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System Specifications

Extracts from this document...


Computer Systems Assignment 1

System Specifications

By Miles Parker

November 2004

Foundation Degree Computing – Computer Systems

Somerset College of Arts and Technology

University of Plymouth

Table of Contents

IT Infrastructure Investment plan for November 2004

Sun Microsystems W2100z

HP J6750 Workstation

HP XW8200


Conclusion of Recommendations

Comparisons of Systems

Input/Output Technical Guide

Introduction to Technical Guide

Centronics (Parallel) Interface

Serial Interface

USB Interface

Conclusions for Upgrade to USB2.0

Appendix (A)

Appendix (B)

Appendix (C)

Appendix (D)

IEEE1394 Firewire

SCSI – (Small Computer Systems Interface)

Appendix (E) Parallel Port Interface

Appendix (F) PCI –Express System Architecture



Illustrations Index

Fig. 1 Sun W2100z

Fig. 2 HP J6750

Fig. 3 HP XW8200

Fig. 4 Parallel Data Flow

Fig. 5 Serial Data Flow

Fig. 6 A Standard USB Connector

Fig. 7 AMD Opteron Architecture

Fig. 8 PA-8700 Processor Architecture

Fig. 9 Intel Xeon high-level Diagram

Fig. 10 SCSI Terminator

Fig. 11 SCSI Types Comparison Table

Fig. 12 Parallel Port External View

Fig. 13 Parallel Port Pin Configuration

Fig. 14 PCI Express Connections to motherboard

IT Infrastructure Investment plan for November 2004

Brief:                         Provide specifications for different high-end computer systems

Date required:         23rd November 2004

The purpose of this document is to submit to the company a number of different computer systems that has been investigated, based on the directive from head office, to source a computer system capable of handling our new High-Resolution graphics software.

We shall begin by submitting the standard specifications of the models selected and we have included the information relevant i.e. the architecture, speeds and costs of the systems. After comparisons and advantages and disadvantages have been put forward we shall complete this submission with our recommendations for the system that we believe has the best suitability for the purpose for which it is intended.

With the advent of new technologies for assisting in the rendering of the high-resolution graphics that the company requires, we have no option but to invest in high-end development systems in order to sustain our credibility within the Graphics Market.

...read more.


serially (all in a single row. See Fig 5.) through a serial port. The standard parallel port is capable of sending 50 to 100 kilobytes of data per second


Fig. 4 Parallel Data Flow


Fig. 5 Serial Data Flow

In 1994 the IEEE1284 standard was issued to define the 5 modes of operation of the Parallel interface, they were;

  • Compatibility Mode.
  • Nibble Mode
  • Byte Mode.
  • EPP Mode
  • ECP Mode

The aim was to design new drivers and devices, which were compatible with each other and also backwards compatible with the Standard Parallel Port.

The benefits of Parallel data transference over serial is that it flows along 8 wires as opposed to four, which increases the speed of data, however it still doesn’t compare to the speed of USB, which is one of the main reasons why I believe that all printers and scanners should be upgraded to use the USB interface, as it will increase our productivity by de-limiting bottlenecks in the system.

See Appendix (D) for a diagram of electrical and mechanical information of the Centronics interface.

Serial Interface

The Serial port is considered to be one of the most basic external connections to a computer; the serial port has been an integral part of most computers for more than 20 years. Although many of the newer systems have done away with the serial port completely in favour of USB connections, most modems still use the serial port, as do some printers, PDAs and digital cameras. Few computers have more than two serial ports.

The term serial comes from the fact that a serial port "serializes" data. That is, it takes a byte of data and transmits the 8 bits in the byte one at a time. The advantage is that a serial port needs only one wire to transmit the 8 bits (while a parallel port needs 8). The disadvantage is that it takes 8 times longer to transmit the data than it would if there were 8 wires. Serial ports lower cable costs and make cables smaller.

Before each byte of data, a serial port sends a start bit, which is a single bit with a value of 0. After each byte of data, it sends a stop bit to signal that the byte is complete. It may also send a parity bit.

Serial ports, also called a COM port (which stands for communication), are bi-directional. Bi-directional communication allows each device to receive data as well as transmit it. Serial devices use different pins to receive and transmit data -- using the same pins would limit communication to half-duplex, meaning that information could only travel in one direction at a time. Using different pins allows for full-duplex communication, in which information can travel in both directions at once.

Serial ports rely on a special controller chip, the Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART), to function properly. The UART chip takes the parallel output of the computer's system bus and transforms it into serial form for transmission through the serial port. In order to function faster, most UART chips have a built-in buffer of anywhere from 16 to 64 kilobytes. This buffer allows the chip to cache data coming in from the system bus while it is processing data going out to the serial port. While most standard serial ports have a maximum transfer rate of 115 Kbps (kilobits per second), high speed serial ports, such as Enhanced Serial Port (ESP) and Super Enhanced Serial Port (Super ESP), can reach data transfer rates of 460 Kbps.

An important aspect of serial communications is the concept of flow control. This is the ability of one device to tell another device to stop sending data for a while. The commands Request to Send (RTS), Clear To Send (CTS), Data Terminal Ready (DTR) and Data Set Ready (DSR) are used to enable flow control.

