Testing the latest x86 rack servers and low power server CPUsby Johan De Gelas on July 22, 2009 2:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- IT Computing
Final Verdict: the Servers
Before we can draw conclusions, we need to look at the pricing of these barebones servers. We assume that hardware costs matter to you. In other words, we assume that you are not using expensive software like the enterprise versions of ESX and Oracle.
The European pricing is the end-user pricing as provided by Triple-S, a server and storage (BTO) vendor that is active in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The US pricing was gathered by looking at the pricewatch site. All prices exclude any taxes.
|Server Pricing Comparison|
|Server Chassis||Comments||European pricing||US Price|
|Price (Euro)||Price per Server (Euro)||Price||Price per Server (US Dollar)|
|Supermicro Twin2 Nehalem|
|SYS-6026TT-FF||No hot pluggable nodes, no Infiniband||€ 2116||€ 529||$2429||$607|
|SYS-6026TT-iBRF||Hot pluggable nodes, no Infiniband||€ 2413||€ 603||$2845||$711|
|SYS-6026TT-iBXF||No hot pluggable nodes, DDR Infiniband||€ 3138||€ 785||$3659||$915|
|SYS-6026TT-BIBXRF||Hot pluggable nodes, DDR Infiniband||€ 3297||€ 824||$4095||$1024|
|SYS-6026TT-BIBQF||Hot pluggable nodes, QDR Infiniband||€ 3503||€ 876||$4159||$1040|
|Supermicro Twin2 Istanbul|
|PIO-2012TM-BTRF||€ 2117||€ 529||N/A|
|PIO-2012TM-BiBXRF||€ 3056||€ 764||N/A|
|ASUS RS700D6-E6/PS8 "Duo"||Dual node||€ 1526||€ 763||$1500||$750|
|ASUS RS700-E6/RS4||Single node, cableless||€ 1138||€ 1138||$1150||$1150|
|Chenbro RM130204 "Willowbrook"||€ 700||€ 700||$750||$750|
|Supermicro A+ Server 1021M-UR||€ 795||€ 795||$998||$998|
The ASUS RS700D6-E6/PS8 or "ASUS Duo" offers very low power consumption and high quality power regulation. To really stand out, the ASUS Duo server should adopt the cableless design and the "easy to remove fans" of the ASUS RS700-E6/RS4. The latter is a bit more expensive but still one of the best x86 rack servers on the market. If you need more than one expansion slot and want optimum serviceability, the ASUS RS700-E6 is an excellent choice. The ASUS RS700D6-E6/PS8 is well suited for the HPC market but falls short in its other target market: virtualization. The two power supplies should be redundant and hot swappable. The Duo server should also be as easy to service as its single node brother.
The Chenbro RM130204 plus Intel Willowbrook comes with excellent ideas to lower power consumption, but the implementation can't compete with the best Supermicro and ASUS servers. Low power is nice, but as you can see in the results in this article, a clever design such as the dual PSUs in the Supermicro Twin2 that power four nodes can lower power even more. The Willowbrook based server is limited to only 32GB if you do not want to use expensive 8GB DIMMs and does not offer power supply redundancy. When it comes to virtualization, the Chenbro Willowbrook combination is rather mediocre. However, if you are looking to run a server version of Windows on this one, it is close to impossible to find a server that consumes so little power. Idle power can be as low as 70W if you use Windows 2003 SP2 and the hot patches that support the deep C-states of the latest Xeons. This server is almost inaudible when running under load and is whisper silent when running idle. The Chenbro RM130204 is a server you can afford to run outside the data center.
The Supermicro Twin2 offers very low power consumption and PSU redundancy at a very attractive price per node. This server is a serious alternative for all those who like the density of blade servers but don't want to pay the high prices and yearly software licenses. A typical blade server (with 10 blades) is about three times more expensive per server, and I/O modules (such as a gigabit Ethernet switches) easily cost twice as much as the stand-alone versions. The HPC people will be very pleased with the Infiniband solutions (the DDR version is able to come close to its maximum bandwidth). Supermicro reports that they already have several large-scale (2000+ servers) deployments.
The Twin2 is probably the best solution on the market if you are searching for a low cost, high density, and redundant server… but it is not perfect. Fans should be easier to remove and hot swappable. We would like to see support for 8GB DIMMs across all Twin2 versions, not just a few SKUs. We also want a version with 2.5" disks so we can use SSDs if necessary. Supermicro tells us that the Twin2 will be available with 2.5" disks later this year.
The Supermicro A+ Server 1021M-UR is AMD's current favorite for low power Opteron servers, but not for long. It is clear that the NVIDIA based platform is getting old, feature- and power-wise. We look forward to seeing the Opteron EE and especially the six-core HE in action on a "Fiorano Kroner" platform. Just like Intel's Willowbrook, the power regulation will be optimized for low power CPUs and will not support the more power hungry CPUs.