This week, Lenovo launched a trio of new ThinkStation workstations. The flagship product is the ThinkStation PX (P10), which can be configured with extraordinarily powerful components, followed by the ThinkStation P7 and ThinkStation P5.
Let’s focus on the ThinkStation PX as it best represents the potential of this new series of workstations as it can pack “up to” 120 CPU cores (2x 4th Generation Xeon Scalable’ Sapphire Rapids’), 2 TB of RAM, and four Nvidia RTX 6000 48GB graphics cards. The power comes from up to two 1800W power supplies.
“NVIDIA offers the world’s most powerful visual computing GPUs for desktop workstations,” said Bob Pette, VP of Professional Visualization at NVIDIA. I don’t think anyone will contradict this statement. At this level, NVIDIA is riding along, even though the competition, like AMD or Intel, does have ambitions.
The maximum storage capacity is the sum of seven M.2 drives (28TB) plus two 3.5” drives (24TB), or 52TB total. Of course, popular flavors of RAID arrays are also supported. An integrated 10Gb Ethernet adapter is used to move data across the network quickly. A classic 1GbE adapter and a built-in WiFi 6E MIMO radio supplement it. Note that the antenna is built into the chassis and does not stick out.
That is a lot of hardware for a computer that is the size of a huge PC gaming rig. However, this is much more powerful than anything gamers use, and for a good reason. This workstation will be utilized in high-end professional visualization workloads, such as cinematic graphics production and rendering.
That’s why Lenovo partnered with DreamWorks to launch these new workstations. DreamWorks is going to equip its creative staff with these workstations going forward. It’s not widely known, but Lenovo already powers the most recent additions of DreamWorks rendering server farm with their Neptune liquid-cooled servers that are a hit in the HPC sector (High-Performance Computing).
Having worked in computer graphics myself, I can vouch that no amount of computing is “good enough” for the kind of stuff DreamWorks creates. If anything, creators like that are limited by the computing power available to them.
As you can imagine, such hardware is destined to be run at maximum hardware utilization as often as possible, and it’s an incredible amount of computing per cubic inch, so the next challenge is, without a doubt… cooling.
Thermal management is one of the great added values Aston Martin brings, not just the aesthetics. If you think of it, high-performance cars are massive heat generators, whether the engine, exhaust, brakes, etc. And most of it is air-cooled, just like these workstations.
Aston Martin brought a wealth of know-how and experience in airflow, thermal management, industrial design, manufacturing, and materials that were hugely beneficial to the creation of these computers, according to Lenovo and Aston Martin representatives. And, of course, they also know how to make things manufacturing-friendly and within budget.
“We’ve spent the last 110 years controlling heat in cars,” said Cathal Loughnane, Head Of Aston Martin Partnerships at Aston Martin, explaining why there’s some overlap between high-end cars and high-end computers.
Interestingly enough, Aston Martin is also a Lenovo customer, and the next ThinkStations were designed using the current generation ThinkStations workstations.
The cooling system is based on a minutely designed and orchestrated airflow that relies on the components’ positioning inside the case and tight control of the incoming and outgoing airflow.
You can see prominent control surfaces such as the air intake baffle, but the airflow simulations even went into details such as how the air goes between the RAM modules or around the CPUs. When the team got the hardware prototypes, real-world measurements closely validated the digital simulation predicted.
Certainly, that’s the simulation-driven “future of design” that NVIDIA promotes with digital twins, even though I don’t think it was used in this project.
The design (aesthetic) is exquisite, and Aston Martin was inspired by the design language and physical properties of the $333,000+ Aston Martin DBS car’s front grille (and red color).
While gaming PCs’ grilles are primarily designed only for aesthetics, sports cars, and now workstations, grilles also significantly affect how the air enters the hot area by stabilizing the airflow. The more stable the airflow, the more controllable it becomes afterward. The ThinkStation 5U chassis also fits in racks if you like to stack your computing assets neatly and if you can afford to buy several of these (the computer weighs 70 Lbs, fully loaded).
I’ll let you judge the beauty of the toolless chassis design, but I think it is gorgeous and looks more luxurious in the real world than the marketing renderings.
I jokingly mentioned to Rob Herman, VP & GM, Workstation & Client AI Group at Lenovo, that Lenovo would probably make a killing if it were to sell the empty chassis to gamers. Interestingly enough, one of the first comments in the official youtube video was “Amazing PC Case Design!.”
DreamWorks will procure these workstations for their creative workforce to be used as desktop computers because having a supercomputer on one’s desk is conducive to higher productivity as highly-qualified workers don’t have to wait (as long) for rendering or animations to be computed.
However, when employees aren’t using the workstations, the desktop workstations can combine their computing power with others over the network in a “rendering farm,” which is a group of computers working on a common [3D] rendering job. That way, DreamWorks gets maximum hardware utilization to recoup its investment.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P7 and P5 are smaller and more compact variants of the new ThinkStation series to cover a vast array of perhaps less extreme computing needs. However, they remain very capable systems with many of the same design DNA.
You can check the complete specs to see the minute details, but at a high level, the ThinkStation P7 has ~65% of the computing of the PX, while the P5 has ~65% of the computing power of the P7.
All workstations pursue a similar goal of maximum productivity, resiliency, and future-proofing (with good expansion options), but at different price points and footprints.
The workstations will become available in May and will likely displace some of the existing ones if you want to speculate on how much they cost. At this time, no official pricing has been communicated by Lenovo.