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Joe Chang

Hardware rant 2015

It has been a while so I suppose it is time for another rant on hardware. There are two systems I would like:
One is a laptop.
The second is a server capable of demonstrating extreme IO performance, with the secondary objective of being small enough to bring along to customer sites.

On the laptop I am looking for
1) quad-core with HT, i.e. 8 logical processors for better parallel execution plans.
2) PCIe SSD, I would prefer 3GB/s+, so PCIe gen3 x4, or 2 x M.2 PCIe x2 is also an option.
3) drive 1, but preferably 2 external 4K monitors (so I can look at complex execution plans)

On this matter, it is time to bitch at the MS SQL Server team that there should be an option to contract the white space in execution plans. The existing zoom capability is worthless.
Yes I know SQL Sentry Plan Explorer can do this, but really MS, is it so hard? or have you outsourced the entire SSMS some team that does not know that there is such a thing as complex queries?
The reason I want to drive 2 external 4K displays is that at the 4K resolution, I need more than a 28 in monitor to use the resolution.

A couple of days ago, Dell announce the new XPS 15 with Core i7-6700 processors (Sky Lake) which I immediately ordered , but unfortunately it shows a shipping date of Nov 16

it does have 4K display, and 1 external port which may or may not support 4K. I thought I ordered the docking station, but I do not know if this would support dual external 4K monitors.
I currently have the Dell 28in 4K monitors, which is great for looking at execution plans, but at the normal text size setting, is difficult read.
I am thinking that the much more expensive Dell 32in 4K monitor will be better, but maybe not enough. Should I get a 55in 4k TV instead? these all have just the HDMI connector, so I need to make sure there are proper 4K adapters.

The new XPS 15 data sheet says it has HDD bay (SATA interface) and one M.2 bay (uncertain if PCIe x2 or x4). I would have been nice if 2 M.2 x2 bays were available instead of the HDD bay. I ordered the XPS 15 with the PCIe SSD. I do not know if it is good one (Samsung SM951 cite 2150MB/s) if not, it will throw the Dell SSD out, and get a good one.

One more thing, ECC memory
Intel desktop and mobile processors all do not have ECC (or parity) memory capability. ECC memory has been built into Intel processors for some time now, it is just disabled in the Core product lines, enabled on in the server Xeon line.
So the Sky Lake equivalent is the Xeon E3 v5. Intel released the v5 under the mobile group, with a 45W rating.
Unfortunately I cannot find a laptop for sale that uses the Xeon E3 v5.

Perhaps Dell or someone could offer a Xeon E3 mobile system?

Extreme IO Performance demonstrator
First, why do I need such a thing?
when my clients have multi-million dollar SAN storage systems?
Because SAN people are complete idiots on the matter of IO performance, being locked into irrelevant matters (to enterprise DB) like thin provisioning etc.
Invariably, the SAN people (vendor sales engineer, the SAN admin etc) confuse that Fiber Channel is specified in Gigabits/sec (Gb/s) while all other IO bandwidth is specified in GigaBytes/sec (GB/s).
So we have a multi-million dollar storage system (full of add-on software that have no purpose in an enterprise DB) connected to a powerful server (60+ cores and paying for SQL Server 2012 EE per core licensing) over 2 x 8Gbit/s FC links.
Is this stupid or is this exceptionally stupid?

Yes I know it is extremely rude of me to call other people stupid, and that being stupid is not crime, but when you are the vendor for multi-million dollar equipment, there is a reasonable expectation that you are not stupid.

So onto the system.
For this, I am sure I need more than 4 cores, so it needs to the Xeon E5. Perhaps 8 cores (single socket) is sufficient.
The new Intel SSD DC P3608 has great specs, but I am not sure when it is actually available?
I would put 2 of these in the system to demonstrate 10GB/s. Ideally this would all go into box that fits carry on luggage, which is unfortunately not one of the standard PC or server form factors.

Another option is a 2 x 12 core system to demonstrate 20GB/s on 4 x P3608.

