Technical Articles

  • grandMA light show

    Our 1U Plus and 2U Nano PCs are a grand choice for grandMA software

    Updated 08/03/2018

    Since releasing our article on the compatibility of our products with video production software from vMix, customers have been curious to know what other popular software our line-up of Rack and Mini PCs are used to host. With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a closer look at our product configurations for grandMA, which is specialist software for MA Lighting.

    MA Lighting’s award-winning family of grandMA/grandMA2 products are designed for the control and customisation of lighting displays for AV and digital media installations. There are three key pieces of software within their portfolio – grandMA2 onPC, MA 3D, and MA remote control. By implementing grandMA2 onPC into our units, we open up the potential for MA 3D and remote control to be easily integrated and used as needed by our customers. We have been commissioned to build all sorts of custom configurations of our 1U Plus and 2U Nano PC models to host grandMA, composed specifically to harness the full capabilities of the platform.

    What is the software used for?

    grandMA2 onPC’s highly flexible and intuitive interface allows users to easily pre-program and run complete lighting shows, while gaining the benefits of an agile layout for any show-situation. MA 3D, on the other hand, does exactly what it says on the box. It acts a visualiser and pre-programming tool for any three-dimensional stage layout designs, and also integrates directly with grandMA2 onPC for added functionality. Finally, MA remote control provides a convenient and user-friendly means of controlling your grandMA2 onPC software from a local web browser.

    What does grandMA need from a rack PC?

    Fundamentally, we’ve found that the important components that are needed to host grandMA on a rackmount PC are the following:

    • Dual-width high-performance NVIDIA GPU
    • 8GB RAM
    • Solid State Hard Drive

    The benefits of our PCs for grandMA

    Our ultra-slim 1U Plus is a great fit for hosting grandMA software, with options for range-topping CPUs such as Intel’s i7 6-core and Xeon 8-core processors, as well as two PCIe x16 expansion bays that can easily fit a dual-width graphics card such as an NVIDIA GeForce GPU for enhanced performance. This is a perfect unit for installations that are space-sensitive, small enough to comfortably fit into a hand-held flight case for ease of portability between shows.

    Likewise, our 2U Nano is one of our most widely used PCs for digital media, thanks to its ultra-low noise, near silent power supply and modest form factor. It’s also faster than many media servers on the market today, making it ideal for running complex and extensive lighting shows. By modifying our units, we are also able to add valuable features to these PCs, depending on the requirements of the application they are fulfilling, including options for Video Input cards and Wi-Fi functionality.

    We try to ensure that no matter the configuration, our customers are always given the best user experience possible and successfully achieve the audio-visual and digital outcomes they seek from any production software.

    If you would like to learn more about how grandMA can be integrated with our products, or are interested in the benefits of using grandMA software, get in touch with one of the team.

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: Products, Technical Articles

  • 2U Nano Flight Case

    2U Nano on tour: life in a flight case

    Updated 19/02/2018

    More and more frequently, we are seeing an increasing need for rackmount PCs that are flight case-portable, particularly from our AV and digital media customers. Most media servers on the market today are too large and impractical to travel comfortably between different events, making transportation of the necessary kit awkward and time-consuming. We recently interviewed Lewis Kyle White (LKW) of Pixels & Noise, a well-regarded content and visual design company and G2 customer, to discover why portability is such an important aspect of their product selection and why our 2U Nano rackmount PC in particular turned out to be the “perfect solution” to their problem.

    The 2U Nano in flight

    2U Nano on TourLKW’s 2U Nano was custom-built to support real-time rendering software, Notch – an app that enables users to create interactive video content and is key to the services they deliver. The 2U Nano’s compact design and suitability for high-performance workloads was ideal for running Notch, and has now become LKW’s dedicated machine for this purpose, mainly used for show preproduction work. However, being such a flexible machine, it’s equally at home when used for both show rehearsals and live production, without having to hand the latter over to larger media servers.

    The Notch-specific 2U Nano is transported to various shows across the country in a flight case, being small enough to easily fit on planes and trains as needed. Its 370mm ultra-short-depth chassis means that there is also plenty of room left within the case for any additional kit, or it could even conceivably be joined by a second 2U Nano within the same rack, as these are half the depth of standard media servers.

