), it goes roughly like this: Nvidia GPU > ATI GPU > SP3 > CPU.

The most powerful folding system at the moment would be a system with four Nvidia 9800 GX2 cards. That would get around 40 000 PPD.

The Nvidia 8800 series cards would probably be the most cost/energy efficient solution. The ATI cards are presently poorly optimized. The new ATI 4870 X2 card would get only around 2000 PPD as it apparently can only utilize only 1/5 of the stream processors.
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Old 19-Aug-2008, 01:29   #3
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Interesting info, thanks. I should do some research on the Stanford website. I currently only fold using BOINC, but looking to fold on GPU too. The only GPU solution using BOINC is the GPUGrid project, which only works on Linux x64.

An 8800GT uses around 225W on full load, that's pretty good compared to the GTX 280 and 9800 GX2. I'm still interested in ideas on building efficient folding farms.

One idea I had before is using a low power CPU (the Intel Atom for example), and fold using multiple GPUs. Unfortunately the Intel Atom doesn't come with a large motherboard selection at this moment.

My other idea is using PCI video cards on motherboards with lots of PCI slots. Unfortunately there are no 8000-series nvidia cards for PCI slots; however, the Radeon 2400 are available on PCI for around $50-60 per card. If this works, it will be a lot cheaper than getting 3-way SLI motherboards.

Has there been any benchmarks released on folding hardware?
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Old 19-Aug-2008, 02:36   #4
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You do not need SLI to run multiple nvidia GPUs for Folding@Home. Each card only needs to be seen as a video card adapter. There isn't much traffic, so a 4x PCI Express lane isn't a bottleneck either. Vista is more efficient than XP for the Nvidia GPU client. In XP, 1 GPU uses 1 core. In Vista, 1 GPU uses ~ 20% CPU. However for Vista, the card needs to be connected to a monitor or at least have a terminator to be detected.

My 768 meg 8800 GTX averages 4600 points per day (ppd) while my 256 meg 8800 GT (G92) averages 4880 ppd. The current GPU client barely uses any video memory at all; the work unit could increase by 5x and still fit easily within the 256 meg footprint.

By comparison, in Vista a quad core Q6600 (B3 stepping) at 3.4Ghz brings in roughly 3400 ppd by running 2 instances of the SMP client with Affinity Changer running to manage the core assignment. The throughput only drops by 15% when running two clients, but the ppd increase far outweigh that. Most work units still complete with 80% of the final time remaining.
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Old 19-Aug-2008, 18:03   #5
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If my calculations are correct, a 4-GPU 8800GT system with cheap components should cost around $1000 (more if you use Windows). Assuming the system uses 600W constantly, electrical bill will be around $30-50, depending on where you live. The system should produce around 20k PPD per day?

A 5-system folding farm using the above specs will have an immediate cost of +/- $5000, and running cost of $150-250 per month. Did I miss anything?
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 01:22   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spaceman-Spiff View Post
One idea I had before is using a low power CPU (the Intel Atom for example), and fold using multiple GPUs. Unfortunately the Intel Atom doesn't come with a large motherboard selection at this moment.
the sempron LE-1200 is a pretty great low power CPU already. it's a single core, 65nm Athlon 64 with 512K cache costing 27 euros, can be run at 800MHz 0.8Volt! and will take place in an AMD 790FX motherboard (four PCIe 2.0 running at 8x with all cards)
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 09:43   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahu View Post
The Nvidia 8800 series cards would probably be the most cost/energy efficient solution. The ATI cards are presently poorly optimized. The new ATI 4870 X2 card would get only around 2000 PPD as it apparently can only utilize only 1/5 of the stream processors.
That's actually the score for the regular 4870, the X2 should be able to get about twice that.

Going by Mark Houston's posts on the foldingforum it isn't so much that the client is poorly optimised, but rather that the current work units are a kind of workload that isn't able to utilise the massive amount of parallel stream processors.
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 10:06   #8
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Vista is more efficient than XP for the Nvidia GPU client. In XP, 1 GPU uses 1 core. In Vista, 1 GPU uses ~ 20% CPU. However for Vista, the card needs to be connected to a monitor or at least have a terminator to be detected.
I don't have the same experience with XP vs Vista tbh. Under XP my dual 8800GTSs each take only about 25% CPU also, and that is on a relatively tame Athlon X2 4600+.

