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random_cat

Advice for workstation configuration

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Hi all,

I need a bit of advice regarding my workstation configuration. Currently I am using an i7-q820 based laptop with 8g ram, with vivado, to work with an arty z7-20 and artix video boards. In the future, maybe I will purchase also a ZCU102. Now I am at beginning with everything, but designs already takes a lot of time to synthesize on my laptop. I am planning to purchase a more powerful PC, but desktop, not laptop, and to install there vivado and everything needed to work. Due to various reasons, it is much easier for me to install that desktop pc into a part of the house which is mostly a storage room, and to connect it to the internal ethernet network, without monitor/keyboard. For flexibility reasons, I would like to continue using laptop as a remote desktop station to control the desktop pc (with teamviewer etc.). However, there is a problem. I need the fpga boards near me and those has to be connected to usb-jtag with the desktop pc, not with the laptop, which is just the remote desktop station. Any idea how to do that? Is there any usb-to-usb bridge over ethernet? Thank you.

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@random_cat,

All of my designs support a TCP/IP->USB->UART interface.  It allows me to control my board, connected to my desktop, from my laptop or indeed from any computer in my house.  A VNC session, running over SSH, allows me access to Vivado, so I can build (and load) any designs.  (I run Linux for everything, but discuss how to use my favorite tools from Windows here.)

I blog about the TCP/IP->UART connection here.

Feel free to ask if you think this is something that might work for you.  I've discussed it extensively on my blog.

Dan

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Hello to all,

Let me share with you my perspective and you decide which setup suits you.

My designs include both HDL, SPICE simulations using vendors tools from TI, Linear Technology and Analog Devices, Matlab and Altium design tools. As much I as would want to get away from Windows, it is the only OS fully supported by majority of vendors. Besides the only opportunity to use full CPU resources and 16GB of RAM is Windows. Virtual machines would degrade performance.

Doing designs with many opened desktop windows requires utilization of full capability of 4K primary display and the second 4K monitor. I can't achieve comparable performance with remote desktop. I've done this in the past and try to avoid unless no other way available.

My setup consists of high end 4K laptop and 4K monitor. I find it very productive, comfortable, quiet and fast. Since I need to have access to development boards for testing designs I keep everything in one lab space. More powerful desktop processor might save some time during synthesis and optimization but it will add extra time on maintenance of additional computer hardware. My cost/benefit analysis definitely not in favor of remote desktop setup. Simple is good.

In my opinion remote setup has merits when sharing and to get away from the fan noise.

Hope this helps...

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Thank you all very much for your advice. Unfortunately, for me, a high end laptop is not an option right now. 

I will add one more question. During my research for the configuration of the desktop workstation, I narrowed down the choices of the CPU to two affordable choices for me::

-i7-6800K, 3.4Ghz clock, 6x256k L2 cache, 15M L3 cache

-i7-7800X, 3.5Ghz clock, 6x1M L2 cache, 8.25M L3 cache

The system will have quad channel 32gb of ddr4 ram, probably at 2400mhz

Which one would you choose for vivado workstation?

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Hi @random_cat,

I'm not a Vivado expert or computer expert by any stretch of the imagination, but considering that both of the processors are both 6-core CPUs with hyper-threading, I would go for the one with the higher base frequency (i7-7800X). I'm not as familiar with the intricacies of the cache and how it might affect Vivado performance, so I can't comment on that. Naturally, you'll need to make sure for whatever CPU you choose you will need to make sure that the motherboard supports the processor socket that it uses.

I'm also a proponent of using an SSD rather than a spinning hard drive to help reduce that potential bottle-neck, but this isn't the necessarily the correct forum to get the best advice on that sort of thing (much less from me), so be sure to take my advice with a grain of salt.

Good luck,
JColvin

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Thank you. I think it's a good forum to ask that because here are a lot of vivado users. This application, from what I was able to understand from here and other forums, does use a PC in a particular way, very different than games or other apps. It is not necessary hungry for zillion of cores, 4-6 looks more than enough, especially with hyperthreading. But it does use the memory a lot, and huge memory, with as higher as possible bandwidth, may be more important than 100-200 mhz difference in clock. I have seen, on other forums, some comparisons between different machines, doing similar jobs. On one discussion, an i7-5775C was credited with significantly better performance than similar cpu's just because it has 128meg of eDRAM cache embedded near the cpu. Actually those 128 meg of memory were dedicated for the gpu, but when the gpu core is disabled, edram becomes available as l4 cache for the main cpu. On other discussion, I saw an AMD cpu performing slower (synthesis and implementation) than a similar i7 cpu, even if the cpu clock of amd was 100-200 mhz above i7.

This is why I tried to find the highest memory performance I can afford. Maximum memory channels for main ddr4 (4 channels) and biggest cache I can afford. Just I can't say which cache is better, more l2 per cpu or more l3 global.

Edited by random_cat

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Most often, only a single core runs full speed during the synthesis, and the frequency of this core becomes the most  important thing to care about. I attach the CPU usage graph taken while running Vivado synthesis for Zybo Z7 on the six core CPU. 

I suspect that some seriously overclocked and water cooled gaming workstation would help with productivity.

 

Screenshot at 2019-01-18 08:53:48.png

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