    The unit has visited the Barbican, The Fast and Furious Live arena show, and on its very first outing, MTV’s Europe Music Awards, where it was the primary box on-site for Notch work for The Killers, helping to create visuals from real-time 3D scans of the band. It has also recently made an appearance at the 2018 BAFTA Film Awards, and travelled to Amsterdam for this year’s Integrated Systems Europe!

    Why choose the 2U Nano?

    2U Nano Flight CaseAs the height of servers was such an issue, and an important factor for Lewis Kyle White, they had searched for a long time to discover a suitable chassis before coming across G2’s 2U Nano solution. The machine itself, with no moving parts to speak of, is extremely robust and durable, and when housed within its flight case becomes even more ruggedised and secure during transit. Its mounting options are incredibly versatile, in that it can be rackmounted from the front as well as the back of the unit, which is a rarity. What LKW also found surprising was how diverse and expandable such a small unit could be, providing multiple options to interchange graphics cards and other components to further boost its performance.

    With such a professional-looking, flexible machine in hand, LKW has already seen the business benefit, after only 6 months of use. They have had multiple enquires from potential customers following their purchase of the 2U Nano, if only due to its portability, which puts LKW heads and shoulders above other designers and operators using larger servers for their productions.

    The value of a G2 unit

    “G2 were very accommodating throughout the entire process, and went out of their way to help provide me with all of the components I needed from the 2U Nano. They considered seemingly minor elements that ended up adding real value to my experience; I was always confident that they truly knew their stuff and would be completely transparent with me.” – Lewis Kyle White, Director

    If you are in need of a portable, high-performing unit such as the 2U Nano for AV and digital media shows or installations, or would like to learn more about our line-up of rack-mountable PCs, please get in touch with the G2 team.

     

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: Products, Technical Articles

  • Intel 8th gen

    The new generation: comparing Intel 8th gen with 7th gen

    Updated 23/01/2018

    We’re pleased to say we now have the latest Intel 8th generation processors and motherboards in stock! Now we’ve got our hands on the new tech, we’ve decided to explore exactly how this new generation of Core CPUs compares with its predecessor, the 7th gen Kaby Lake line, and why 8th generation is a bigger and better alternative.

    What does the 8th generation consist of?

    Intel’s 8th generation of desktop and mobile CPUs was officially announced last August during 2017’s total solar eclipse. Rather than an entirely new architecture, this instead consists of three microarchitectures evolved from the 7th gen Kaby Lake – the refreshed 14nm+ Kaby Lake-R, the 14nm++ Coffee Lake, and the yet-to-emerge 10nm Cannon Lake.

    What’s the difference?

    There are several key differences between Intel 8th and 7th gen, the most notable of which is the promised 40% increase in performance. This claim states that 8th gen Intel Core i7 and i5 processors demonstrate up to a 40% improvement, even when multitasking. This huge boost is due in part to the fact that 8th gen chips are no longer dual, but instead quad-core, which has afforded a 25% performance rise alone. This combined with design and manufacturing changes has lifted the 8th gen Core CPUs to that impressive 40% mark.

    Another significant change is the core count in each CPU. As we’ve seen with Coffee Lake, the core count for i7 and i5 processors has gone from 4 to 6, with an accompanying jump in threads, too, meaning the newer generations are much faster. In fact, according to Laptop Mag, 4-cored Kaby Lake-R can be up to 91% quicker, depending on the task. What this has meant, though, is a lower base clock for Kaby Lake-R due to Intel’s efforts to keep to a 15W TDP, but this is barely apparent in performance, thanks to higher clock speeds at Turbo.

    Beyond the core and performance increase, however, not a great amount has changed; the 8th generation line-up isn’t wildly different. What is evident, though, is that the surge in performance is substantial enough to set the 8th generation CPUs into a league over and above 7th gen.

    Conclusion

    While there isn’t an overwhelming amount of difference between Intel 8th and 7th gen, the new generation certainly holds its own when it comes to speed, accuracy, and performance. We’re really excited about what has been revealed to us of Intel’s 8th generation so far, particularly the Coffee Lake i7-8700k CPU, and can’t wait to see what’s yet to come from it as we head further into 2018.

    If you’re interested in a Rack or Mini PC containing Intel’s 8th generation CPUs, or would like to learn more about what 8th gen has to offer, speak to one of the team.