The ATI client on the other hand does utilise a CPU core quite noticeably.
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 10:19   #9
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Originally Posted by Florin View Post
That's actually the score for the regular 4870, the X2 should be able to get about twice that.

Going by Mark Houston's posts on the foldingforum it isn't so much that the client is poorly optimised, but rather that the current work units are a kind of workload that isn't able to utilise the massive amount of parallel stream processors.
Yeah. And apart from that, of course its always a good idea to keep in mind that the various clients run different kinds of jobs according to their strengths (at least it was like that last time I checked). Of course the points system takes care of that issue more or less.
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 15:26   #10
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My power bill doubled when I ran the SMP client on my E8400 @ 4GHz and the GPU client on my o/c'd 8800 GT 24x7. I quit both when I got that bill. Now I only fold on my PS3 (and a few remaining older single-cpu clients in the field).
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 17:40   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Florin View Post
That's actually the score for the regular 4870, the X2 should be able to get about twice that.

Going by Mark Houston's posts on the foldingforum it isn't so much that the client is poorly optimised, but rather that the current work units are a kind of workload that isn't able to utilise the massive amount of parallel stream processors.
At the moment the X2 score equals the regular 4870, as the current client recognizes only the other GPU core.
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Old 20-Aug-2008, 19:21   #12
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I currently live in an apartment with no electricity fees (included in rent). But I'm sure if I run 5 computers 24/7 on full load, they will kick me out :P.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Blazkowicz View Post
the sempron LE-1200 is a pretty great low power CPU already. it's a single core, 65nm Athlon 64 with 512K cache costing 27 euros, can be run at 800MHz 0.8Volt! and will take place in an AMD 790FX motherboard (four PCIe 2.0 running at 8x with all cards)
The ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe looks like a good motherboard, retailing around $200. I'll probably try with a single/dual GPU first. Then move on to more.
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Old 21-Aug-2008, 02:31   #13
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I don't have the same experience with XP vs Vista tbh. Under XP my dual 8800GTSs each take only about 25% CPU also, and that is on a relatively tame Athlon X2 4600+.
On your cpu usage, I want to make sure I understand what you're stating. Is that 25% shown in task manager process tab? If so, that maps to 50% of a single core. Or does task manager show each task as using only 12.5%?

In my case, on a quad core, the nvidia gpu client takes 4%. That equates to 16% of a single core.

I haven't run XP in quite some time, so I was merely taking what others have said in the various Folding forums. Most were suggesting to dedicate an entire core to GPU folding, which seems a bit of a waste.
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Old 21-Aug-2008, 23:03   #14
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No, together they use about 50% of the total, or all of one core. I don't lock them to a core and run one single CPU client next to it.
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Old 22-Aug-2008, 18:51   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Florin View Post
No, together they use about 50% of the total, or all of one core. I don't lock them to a core and run one single CPU client next to it.
I found the GPU client to give the best return (running side-by-side with the SMP client) on my dual-core E8400 using "only" about half a core. The rest is just needless waiting on API calls.

If you assign affinity, you'll get the most out of your clients (on a dual-core, anyway). I let all SMP clients run on Core 0 (the slowest of which I also assigned to core 1), GPU client on core 1.
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Old 22-Aug-2008, 19:09   #16
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Quote:
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No, together they use about 50% of the total, or all of one core. I don't lock them to a core and run one single CPU client next to it.
In Vista with my AMD X2 4400+ cpu and 8800 GT, the GPU client uses around 10% - 13% CPU total, or 20% - 26% of one core. I also run one single SMP CPU client next to it.

Vista provides a significant benefit on GPU Folding, roughly half the CPU overhead is removed.
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Old 22-Aug-2008, 19:50   #17
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Originally Posted by BRiT View Post
In Vista with my AMD X2 4400+ cpu and 8800 GT, the GPU client uses around 10% - 13% CPU total, or 20% - 26% of one core. I also run one single SMP CPU client next to it.

Vista provides a significant benefit on GPU Folding, roughly half the CPU overhead is removed.
If you assign affinity manually you will see the same results in XP. At least, I did. Had to play with priorities as well (idle for GPU client, low for SMP client on the same core, idle for all others).
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Old 09-Apr-2009, 06:46   #18
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