I would prefer to get a laptop without high performance graphics, the NVidia GTX 960M in this case.
The current Intel graphics is sufficient for high resolution rendering, but I do not need high frame rate. All the Intel Core i7 6th gen processors have graphics, I wonder if I can remove the GTX (for power savings)?
Apparently Dell will have a new docking station, the Thunderbolt Dock TB15 next year, that will support 2 x 4K monitors?

I did already rant on PC laptops only being available with 16x9 displays?
How stupid is this? It is one thing for consumer laptops to have a 16x9 display, on the assumption that the home users just watch movies.
but on what justification does this apply to business and workstation laptops?

Concurrent with the Intel Skylake Xeon E3 v5 regular announcement, Supermicro announced motherboards for the E3 v5.
There is a micro-ATX (X11SAE-M) but with just 1 x16 and 1 x4 PCIe g3 slots.
where as the ATX (X11SAT) has 3 slot with 16/8/8 as an option. This would let me put 2 P3608? for 10GB/s?

Published Thursday, October 15, 2015 5:11 PM by jchang

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D. Michael said:

Great points! I'm right there with you. I do a lot of query work, and I can't imagine trying to read an execution plan without 4K of video detail. Especially on laptops. SQL Server does a great job of rendering on a screen like that, and it's just stupid that vendors haven't caught up with the software yet.

Don't feel bad about calling people stupid - look, they have to just get these kinds of reminders from people like you, because nobody else is gonna tell 'em. Your work is fantastic, and you shouldn't be ashamed of it at all.

And while we're on the subject, what's with people who can't format their code? I find it reprehensible that anyone would put hard work into building something, and then not even format it correctly. It's just stupid, right?

October 15, 2015 5:57 PM

RichB said:

Sounds like you found a niche.

Why not build it?

October 15, 2015 9:00 PM

G. W. said:

Xeon Laptop wit ECC

Why not an Infinibad connector too

256Gigs of ram?

I think it would cost more than my discounted VW diesel

October 16, 2015 7:59 AM

jchang said:

Just to be clear, I am talking about the Xeon E3 v5 in a laptop, not the E5 line. The E3 v5 is the same Sky Lake processor as Core i7 6th gen. In fact Intel even list the Xeon E v5 under mobile (

The Core i7-6920HQ and Xeon E3-1535M v5 are essentially the same processor, both 2.9GHz base, 3.8GHz turbo, 45W, 530 graphics, etc.

The difference is the i7 has ECC memory disabled,

the i7-6920HQ carries as list price of $568, while the E3-1535M at $623 is $45 more, with ECC memory support.

In principle, unbuffered ECC memory (9 chips x8 = 72) should be 12.5% more expensive than non-ECC (8 chips x8 = 64). In practice it varies for market reasons. Markets that need ECC are less price sensitive, but there are other factors too.

If you think about the undetected errors that could occur without any memory integrity protection, any work done without ECC should be regarded as junk.

October 16, 2015 10:33 AM

jchang said:

October 16, 2015 10:35 AM

jchang said:

Eurocom actually makes specialty notebooks, including the Xeon E5 in 5.5kg/12lb monster.

They have Core i7 6th gen, but not from what can see a Xeon E3 v5.

Eurocom has an older server with the Xeon E3 v3 (Haswell) that has 2 M.2 slots (PCIe x4?). I can understand their gaming and workstations having the high-end nVidia graphics, but I hope they will rev the server E3 v5 model with just Intel graphics.

October 16, 2015 10:44 AM

Mark Wilson said:

The new Lenovo P50 and P70 laptops will feature Xeons:-

October 17, 2015 5:20 AM

jchang said:

Mark, thanks for pointing this out.

IBM had real engineers even on the PC side. I recall that they were against dropping parity in the early 1990's. So it would seem that some of this may have transferred to Lenovo, that they have the guts to put ECC into client side systems.

Of course the Engadget writer does not seem to understand there in no difference between Xeon E3 v5 and Core i7-6th gen.

If Dell does not ship my system by 16 Nov, I will cancel it and get the Lenovo P50 or 70.

October 18, 2015 10:41 AM

Thomas Kejser said:

Joe, just get the latest 15" Macbook pro, fuily kitted out. It has a quad core i7 (mine has Haswell, but the later model may have Skylake).