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: News, Technical Articles

  • Project build

    Have it your way – five reasons to commission a project build PC

    Updated 24/04/2017

    As well as the off-the-shelf products G2 sells, we are frequently commissioned to build Mini or Rack PC appliances for specific purposes.  We term these requests “project builds” and they are often the best route to ensuring hardware is precisely matched to the purpose you have in mind for it.  When there’s such a lot of choice already available, it’s often not clear what the benefits are of going this route.  Here are the five most common benefits which tend to influence if this direction is right:

    1. No compromise on build

    Sometimes, the mix of options available to you in an off-the-shelf product don’t measure up and you end up compromising.  With a project build, quite literally anything is possible.  Together we can evaluate what you need and match what goes into the machine to your exact requirements, without wasting money on unnecessary components.  You’ll have the chance to tailor everything from motherboard to operating system.

    1. Change the inside and out

    A project build isn’t restricted to the internal specification of the machine either; we can custom build cases and change the physical size of the machine based upon how it will be used or where it will be located.  We can even modify the design to factor in other important functional attributes like acoustics or resistance to the elements.  We’ve previously built machines for all sorts of environments including yachts, all-terrain vehicles, interactive restaurant tables and much more.

    1. A better end-user experience

    Having a machine perfectly suited to your application ultimately means you’ll deliver a better experience for your users – whether that’s performance, reliability, graphics or any other consideration that’s important.  You might end up conceding on this when you’re working within the confines of off-the-shelf options, as whilst choice can be plentiful it still doesn’t guarantee the match you might be looking for.  Likewise, there’ll be less chance of failure in operation if the specification is spot on, and you’ll have confidence that the machine will work straight out of the box every time.

    1. The chance to personalise the machine

    If you’ve created your own software and you’re looking for a Mini or Rack PC as a host appliance, there’s a good chance you’ll want the machine to reflect your company branding.  We can do just this, including adding your corporate livery, altering case colour and changing display lights used.

    1. Same Warranty coverage

    Just like our off-the-shelf machines, your project build is covered by our Standard 2-year return to base warranty.  However, if you required a longer warranty term or onsite cover we can look at a bespoke warranty cover just for your application.  It means you can confidently commission machines safe in the knowledge that you’ll receive the same levels of support in the event of a problem.

    We’ve delivered countless project builds and accordingly have an extensive library of blueprints to call upon depending on the type of machine you’re looking for.  It means project builds are informed by past experiences to create tailored options in a fraction of the time.

    If you’d like to know more, take a closer look at how we build solutions like this.  Alternatively, speak to one of our team to discuss your requirements further.

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: Products, Technical Articles

  • The SSD Evolution

    Updated 15/06/2016

    10 TB 3D NAND is upon us.

    Last year we spoke in detail about the gap between traditional storage and SSD closing significantly. A lot can change in a year, a phrase which appears particularly apt to the world of SSD. Being more affordable, more powerful and with greater capacity, it’s fair to say SSD is playing a major part in ushering out traditional spinning disk storage.

    Previously, we suggested that SSD manufacturers were looking at new ways to increase capacities almost exponentially and that is now becoming a reality.  By adopting Micron’s 3D NAND flash chips and stacking them vertically, Intel has created an affordable 10TB SSD, which they recently announced will be making its way to market later this year. With each of these new advancements we are increasingly seeing a Moore’s Law for storage memory.

    Intel’s new solid state drive promises a huge jump in capacity and performance, yet retaining the same physical footprint – meaning positive impacts on both device size and data centre real estate.  The arrival of the new 3D NAND technology should also signal a lower price per/GB, whilst delivering significant advancements over standard Planar NAND. And if all goes to plan you should be able to reap these cost and productivity gains in the coming months.

    It’s more than just capacity                            

    If anything was holding people back from SSD, some might argue it was the capacity, but really that’s a non-argument now, especially with the arrival of 3D NAND.  Similarly, SSD uses an embedded controller to read and write data and in the early days of their development, write speeds were lower than read speeds leading to gripes compared to traditional disk alternatives. However, the current crop of SSDs offer massive jumps in performance too, offering a far more even performance symmetry – with read and write speeds potentially averaging 580 mps and 500 mps respectively, meaning less time required to store and pull data when you need it.

    The prospect of 3D NAND technology promises even greater read/write bandwidth, I/O speeds and power savings all within the next 12 months. Consequently, it appears 3D NAND will smash previous ceilings on both capacity and performance.  Perhaps its arrival will mark the final demise of spinning disk.

