Monday, April 4, 2011

Two is better than one

A few weeks back I visited a hot rod show, and one of the cars on display had two engines. No, I’m not talking about a hybrid powertrain, these were great big Chrysler V8’s, arranged in series. I’ve no idea how well it worked but it sure looked cool.

I wonder if the same mindset exists at Matrox? Judging by the specs on
the Matrox Supersight high-performance computing platform I think it might. This rack-mount PC features twin Intel Xeon processors, along with vast quantities of RAM and more PCIe slots than I could count. It also comes with a 2kW power supply. However you look at it, this thing is a beast! It’s a poor(ish) mans Cray supercomputer!

Now you may be asking who needs all that power. After all, when smart cameras will grind along quite happily with Motorola or Atom processors, why should anyone invest what must surely be a pretty penny in what’s just a high end PC?

Well I do, and I have a couple of reasons. First, inspecting web and cylindrical products demands linescan cameras that can churn out the bytes at high speed. And as resolutions keep going up (because my customers keep saying, “but can you find this?”) my images are getting bigger and bigger. So to deal with these demands, I’ve pretty much switched to using the PCIe bus for all my projects.

I’m also finding that handling these bigger images is pushing me towards using more RAM, which in turn leads me to a 64 bit operating system. But at that point I’ve found I run into a bunch of hardware compatibility issues and I end up spending more time sorting out computer problems than on image processing.

So I like the idea of a pre-configured, high-performance computing platform tailored to machine vision applications. I’m sure the Matrox SuperSight will cost more than a nice Dell, but I have a feeling it could save me a great deal of time and aggravation, so it might be a good investment.

Not sure about two V8’s in my car, but doubling up on processing power definitely seems like a good idea!

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