why does it matter: While they certainly don’t get the attention of computers, workstations play a very important role in the world of enterprise computing. The truth is, the people who use these high-powered devices often perform many of the most amazing computing-based tasks you can imagine. Take, for example, bringing animated films to life straight out of Hollywood, or designing sports cars in a small village in the West Midlands region of the United Kingdom.
Lenovo was clearly thinking along those lines when they chose to unveil their latest desktop workstations this week at DreamWorks Animation Studio alongside their customer and design partner Aston Martin. The timing was especially fortunate since DreamWorks is currently up for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
At the event, Lenovo emphasized the multi-year connection with DreamWorks, starting with the ThinkSystem servers the studio now uses to power its entire operation from rendering animations to running business processes.
It turns out that DreamWorks was attracted to Neptune’s warm-water cooling technology—now in its fifth version—that Lenovo uses to cool both CPUs, storage units, and now GPUs—in its servers. It proved particularly attractive to DreamWorks because of the ever-increasing demands on performance (and the resulting increased power draw) that they had combined with a space-constrained data center.
Lenovo’s Neptune-equipped servers have allowed DreamWorks to deliver more performance in less space while lowering its power consumption – a compelling combination.
The server relationship then allowed the company to open discussions about workstations and DreamWorks chose to replace its previous machines with the Lenovo ThinkStation P920, P720, and P520. However, future purchases will likely come from the real star of the event, Lenovo’s new desktop workstation line, including the PX, P7, and P5.
these new models Incorporating the latest workstation-focused CPUs and graphics cards, including 4th-generation Intel Xeon Scalable, new 4th-generation Xeon W CPUs and 13th-generation Core CPUs, and Nvidia’s RTX 6000-generation graphics cards.
However, what was particularly special about this launch was that it was the first major redesign of the company’s desktop workstation case in nearly a decade. Notably, this was done jointly with British sports car company Aston Martin, who also happen to use Lenovo workstations.
ThinkStation PX, P7, and P5 workstations
While this may at first seem like a strange combination, it turns out that it actually works on many different levels. As an Aston Martin representative put it succinctly, “Both companies love to build things that look great and go fast, but you still need to keep your cool to get the best performance.”
Visually, the impact of the partnership is immediately apparent. The new ThinkStation P line features a 3D grille based on the hexagonal design very similar to Aston Martin’s DBS Superleggera front grill. More than just an attractive addition, however, the new grill design actually increases air entry into the machine, allowing it to cool hot, power-hungry main components more efficiently. To aid in this process, the PX also includes a new manifold-like element that directs incoming air to the correct parts of the device.
Increased airflow is especially important on the best-in-class PX model, which is one of the first mainstream workstations to support up to 4 full-length, full-power Nvidia RTX 6000 Ada graphics cards along with two CPU sockets. Support for Intel’s latest 4th generation Xeon Scalable 60 cores (a part usually associated with servers).
These 6 components along with the rest of the system require so much power that they can only connect to outlets that are powered by a 20 amp circuit. Lenovo powers the system with two independent power supplies linked together. In systems that do not offer this full configuration (and therefore do not require as much power), power supplies can be swapped during maintenance for easier maintenance and longer uptime. For organizations that want or need this level of performance, however, the PX can run on its own and act as a 5U rack-mounted workstation.
In addition to the PX, Lenovo also unveiled the smaller ThinkStation P7 and P5 with support for both 4th generation Intel Xeon W, including 13th generation Xeon W9-3495X CPUs and RTX 6000 GPUs from Nvidia. The P7 can have one Xeon W-3400 CPU and up to three RTX 6000 cards, while the P5 supports up to one Xeon W-2400 CPU and two RTX 6000 cards.
In addition to the stylish new grill design, all three machines introduce subtle Aston Martin design elements such as red detailing that highlights where the machine is opened, reached or carried. As part of the tool-free design, the entry panel for the workstations is inspired by Aston Martin’s flush car door handles. In the best way, they are design components that can be functional and attractive at the same time.
From a technical perspective, all three devices include support for two PCIe gen 5 slots, up to 9 drives, and up to 2TB of DDR5 memory. More importantly for the workstation market, all of these systems are ISV certified, ensuring that critical applications can run on them.
As with premium sports cars, workstations will never be a mainstream option. But for organizations or users who demand the best possible performance for their applications, there is nothing else like it. With its latest Aston Martin-inspired ThinkStations, Lenovo is clearly keen to not only be competitive in the race, but has its eyes on the checkered flag.
Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst Technical Analysis Research, LLC A technology consulting firm providing strategic advice and market research services to the technology industry and the financial professional community. You can follow him on Twitter @employee.