    If you’d like to know more about SSD and its inclusion in our products or believe the technology could lend itself to a potential challenge you face, please get in touch to talk further.

     

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: News, Technical Articles

  • Windows 10 anniversary just round the corner and Windows 7 end of sale hot on its heels!

    Updated 29/04/2016

    With Windows 10 first year anniversary just round the corner (an anniversary update is expected sometime in July), it’s likely to prompt people to start looking more closely at the operating systems (OS) they have deployed and any application dependencies tied to them.  In particular, it brings into focus what’s ahead for Windows 7.  The End of Sales for PCs pre-installed with Windows 7 Professional is actually October 2016!  In our opinion, it’s not been as well publicised as it otherwise might have been because of all the hype surrounding Windows 10.  However, before, you come out in a cold sweat, this doesn’t mean the end of support – Microsoft will continue to patch and update the OS until January 2020.  What it does mean though is that if you want to buy new PCs pre-installed with the OS you’re not going to be able to through conventional routes.

    Unless…

    You work with a partner like G2 who operates under an embedded licensing agreement.  This means we can continue to sell Rack and Mini PC systems pre-installed with the OS (and in fact even older OS like XP) beyond the end of sale date.

    For us it’s critical as in our experience there are still many organisations that rely on Windows 7 for critical applications – having proved itself as a robust and reliable OS.  In fact, 52% of all machines globally run Windows 7 proving exactly that, and it wasn’t that long ago people panicked about getting off of XP.

    Rest assured

    Using our industrialised motherboards we will be able to build and support Windows 7 PCs for a LONG time to come.

    If you’re interested in understanding more about our Rack and Mini PCs and the supply of Windows 7 pre-installed machines then get in touch.  Alternatively, explore our products to find something suitable for your needs.

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: News, Technical Articles

  • Does ‘system on chip’ have any enterprise value?

    Updated 08/03/2016

    The phrase ‘system on chip’ has become a buzz phrase among tech enthusiasts in recent years. Essentially, it refers to a processor embedded onto a board which may be integrated with all of the components required to function a computer or electrical device. Recently there has been some commercial success with easy-entry platforms like Raspberry Pi and Intel’s Galileo, but do these devices, also known as Integrated Circuit PCs have any place in enterprise computing?

    First out the blocks

    As you’d expect, Intel has been one the first out of the blocks in product development and building the hype around system on chip.  Their virgin product is an Integrated Circuit PC on a HDMI input device called Compute Stick. Although just 4.5 inches in length, the Compute Stick does come with an impressive spec. The device has a choice of Core M processors and up to 4 GB of memory, which will be sure to spark interest and inspire innovation within the small computing industry.

    Whilst Intel has developed an out-of-the-box product that is at this moment quite unique, it will arguably still only appeal to those looking for a tiny device where performance and necessity to configure is not king.  For this reason, in our opinion it’s still really a consumer device for now and is unlikely to stand up to the demands of enterprise computing, where users need to connect to multiple network or require more powerful compute to run graphics intensive software.  But, as we’ve seen with other consumer computing phenomenon like the Apple iPad, it doesn’t take long to establish traction and see new consumer tech start to play a disruptive role in the enterprise.

    The new old

    We believe the trend is set and manufacturers will continue to create products marketed as system on chip, albeit primarily aimed at the consumer market. Despite the buzz however, system on chip isn’t actually something new.  Integrated Circuits have been around in small computing for a while now.  In fact, most of today’s rack PCs are built using components embedded onto a chip.  Indeed, G2 harnesses a variation of system on chip technology in our rack-mount NUC, but complement this with other functionality that better meets the performance and expandability requirements of the enterprise.

    Trickle down benefits

    It’s practically guaranteed that as system on chip technology develops, with that will come greater performance options and evermore innovation.  And that makes us excited, as undoubtedly there will be trickle-down benefits for our own product development roadmap, helping us to continue creating better performing, smaller product packages that pack-in as much functionality as possible.

    As ever, we’ll be keeping a keen eye on this market and will of course share our observations and developments.

    If you’d like any help understanding system on chip or would like to talk to us about any of our products, please get in touch.

    Posted by: Geoff Undrell
    Posted in: News, Technical Articles

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