For several years now, the editors of Computer Graphics World have had a very difficult task once the sound of the bagpipes signaled the end of another SIGGRAPH conference and exhibition. That is when they compared notes, conducted a little more research, and discussed the merits of the products and technologies displayed at the show.
At SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver, 175 vendors - collectively occupying more than 40,000 square feet of exhibit space - explained and demonstrated their latest contributions to the computer graphics industry.
Indeed, with such an abundance, it was difficult for the staff at CGW to select what it deemed to be the best of the show. Yet, there is always something that stands out among the rest for one reason or another. What did we look for? Technology that has the potential to greatly impact the industry and its users.
With that said, the winners of the CGW Silver Edge Award from SIGGRAPH 2014 are:
AMD - FirePro (W2100, W4100, W5100, W7100)
The additions are all supported by the AMD Graphics Core Next architecture. The lineup is backed by larger memory configurations, top-to-bottom 4k display support, increased compute performance, application certifications, and dependable drivers.
Shotgun Software iPhone app The developer of cloud-based production tracking, review, and approval, as well as asset management tools, launched a new mobile app that brings the power of its Shotgun Review to the iPhone. The app provides a full set of tools to review projects and give their artists clear, visual feedback on work in progress.
Lenovo - ThinkStation P Series
Lenovo's new ThinkStation P desktop workstations - the P900, the P700, and the P500 - join the entry-level ThinkStation P300, which debuted in May. The ThinkStation P Series features a clean, modular design, making it easier to access components for uncomplicated upgrades.
OTOY - X.IO App Streaming
OTOY introduced its X.IO App Streaming, a new application virtualization service that instantaneously ports Windows desktop applications to the cloud without the need to modify code. This enables users to access them on any Internet-connected device, regardless of form factor or platform.
Nvidia - Next-gen Quadro GPUs (K5200, K4200, K2200, K620, K420)
Nvidia's next-generation Quadro GPUs, including the K5200, K4200, K2200, K620, and K420, deliver an enterprise-grade visual computing platform with up to twice the performance and data-handling capability of the previous generation.
Faceware Technologies -Faceware Live 2.0
Faceware Live 2.0 markerless, facial mocap and animation produces facial animation in real time by automatically tracking a performer's face and instantly applying that performance to a facial model. It can use a video-capture device to drive the real-time performance.
EIZO - 24-inch ColorEdge Series (CG247, CX241)
EIZO's two new 24.1-inch monitors are part of its ColorEdge series of graphics monitors. Both feature a wide-gamut IPS (in-plane switching) panel that reproduces 99 percent of the Adobe RGB colorspace. The CG247 comes with a built-in color calibration system.
Xsens Technologies (Honorable Mention)
New mocap enhancements Xsens previewed significant changes to its motion-capture technology and software developments, all under NDA until later this year. The preview, at least, looks interesting enough to award the company a Silver Edge honorable mention.
HP Unveils Expandable Desktop, Mobile Workstation Line
HP has introduced its most powerful Z Workstations, combining increased system expandability, higher-speed memory, and multicore updates, as well as access to the latest technologies.
The new additions to the portfolio include: the new HP Z840, Z640, and Z440 desktop workstations, which feature the latest Intel Xeon processor product family, and Nvidia and AMD professional graphics options; and the new HP ZBook 15 G2 and 17 G2 Mobile Workstations, which take advantage of powerful processing, including optional Intel quad-core processors and Nvidia Quadro and AMD FirePro professional graphics that are ISV-certified.
The workstations in the new line include: the Z840 ($2,399) at the top, with seven expansion slots, up to 10 expansion bays, 16 memory slots and support for up to 2tb of memory; the Z640 ($1,759), with up to 50 percent more discrete processor cores and 33 percent more memory; and the Z440 ($1,299), which includes a 100 percent increase in system memory compared to the HP Z420.
The new ZBook Mobile Workstations offer new drive options, like the Z Turbo Drive and the fast connectivity of Thunderbolt 2. The HP ZBook 15 G2 and ZBook 17 G2 Mobile Workstation cost $1,499 and $1,749, respectively.
Dell Builds New Tower, Rack Workstations
Dell is offering new tower and rack workstations based on the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 and E5-1600 v3 processors. With 2133mhz DDR4 memory, they are said to perform up to 4.7 times faster than the previous generation.