For example if you have a modem that communicates at 56 Kbps. The serial connection between your computer and your modem transmits at 115 Kbps, which is over twice as fast. This means that the modem is getting more data coming from the computer than it can transmit over the phone line. Even if the modem has a 128K buffer to store data in, it will still quickly run out of buffer space and be unable to function properly with all that data streaming in.

With flow control, the modem can stop the flow of data from the computer before it overruns the modem's buffer. The computer is constantly sending a signal on the Request to send pin, and checking for a signal on the Clear to send pin. If there is no clear to send response, the computer stops sending data, waiting for the Clear to send before it resumes. This allows the modem to keep the flow of data running smoothly.

Again although serial is used by such devices as modems, mice, PDA’s and Data capture devices, it is still slower than USB and is also prone to bottlenecks, as data is transferred. For this reason we again recommend that all of these serial devices be upgraded to USB.

USB Interface

Nearly every computer that is bough today has a USB (Universal Serial Bus) interface on it. Sometimes there is a few at the back, but more increasingly they are being added to the front of the system unit to allow for easy plugging and playing of peripheral such as digital cameras, printers, hard drives, PDA’s, Modems, Scanners and flash keys.

The idea behind USB was to relieve some of the headaches associated with installing multiple high-speed devices. In the past, it was only possible to associate a couple of devices with a parallel or serial port, for example a system may have had a printer and a scanner attached to the same parallel port, this caused the flow of data from the scanner to the system unit to become slow, but with USB there can be as many as 127 devices attached at any one time, with no loss in speed of data transfer. Connecting a USB device to a computer is simple -- you find the USB connector on the back of your machine and plug the USB connector into it.

If it is a new device, the operating system auto-detects it and asks for the driver disk. If the device has already been installed, the computer activates it and starts talking to it. USB devices can be connected and disconnected at any time.

USB version 1.1 supported two speeds, a full speed mode of 12Mbits/s and a low speed mode of 1.5Mbits/s.

USB 2.0 has increased the speed to 480Mbits/s


Fig. 6 A Standard USB Connector

The Universal Serial Bus has the following features:

  • Up to 127 devices can connect to the host, either directly or by way of USB hubs.
  • Individual USB cables can run as long as 5 meters; with hubs, devices can be up to 30 meters (six cables' worth) away from the host.
  • A USB cable has two wires for power (+5 volts and ground) and a twisted pair of wires to carry the data.
  • On the power wires, the computer can supply up to 500 milliamps of power at 5 volts.
  • Low-power devices (such as mice) can draw their power directly from the bus. High-power devices (such as printers) have their own power supplies and draw minimal power from the bus. Hubs can have their own power supplies to provide power to devices connected to the hub.

Conclusions for Upgrade to USB2.0

After weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of the other interfaces we feel that the company must move with the times and upgrade all our serial and parallel peripherals to USB 2.0 as it is quite clear from the differences in Data transfer speeds that we would increase our productivity and reduce bottlenecks both on the individuals system and across the network.

In Appendix (D) we have displayed our findings into 2 other interfaces which we feel will compliment the existing IT strategy for the future, as we have recommended upgrading our external peripherals, it would seem pertinent to investigate how we can improve the data transfer speed of our storage media. Both Firewire and SCSI could give greater improvements to our current IDE Hard-Drives.

Appendix (A)

Features of the AMD Operton CPU

  • Simultaneous 32 and 64bit computing
  • Direct connect architecture, addresses and helps reduce the bottlenecks of system architecture
  • Support of up to three coherent Hypertransport links, providing up to 19.2GB/s peak bandwidth per processor
  • 256 Terabytes of memory address space
  • Low power processor


Fig. 7 AMD Opteron Architecture

  • Integrated memory controller reduces latencies during memory access

Direct Connect Architecture

  • Memory is directly connected to the CPU optimizing memory performance
  • Input/Output is directly connected to the CPU for more balanced throughput and Input/Output
  • CPUs are connected directly to CPUs allowing for more linear symmetrical multiprocessing

Integrated DDR DRAM Memory Controller

  • Changes the way the processor accesses main memory, resulting in increased bandwidth, reduced memory latencies, and increased processor performance
  • Available memory bandwidth scales with the number of processors
  • 128-bit wide integrated DDR DRAM memory controller capable of supporting up to eight (8) registered DDR Dimms per processor
  • Available memory bandwidth up to 6.4 GB/s (with PC3200) per processor

Hypertransport Technology

  • Support of up to three (3) coherent Hypertransport links, providing up to 19.2 GB/s peak bandwidth per processor
  • Up to 6.4 GB/s bandwidth per link providing sufficient bandwidth for supporting new interconnects including PCI-X, DDR, InfiniBand, and 10G Ethernet

Low-Power Processors

  • The AMD Opteron processor HE offers industry-leading performance per watt making it an ideal solution for cooler, quieter workstation designs.
  • The AMD Opteron processor EE provides maximum Input/Output bandwidth currently available in a single-CPU controller.

