If you are happy don't waste your time with this post, it's going to be just a pissed-off rant against the industry. Now, I love technology! So imagine how thrilled I was when my colleague brought me a monster of a server to play around with yesterday. We have a client that needs big strong servers for development purposes, so we ordered one. It is a supermicro dual cpu system, it has two Xeon 4 cores 8 threads ( so 16 threads ) 24 GB of RAM, no idea how much storage and we decided to put two Ati/Sapphire HD 6970 graphics cards for math purposes. And then it turns out he wants windows server 2008 ( just fail ). Oh my god the god of fail has cursed this land. So the system came to my house somewhere around 16:00 (4pm), on Sunday. It is 18:00 (6pm) Monday as I write this, I just go out of bed.
Issue one. The server doesn't have an Optic disk drive, it doesn't need it. I thought "no problem", I haven't used a CD or DVD for a while. But, I usually install some sort of Linux from USB and it's as easy as `dd image.iso /dev/sdb`. But that trick doesn't work with windows, so I though yeah right windows 7 on a flash was just format to FAT32 make active and bootable and copy the content's (mother of fail). It takes about 30 min to dd and it takes 30 min more for the copy so I wasted 1 hour and ended up with nothing. I tried some more stuff wasting more time. Finally figured out that you need an NTFS bootable partition with the files in order for it to work. All in all, 4 hours wasted.
Issue two. When I say that the system had two graphics cars I meant to say the system had one graphics card in it, and I had one fresh from the store in a box. If you have ever had the opportunity to assemble a SLI or crossfire system then you know how important a BIG case is. Well this one was big, but it was a rack mountable case 4U nice and long but a standard height/width (depending on how you look at it), so there was barely enough room. On top of that the case and the power supply are sort of integrated and you don't have a lot of free power connectors, the connectors I did manage to steal from the HDD section almost didn't reach the cards. Ant the PCI Express RAID controller cables where getting in the way of the crossfire bridge between the cards. I have no idea how much time I wasted on that.
Issue three. The install process, not exactly an issue. Everything was smooth and worked nice and fast, until we came to the updates. Why is Windows updating so slow, with all the money Microsoft makes they should have the bandwidth and mirrors needed for the update process to be supper fast. And maybe it is, maybe it's just that the files are bigger in windows compared to Linux, and that makes me think that Linux distros generally have better infrastructure than Microsoft. Time wasted hour and a half, or so.
Issue four. I love AMD, there is something about the underdog that society gravitates to. It's like Intel is so big and powerful and only AMD can save us (Intel is freaking awesome(just to be clear)). Since AMD bought Ati there has been a great effort to improve the proprietary driver for Linux, and this is awesome. But why don't they have a working driver for Windows Server 2008. The cards are identified and the drivers do work, but the Catalyst Control Center doesn't. I tried 3 different version of the windows 7 driver from the Ati website, than I tried the windows 8 driver, than I tried a driver from the Sapphire website. No happy, none joy. I just went to bed at about 04:00 ( 4am ). My colleague came to take the system somewhere around 9:00, it is going in the datacenter and we need to resolve the issues remotely. Remote driver maintenance on a windows system, we have so much fail coming up!
Now due to a general industry failure I have wasted my time, I missed to go to job on Monday so I lost money and it was for nothing since the client might not be satisfied by the performance of the graphics cards. And it doesn't end here, we have to solve this and find a way to check in what mode these two graphics cards work and a way to configure them. Microsoft needs to make their installation media usable, we are post optical, everything comes over the wire or on a flash device. Plus, their update concept is flawed, they need to fix it. Case and motherboard design needs to catch up with the trend of multiple huge long graphics cards. AMD/Ati need to test their desktop products's drivers on all possible platforms, not only am I not going to buy a workstation product from them just so that I can use it on windows server, I'm not going to buy anything from them until the fix this.