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Hardware Recommendations 

What hardware is best for graphics applications using VR-Vantage, VR-Engage & VR-Forces?

At MAK, we used the following specification for our 2017 IITSEC demonstration computers and our engineering staff builds and tests on this configuration. You know your specific needs better than we do, so scale up or down from here based on cost and performance tradeoffs.

  • Operating System: Windows 10 64bit (Redhat Enterprise Linux)
    Core Processor (CPU): Core i7 6700K @ 4.0GHz
    Memory (RAM): 32GB
    Disk storage: 1TB Solid State Drive (SSD)
    Graphics Processor (GPU): NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (or Quadro P6000 w/ NVIDIA Sync II)

Hardware for VR-Forces Simulation Engine (non-graphics) applications

  • Follow the recommendation for graphics applications except that no particular GPU is required in back-end only applications.

The following input devices have been tested for use in VR-Engage.

Other devices can be configured through MAK’s software interface.

  • Gamepad:
    Logitech Gamepad F310
  • Joysticks:
    HOTAS Warthog™ Flight Stick with HOTAS Warthog™ Dual Throttles
    T.Flight Hotas X
  • Steering Wheel:
    Logitech G27 Racing Wheel with Gear Shift (This one is obsolete.)

    Logitech G29 Driving Force (Currently testing this one as replacement.)

Virtual Machine Setups

We have tested VR-Forces, Vr-Vantage, and VR-Engage on the Amazon cloud using the following configuration:

  • AWS - G2 Instance - g2.2xlarge
  • Using Microsoft Windows Server 2016
  • (26 ECUs, 8 vCPUs, 2.6 GHz, Intel Xeon E5-2670, 15 GiB memory, 1 x 60 GiB Storage Capacity)
  • Uses NVidia GRID K520

We have tested the PassThrough Method on a local server to achieve a virtual machine with the full graphics performance dedicated to a single user.

  • VMWare vSphere/ESXI 6.5
  • Rave Ignition ATX Tower
  • Core i7-4790K processor (8M Cache, 4.4GHz)
  • NVidia Quadro M6000 
  •  

 

Picking Appropriate Hardware for MAK Products

We are often asked for minimum hardware requirements for MAK products. MAK doesn’t publish specific requirements and people often wonder why. The primary reason is the requirements are different for each product, and often highly dependent on how you want to use the product.  To know what hardware to buy when using MAK products you should understand the following.  

Commercial Providers of Hardware

MAK sells products which are designed to work on a wide range of COTS hardware as provided by a long list of manufactures: Dell, HP, etc.  We occasionally port our products to obscure hardware like SPARC, PowerPC, or MIPS, but that is beyond the scope of this document.  There are also a number of companies that will produce “Gaming PCs” which are just slightly tweaked PCs designed to optimize performance for playing games. We will typically work very well with hardware provided by those vendors; at heart MAK is producing game quality software and many of the enhancements provided by gaming vendors will help you achieve the most from MAK tools.

Graphics Cards

For all MAK products with 3D Visualization such as VR-Forces and VR-Vantage, the graphics card is important. MAK builds and tests with NVidia GeForce cards. Additionally, we do some rudimentary testing on NVidia Quadro cards. Quadro cards are marketed as being for “professional workstations” with a focus on reliability and driver upgrade compatibility. These cards are considerably more expensive than their GeForce equivalents.  So, you’ll have to judge if those attributes are compelling enough to justify the cost.  Basically, Quadro is expensive and not needed to get awesome graphics, but if you're building a multi-channel IG with frame-lock and edge blending and you plan to support it years to come, you might fall into that segment Nvidia designed for Quadro and have to pay the inflated price. If you really have to use a Quadro, rest assured our product will very likely work on them.  If you want to go completely off-script and try an AMD or Intel graphics card, you may not be successful, and we will unlikely be able to help you.

Once you have picked your NVidia card, you might ask: “What version of the card do I require?” The minimum supported card must support OpenGL 3.3 (anything released since approximately 2008). With this card, you can generate a basic 3D scene. If you want beautiful graphics with all the bells and whistles, we suggest you buy the latest NVidia graphics card. The latest card will not only give you the best performance, but it will also support the complete set of 3D functionality. If you don’t get the latest card you may discover some of the advanced 3D features may not run. MAK’s policy is not to limit the quality or performance of the 3D scene to the oldest supported hardware. To this end, we design our software to use high-end visualization techniques requiring the latest OpenGL version. However, for customers with a card that only supports 3.3, some features may not work. We allow those customers, using older cards, to disable those features and still render a basic 3D scene.  At the time of this writing, no features exist that won’t work in OpenGL 3.3, but going forward that may change.  

