The other day I wanted to test out the viability of simultaneously transcoding six DVDs to six separate .MP4 files suitable for my iPod touch. So I loaded a few software utilities onto a dual quad-core Xeon system and put it through its paces. How did this system cope with this workload?
You might be wondering why I tried this out. It's because I'm planning to upgrade one of my systems to transform it into a monster DVD ripping machine suitable for tackling my 600+ DVD library but I wanted to test out a few theories before spending money.
So, here's the test. One dual quad-Xeon based system (E5472 Harpertown Core, 3.00GHz) running Windows Server 2008. Onto this system I loaded AnyDVD and CloneDVD Mobile. I took an .ISO of a DVD that I have and made three duplicates of this on one drive, and loaded each instance into a virtual drive. I then took a DVD and put this into the real optical drive, giving me six drives holding six DVDs to transcode. Then, to simulate the worst case scenario I set up CloneDVD Mobile to save the .MP4 files to another hard drive (so in essence the .ISO files are being read from one drive and ripped to another drive).
So, how did this work out? Well, I learned a few useful lessons:
- Transcoding is heavy on CPUs and six transcoding operations running simultaneously can push both all eight cores on the Xeons to 100%
- Despite the workload, the transcoding of the six DVDs was done in 42 minutes (previous tests I'd done on a Core 2 Extreme QX9650 system did two files in 20 minutes)
- When ripping to .ISO files rather than transcoding to .MP4, the process is much less CPU intensive and the bottleneck then becomes the transfer rate of the hard disks
- It is possible to do the ripping and transcoding in two steps - first rip the DVD to .ISO files and then mount these virtually and transcode them to .MP4.
With this in mind I've ordered the components I need to upgrade a system to make it ideal for ripping and transcoding. The system will consist of:
- A Q9300 2.5GHz quad-core processor. This 45nm piece will consume less power and run cooler than the Q6600 and it also benefits from supporting SSE 4.1 instruction set (which will boost transcoding performance when using compatible applications).
- A GIGABYTE GA-EP35-DS3R motherboard fitted with 8 SATA ports.
- 4 x SATA DVD drives. I'm choosing to fit four for a couple of reasons - first, the case I'm using can only hold four, and secondly I've chosen to devote a core to each rip/transcode operation.
- 5 x 750GB hard drives in a RAID 5 array.
More on the build of this system later this week.