Dell Revamps Product Line on 20th Anniversary of Its Workstations
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on August 01, 2017 | 2383 views

Dell has been a stalwart of the computer technology industry for the past 33 years, but its Precision line of workstations has been in existence for 20 years, as of 2017. To celebrate the anniversary at SIGGRAPH 2017, the tech giant revamped the Precision product line with what Dell considers to be its most powerful and scalable workstations yet, as well as a couple of other computing products, such as the Dell Canvas.

The new Precision Tower 7920, 7820 and 5820, and Rack 7920. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
The new Precision Tower 7920, 7820 and 5820, and Rack 7920. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

ENGINEERING.com spoke with the vice president and general manager of Precision Workstation Products at Dell, Rahul Tikoo, who gave us a first look at the lineup.

After their initial launch in 1997, Precision workstations have already become fixtures in a number of industries. In entertainment, for instance, the machines have been leveraged for creating visual effects in Game of Thrones and VR experiences for Spider-Man: Homecoming and last weekend’s top-grossing WWII flick Dunkirk. Dell is no stranger to military applications, being one of the 20 top contractors for the U.S.Department of Defense. Tikoo pointed out that Precision workstations are vital to some huge companies in the manufacturing and architecture space.

“If you look at the biggest engineering and design firms like Ford, GM, Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Daimler, Boeing, Bombardier, Rolls-Royce Engines—they all use Precision workstations,” Tikoo said. “The biggest architecture and design firms like Jacobs and Arcadis use Precision workstations.”

Expanding the product line’s utility, Dell announced at SIGGRAPH that the Dell Canvas is finally ready for purchase. After working on the system for the past several years, running customer beta testing and incorporating feedback, the company is now selling the product.

Totems make it possible to easily navigate through menu screens, while the pen enables accurate drawing on an anti-glare Gorilla Glass surface. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
Totems make it possible to easily navigate through menu screens, while the pen enables accurate drawing on an anti-glare Gorilla Glass surface. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

At launch, Tikoo said that upward of 100 programs are already available for the system, which features a 27-inch QHD touch screen that can be connected to any Windows 10 device. By combining the use of a pen, 20-point touch, and Dell’s totem dial, users can sketch with the pen in one hand, while navigating through menus on the other.

Dell also announced the release of a limited anniversary edition of the Precision 5520Mobile Workstation. In addition to a new anodized, brushed aluminum finish and some minor details celebrating the 20th anniversary of the line, the Precision 5520 is available with a Core i7 or Xeon processor and 4K screen.

Dell describes the Anniversary Edition of the Dell Precision 5520 as the “thinnest, lightest, and smallest mobile workstation available.” It is beingsold in a collector’s item case. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
Dell describes the Anniversary Edition of the Dell Precision 5520 as the “thinnest, lightest, and smallest mobile workstation available.” It is beingsold in a collector’s item case. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

This may just be a fun way for Dell to celebrate the anniversary of its Precision line, but the makeover of the 5520 represents the next era for Precision as Dell amps up its workstations and improves their general flexibility. Dell has clearly anticipated the increasing power needs of its users as new technologies, like AI and VR, are developed.

For the 20th anniversary, Dell revamped the brand with a new set of Precision Towers—the 7920, 7820 and 5820—and the 7920 rack, all of which include some interesting specs aimed at expanding the power and scalability of the line. While the 5820 is a single-socket tower, the 7820 is dual-socket midrange tower and the 7920 is the company’s fully extensible, highest-performance tower ever, which has also been made into a rack version.

The 7920 Rack has much of the power of the 7920 Tower, but can be installed beneath one’s desk in an unobtrusive manner. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
The 7920 Rack has much of the power of the 7920 Tower, but can be installed beneath one’s desk in an unobtrusive manner. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

Although they may seem like upgrades from their predecessors, the new towers and rack have actually been designed from the ground up, according to Tikoo. “All of these have been redesigned inside and out—the first time in five generations,” Tikoo said. “We’ve always been updating them with the latest Intel technology, the latest graphic cards, but we were not changing the chassis. We were not redesigning the chassis industrial design significantly. We’ve done that now.”

This has made it possible to add a huge amount of storage, in addition to a modularity that makes it possible for Dell to target specific user types. The 7920 uses the 28-Core Xeon processor, up to 750W of graphics power in the rack and 900W in the tower, with up to three double-width graphics cards and 8K support. Graphic cards include the NVIDIA Quadro GP100, NVIDIA Pascal GPU, AMD Radeon Pro, or the Radeon Pro SSG (to be released in fall 2017).

Through the integration of the Intel 6 channel architecture on the dual-socket towers, there are 24 bins, totaling three terabytes of memory in the 7920 with 2666MHzof speed. Front access storage includes SATA, SAS and PCIe M.2/U.2 NVMe SSDs with up to 10 x 2.5-or 3.5-inch drives. It’s also possible to add SDD graphic cards inside the chassis, yielding a total of 48 terabytes of possible storage in the higher-end towers.

In other words, it’s possible to configure the machines specifically to your application. Demonstrating this flexibility is the release of a specific video/audio editing module that can be plugged into a PCIe or USB port on the front of the machine.

Once the AMD Radeon Pro SSG is available, the 10 teraflop, two terabyte SSG graphics module will make it possible for faster processing of large datasets. This makes it potentially useful for those who are looking for real-time VR rendering.

Later on, Dell will be introducing a machine learning-ready tower with the NVIDIA GP 100 and AMD Radeon 100 cards. The machines have been tested for machine learning use cases, and the company plans to eventually release white papers detailing how the towers can be applied in the fields of artificial intelligence and data management,as well as other data-intensive applications.

To learn more about the products, you can visit the product pages for the Dell Precision fixed workstation portfolio, Dell Precision 5520 and Dell Canvas.


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