You can use that laptop to demonstrate extreme I/O performance too (the PCIe device in it is capable of well over 150K IOPS at 8K). It will run Windows fine via "boot camp" (which is just Apple hype for a dual boot bios). OS X, being based on FreeBSD hobby OS, is incapable of doing a lot of I/O without molesting the kernel CPU time. But if you run Windows on it, you should be able to hook up an external chassis via thunderbolt or USB3 and drive even higher IOPS than the 150K that comes inside the box.

For monitor, I would recommend the LG34" super wide screen. It is not quite 4K (1440x3440), but the Macbook can easily drive two of them. If you get two, get the flat display, not the curved one. The curved one has a strange artefact at the edge of the screen (not a problem if you have only one, but is visible with two).

It isn't a cheap laptop. In fact, it is probably the most expensive one you can get, but since acquiring it, I have not needed a server or stationary - except for NUMA testing.

October 20, 2015 7:34 AM

Thomas Kejser said:

it looks like the latest MBP 15" has Crystalwell with 128MB of L4... It is quite likely that this will outrun a Skylake for some workloads.

October 20, 2015 7:38 AM

jchang said:

What really pisses me off on the PC vendors is that they have so many different product lines and models heavily focused on the low end, with very poor choice in the combination of components on the high end.

Apple has done a really good job with limited product lines (2 or 3?) that hit the key segments (skipping the very low end of price points) with a very good choice of components.

The biggest thing I like about Apple is sticking to the 16:10 display, in defiance of the F@CKING DUMBASS PC vendors' 16:9.

That said, I have not switched to the MacBook Pro. But if the new Dell XPS or perhaps Lenovo P50 does not work out,

October 20, 2015 1:03 PM

jchang said:

Anandtech article

on regular Skylake Xeon E3 (not the mobile versions announced earlier)

wccftech skylake xeon article

Apparently Skylake Xeons will only work with the server oriented C230 (south bridge) chipset, as opposed to the desktop version. So a little extra on the processor, and a little extra on the chipset. There was a comment in the Anandtech article that the C230 does not have all the bells and whistles for desktops, so to me, it is worth the extra money for lose the items that only interfere with server operation.

October 20, 2015 5:23 PM

Radix said:

Joe, I understand your needs up to the ECC for the laptop.

Why would you want ECC in a laptop that is not meant to run 24/7 ? What do I miss to see here?

October 25, 2015 4:46 AM

jchang said:

ECC is not just about running 24/7, i.e,, running for a long time without crashing. Suppose a soft error (background radiation) occurs, some bit of memory are flipped? This could change the data - data, in which case you have incorrect data. If this were in a Word document, big deal, spell check or something will catch it. If it were a number, then that one value is now different, or it could cause the bits to be NaN.

The bits that flipped could be meta data. This might cause the OS to creash, but so the OS could now possibly be writing changes to the wrong areas, causing horrible problems.

Let me stress that Intel non-Xeon (all Core) processors have no memory protection what so ever.

With ECC or even parity, if we had detected an uncorrected error, then the app or OS should crash depending, and we can handle this.

However, without any memory error detection capability, the app/OS could continue to operate with bad data, with potentially serious consequences.

October 25, 2015 11:58 AM

Tru said:

HP has released the 3rd gen zbook with ecc:

December 1, 2015 9:43 AM

JF said:

For the Extreme IO Performance demonstrator you should really look at the Dirt Cheap Data Warehouse project on the forums at The moderator named "dba" has built an 18GB/s database machine on quite old HP hardware for $10k. The posts are pretty old, but I am sure you can contact him and build something much better with more modern SSDs. Most recently he has been working on a 25GB/s version, but there have been no updates since late 2013.

February 12, 2016 3:21 PM

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About jchang

Reverse engineering the SQL Server Cost Based Optimizer (Query Optimizer), NUMA System Architecture, performance tools developer - SQL ExecStats, mucking with the data distribution statistics histogram - decoding STATS_STREAM, Parallel Execution plans, microprocessors, SSD, HDD, SAN, storage performance, performance modeling and prediction, database architecture, SQL Server engine

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