Monday, 24 July 2017

Get Ready For Skylake

Get Ready For Skylake

Intel’s next generation processor, Skylake, is set to deliver a 30% performance boost to CPU operations.

Successor to the Broadwell and Haswell microarchitectures that have been found in workstations, servers and renderfarms for the last several years, Skylake was launched in 2015 and is about to see mainstream adoption. With SIGGRAPH and IBC around the corner we can expect some significant announcements from vendors.

The prediction is that all major workstation, renderfarm, and server manufacturers will move to the new architecture by the end of the year. And with Supermicro already offering Skylake compatible machines the next generation of CPUs is here.

For the world of visual effects this presents some interesting possibilities. Boasting up to a 28-core CPU Intel is battling AMD to be king of the processors, while new technologies such as omni-path networking and AVX512 extensions have the potential to shake things up even further (more on that after the announcements are made). This makes high resolution editing and rendering simpler than it has been to date. Put this alongside Chaos Group’s hybrid rendering in V-Ray, for example, and the days of the CPU aren’t quite as numbered as some people would have us believe.

Practicalities

Key for densely-packed offices where space is at a premium and prices are high (like Soho) is the power efficiency of these new chips. The 4.5 watt consumption is a drop from the previous generation, meaning you get more processing power for less energy. Something machine rooms are crying out for.

And while you won’t be able to use a Skylake processor with your Haswell motherboard - rather, you’ll pretty much need a whole new machine - this step does introduce DDR4 RAM into the mainstream. So faster processing, faster memory, and less power consumption will all hit us at the same time.

Timescales

Without knowing exactly what announcements will be made at the big events this year we can only make an educated guess as to when we might see Skylake workstations in studios. Assuming an autumn release of equipment the first companies likely to take these next-gen boxes are tier one post-production houses.

“It’s hard to say exactly when Skylake will hit the industry at large,” comments Lee Danskin, CTO at Escape Technology. “But the extra compute and reduced power consumption mean they’ll solve a lot of problems for visual effects companies. So it won’t be too long.”

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