Appendix (B)

PA-8700 Architecture (PA – Precision Architecture)

The following diagram shows the architecture behind the PA-8700 series processor.


Fig. 8 PA-8700 Processor Architecture

(http://www.hpworld.org/hpworldnews/hpw006/02hpux.html Nov 1st 2004)

The Instruction words of the PA-8700 have a constant width of 32bits, which simplifies the instruction decoding logic. Instructions are issued directly in silicon, therefore microcode is not required. There are limited addressing modes so the most frequent of operations can be performed at a faster rate.

Appendix (C)


Fig. 9 Intel Xeon high-level Diagram

The execution resources of the Intel Xeon processor are shared between to logical processors; the Rapid Execution Engine and the Integrated Cache subsystem, which process the information simultaneously. The Fetch and Deliver Engine, gathers instructions from each of the logical processors in turn and sends these instructions to the Rapid Execution Engine.

At the Rapid Execution Engine, both sets of instructions are executed at the same time, taking instructions from the queue, although the instructions can be taken out of order. The Integrated Cache Subsystem delivers data at high speeds to the core processors, and because the subsystem is clocked at the same rate as the processor core, as faster processors are released the Cache Subsystem is also increased.

The Reorder and Retire block takes the instructions, that were operating out of order and puts them back into program order. The system bus provides up to 4.27GB/sec bandwidth, running at 533MHz.

Appendix (D)

IEEE1394 Firewire

FireWire was originally created by Apple and later standardized as IEEE-1394, actually preceded USB and had similar goals. Firewire is a serial connection that operates at very high data transfer speeds. The average speed of data transference is between 100 and 800Mbits per second, although it has been promoted that it will transfer data up to 3200Mbits per second. Firewire was originally intended for devices working with lots more data -- things like camcorders, DVD players and digital audio equipment. Firewire and USB share a number of characteristics and differ in some important ways. Here's a summary:

  • Like USB, Firewire is a serial bus that uses twisted-pair wiring to move data around.
  • However, while USB is limited to 12 megabits per second, Firewire currently handles up to 400 megabits per second.
  • USB can handle 127 devices per bus, while Firewire handles only 16 on a single Firewire port.
  • Both USB and Firewire support the concept of an isochronous device -- a device that needs a certain amount of bandwidth for streaming data. This mode is perfect for streaming audio and video data.
  • Both USB and Firewire allow you to plug and unplug devices at any time.

SCSI – (Small Computer Systems Interface)

SCSI – pronounced “Scuzzy” is primarily a storage device interface, (although it can also be used for other peripherals such as scanners) for high-end business machines, although some home users like to use it, to increase their data access speeds.  

With a SCSI adapter you can connect up to 16 devices to one adapter, but the last device in the line has to be “terminated”; this means that at each end of the SCSI bus is closed, using a resistor circuit. If the bus were left open, electrical signals sent down the bus could reflect back and interfere with communication between SCSI devices and the SCSI controller. Only two terminators are used, one for each end of the SCSI bus


Fig. 10 SCSI Terminator

If there is only one series of devices (internal or external), then the SCSI controller is one point of termination and the last device in the series is the other one. If there are both internal and external devices, then the last device on each series must be terminated.

...read more.



A parallel Interface found on most microcomputers


Complex Instruction Set Computer.

A processor where each instruction can perform several low-level operations such as memory access, arithmetic operations or address calculations


Central Processing Unit. Controls the arithmetic and logical operations and decoding and executing instructions


Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access memory

RAM (Random Access memory) that transfers data on both 0-1 and 1-0 clock transitions


Dual Inline Memory module. Small circuit boards carrying memory integrated circuits, with signal and power pins on both sides of the board


Digital Video Input


Enhanced Capabilities Port.

Enhanced Capabilities Port is defined in standard IEEE 1284. It is bi-directional and faster than earlier parallel ports.


Enhanced parallel port.

A parallel port that confirms to the IEEE's EPP standard


A Local area network first developed in 1976 by Metcalfe and Boggs


Or IEEE1934

Serial bus interface standard offering high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data services



1,073,741,824 bytes =1024 megabytes


The unit of frequency used to measure the clock rate of micro-processors


1,073,741,824 bits


Hewlett Packard. A leading Manufacturer of Information Technology Products


Integrated Drive Electronics.

A disk drive interface standard


Local Area Network

A data communications network which is geographically limited (typically to a 1 km radius)



1,048,576 bytes = 1024 kilobytes


Megabits per second

Millions of bits per second.

1 Mb/s = 1,000,000 bits per second



Millions of cycles per second. The unit of frequency used to measure the clock rate


Peripheral Component Interconnect

A standard for connecting peripherals to a personal computer


Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks.

Originally "Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks". Storage Architecture


Reduced Instruction Set Computer.

A processor whose design is based on the rapid execution of a sequence of simple instructions.


The most common form of serial interface on most microcomputers


Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.


Small Computer System Interface.

Popular processor-independent standard. Via a parallel bus, for system-level interfacing between a computer and intelligent devices including hard disks, floppy disks, CD-ROM, printers, scanners, and many more.


Universal Serial Bus

An external peripheral interface standard for communication between a computer and external peripherals

...read more.

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