It is worth MAKing a special note that VR-Forces is actually two applications which need not be on the same machine: The VR-Forces Front End (FE) and the VR-Forces SIM Engine (or Back End – BE). While the FE requires a video card, the BE does not require any special video card. 

Graphics Cards and Virtual Machines; MAK Products and Virtual Machines

In general MAK products are designed to work well on virtual machines. Most MAK products are regularly used on both public and private cloud installations without problems.  The only issues with virtual installations arise due to graphics cards requirements. For years, virtual machine operating systems, like VM ware did not offer access to a graphics card. The problem was graphics cards were designed to be used for a single OS instance, and VMs would run multiple OS instances on the same hardware – if you had three users of a blade, for example, which one could control the graphics card? VMs were designed to run back-end applications, so solving this problem wasn’t high on anyone’s list.

Today, all of that has changed. VM’s and Graphics card manufacturers have developed products that are designed to work together. VMWare and NVidia Grid cards (http://www.nvidia.com/object/grid-boards.html) have been proven to work together to allow for remote high end graphics applications to run in virtual environments. 

MAK continues to work with customers and vendors as they experiment and start to deploy with this new hardware. We now have several customers who have successfully used virtual environments to host MAK 3d Products; we have also conducted tests successfully using the AWS Servers to drive 3D Scenes. These configurations still aren’t simple, but they are possible. Please feel free to contact us for more details and advice.

32-Bit or 64-Bit

Use a 64 bit OS and compiler options. If you are limited to 32 bit due to legacy libraries some MAK products still support 32 bit library versions, however this is not recommended.

Number of CPUs

All MAK products are multi-threaded. People often confuse multi-threading with one particular strategy of multi-threading; Just because VR-Forces doesn’t scale the total number of entities based on the number of CPUs doesn’t MAKe it single threaded.  VR-Forces and VR-Vantage use separate threads to load bits of terrain, sort lights for complex night scenes, and run the GUI, to name a few.

Having many CPUs/cores may be a major benefit to your program.    A typical VR-Forces install will have all the above threads for the GUI process in addition to a good number of threads for the BE doing everything from network packet processing, to route planning, and terrain loading in different threads.  This means the more CPUs/cores the better, though real benefits will likely not be achieved beyond 16 cores per MAK Application.  We recommend a minimum of 8 cores for VR-Forces and VR-Vantage. Other products have no such requirement.

Disk Space

Please read the release notes for the products you intent to use. The release notes will tell you two important things: how much hard drive space product installs will take. This is a bare minimum, often the true HD space requirement is a function of what kind of terrain you want to load, and in the case of streaming terrain how much you want to cache.  Fundamentally, our installs usually take a 10G+ out of the box. Adding another 100-200G is probably a good investment if you do not fully understand the requirements of your terrain.  With modern disks this is seldom a problem.  An ideal recommendation is to have approximately 500G free for a machine dedicated to distributed simulation component such as VR-Forces or VR-Vantage.

SSD Drives

Solid State Drives are not a requirement for MAK products. However, using them, particularly to store your terrain often speeds up terrain loading and product start time. This remains a recommended but not required feature.

Memory

MAK products typically require about 8 to 12Gs of RAM. This is a pretty low amount and any hardware you could have purchased in the last 10 years likely supports it. However, that isn’t the end of the story. The limits of MAK product’s memory consumption is typically a function of the terrain/database you use. If you have a very large terrain and it’s not page-able (like FLT) you should assume the entire terrain will need to be loaded into memory. How much will it use? If it’s a big terrain, it can use a lot. An additional 4Gs is not uncommon for some poorly made terrains.  With OS requirements and additional programs on the machine, you will typically need at a minimum 16G on your machine. For deployed systems or development systems 32G or 64G may be more appropriate.

Off Support Hardware/Operating Systems

It should be noted that in many cases MAK software will continue to function well on systems that do not even meet the minimum requirements above. You may be able to get good 3D visualization with an different video card, or discover that VR-Forces runs well on some version of Windows or Linux not listed as an official support platform.  In general, we only list systems as supported when we have hardware that we have the ability to test on. If you decide to use hardware or an operating system which isn’t officially supported things may just work out. We will even continue to help you through tech support to the best of our abilities. However, if you run into a problem which we cannot reproduce on a piece of supported hardware, it’s likely you will be referred to sales for a premium (by the hour) tech support contract.

Hardware Requirements in Summary

Your minimal hardware requirements should meet the Video Card requirements specified by your release notes (if you are using VR-Forces or VR-Vantage).  Your operating system needs to be a supported version as listed here (http://www.MAK.com/support/product-versions.html), and the hardware needs to be the best hardware you can afford for the specific requirements of your program.  Those requirements include things like the number and type of entities being simulated, and the frame rate and quality of 3D visuals needed in your scene. If you have very high expectations for visuals, entity count, and performance, you should buy the best machine you can afford.