This launch is unique because all the core system components have been refreshed at the same time - in addition to Intel's latest processors, the new workstations feature the latest AMD FirePro and Nvidia Quadro professional-grade graphics technology, deliver faster speeds and increased memory capacity, and enable Dell workstation customers to take advantage of greater performance and scalability by upgrading all the key components at once.
The updated tower workstations include the compact, single-socket Dell Precision Tower 5810 and dual-processor Dell Precision Tower 7810 and the highly expandable dual-processor Dell Precision Tower 7910. Also new with these systems is the option of Thunderbolt 2 technology.
Dell is further offering the new Dell Precision Rack 7910, which offers all the capabilities of the Tower 7910 in a 2U rack form factor.
AMD Delivers W8100
AMD has rolled out the AMD FirePro W8100 professional graphics card, enabling new levels of workstation performance delivered by the company's second-generation AMD Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. With nearly 38 times the performance of the closest competing product based on double-precision testing, and powered by OpenCL, the AMD FirePro W8100 is designed for the next generation of 4k CAD and M&E workflows, engineering analysis, and supercomputing applications. The AMD FirePro W8100 features a best-in-class 8gb of GDDR5 memory, up to 4.2 tflop of single-precision compute performance, and unmatched double-precision compute performance of up to 2.1 tflop.
The AMD FirePro W8100 is tuned for GPU-accelerated compute tasks. Up to four AMD FirePro W8100 cards can be combined in a single system for scalable GPU-compute performance of over 16 tflop and support up to four 4k displays. The AMD FirePro W8100 began shipping in July.
Workstation Market Maintains Slow, Steady Progress
"Cautious and tentative, but still headed in the right direction." That's how Jon Peddie Research (JPR) Senior Analyst and "JPR Workstation Report" Author Alex Herrera sums up 2014's first-quarter market results in the workstation market.
JPR has wrapped up and published its analysis of Q1 2014 results, painting a picture of a market that has more going for it than against it. Worldwide, the industry shipped approximately 945,800 workstations in the first quarter of the year. That level corresponds to a sequential decline of 2.7% but a year-over-year (YoY) increase of 6.2%.
With one key performance metric up and the other down, how does the firm sum up the quarter - as a step forward or one backward? "As is often the case, that determination is all about context," explains Herrera, "particularly with respect to the market's cyclical nature. If we look back over the previous five years, we find that even in periods of general growth, Q1 results were more often down than up, with an average sequential loss of 3.8%. Given that perspective, in combination with the fairly robust 6.2% YoY figure, we're inclined to give the quarter a thumbs-up, albeit a tempered one."
The market shares of the "big four" Tier 1 OEMs changed little in the first quarter of 2014. With 39.7% of units sold (basically flat from Q4), HP continues to dominate the workstation market, with number-two Dell at 33.3%. Lenovo and Fujitsu shipped the exact same percentage of units in the first quarter as they did in Q4 2013: 12.9% and 3.9%, respectively. JPR estimates the remaining 10.3% of units came from a host of smaller workstation suppliers, including Tier 2 OEMs and system integrators (SIs).
The most notable OEM story worth telling in Q1 is, once again, Dell. After a long decline in the market, the one-time market leader made a very clear decision in 2012 to recommit itself to the workstation marketplace, sparking a slow but steady comeback. The first quarter continued to show modest but measurable improvement, as Dell hacked a full point of market share out of HP's current lead in the market.
AMD Boosted by Apple
AMD and Nvidia create a virtual duopoly in the market for workstation GPUs, and the story line hasn't changed much in the past seven years: Nvidia has dominated, and AMD has hung on for minority share. The battle lines in the pair's struggle for market share have been remarkably fixed in recent quarters. But that situation changed in Q4 2013, as AMD began ramping up shipments of its custom FirePro cards (D300, D500, and D700) designed into Apple's recently revamped Mac Pro. Each of Apple's flagship professional machines integrates not just one, but two, FirePro GPUs. As a result, the first quarter of 2014 saw a substantial jump in FirePro volume, pushing AMD's share of the overall workstation GPU market up over five points to 20.6%.
However, Nvidia's Quadro brand continued to account for the lion's share of the market, with 78.8% of all units shipped in the quarter. And focusing strictly on GPUs shipping in traditional Windows and Linux workstations, Nvidia and AMD shares in the market appear generally unchanged. Pulling FirePro shipments to Apple out of the equation, Herrera estimates Nvidia shipped approximately 82.8% of the professional GPUs into workstations, while AMD contributed about 16.5%.