Introduction

There is something very intriguing about the server market. To understand it, you must take a look at the latest Gartner numbers and know a bit of background about Supermicro. Supermicro is the odd man out. Browsing through the website, you find very few trendy buzzwords; just the good old-fashioned "cutting edge technology" and "reliability". What happened to "SOA", "IT governance" and "IT lifecycle" to unearth "business value"? Surely a company that doesn't use "viral marketing", a massive amount of marketing blogs, and isn't present in "Second life" is close to extinction, right?

Supermicro is actually doing very well. In terms of annual growth it is one of the most successful companies. Supermicro is one of the rare companies where "marketing visionaries" have not taken over, and where engineers are still calling the shots: at the top of the company we find an engineer in heart and soul, Charles Liang. When we talk to HP, Dell, and IBM, they rarely consider Supermicro a competitor. Sun, HP, Dell, and IBM see each other as the biggest rivals, and depending who you talk to, Fujitsu-Siemens will be or will not be added to the small list of Tier-1 OEMs. Now take a look at the table below and consider that Supermicro ships about 600,000 servers a year.

Server Market Share
Company 2006 Shipments 2006 Market Share (%) 2005 Shipments 2005 Market Share (%) 2006-2005 Growth (%)
Hewlett-Packard 2,261,074 27.5 2,093,412 27.7 8
Dell Inc. 1,783,445 21.7 1,701,932 22.5 4.8
IBM 1,293,825 15.7 1,200,143 15.9 7.8
Sun Microsystems 368,603 4.5 342,457 4.5 7.6
Fujitsu/Fujitsu Siemens 256,794 3.1 262,898 3.5 -2.3
Other Vendors 2,270,036 27.6 1,959,258 25.9 15.9
Total 8,233,777 100.0 7,560,100 100.0 8.9

Source: Gartner Dataquest (February 2007)

Indeed, if you look at a typical Gartner table, Supermicro is nowhere to be found, despite the fact that Supermicro sells about as many servers as Sun and Fujitsu-Siemens combined and has about 7 to 8% of the total server market. The market share of Supermicro - along with Tyan, Rackable Systems, MSI, ASUS and many others - can be found in the hodge-podge "other vendors" figure, which is also referred to (with a slightly less serious almost negative undertone) the "unbranded or white box" market.

So why are companies like Supermicro absent in the big server market overviews? The answer lies of course in the financial side of things. The server revenue of IBM or HP is about 40-50 times higher than that of Supermicro. But that hardly matter for our readers: if Supermicro sells 8% of the total servers sold and the white box market is good for about a quarter of the volume of the server market, we have to ask an interesting question: what advantages does buying only from the Tier-1 OEMs bring you, and are there attractive alternatives in the white box market? We'll give them all a fair chance, as we are working with Tyan, Supermicro, MSI, HP, IBM, and others.

This server report is the first in a planned series of articles which will concentrate on the server and storage needs of SMBs. We find this to be a particularly interesting segment, as that is exactly where most of our readers come from: smaller and medium enterprises where the cost of hardware and software still matters; where the decision is still highly influenced by technical and price/performance considerations. We will search for the real tangible advantages that certain vendors and products can offer, advantages that really offer added value and lower TCO. To do so, we will keep an eye on TCO and we are working with several SMB which develop highly specialized server applications. This will allow us to give you some real world benchmarks of applications where performance still matters, a very good addition to our normal industry standard benchmarks.

In this first article, we look at a quite unique product of Supermicro: the Supermicro Twin, also known under its less sexy name Superserver 6015T-INF. We also introduce you to a first example of our new way of benchmarking servers.

Twin Server: Concept
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  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Those DIMM slots are empty :-) Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    ohhh hahah thought they were filled with black DIMMs :D Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Also on page 8:

    quote:

    In comparison, with 2U servers, we save about 130W or about 30% thanks to Twin 1U system

    You should remove that first comma. It was throwing me off because the way it reads it sounds like the 2U servers save about 130W but then you get to the end of the sentence and realize you mean "in comparison with 2U servers, we save about 130W or about 30% thanks to Twin 1U". You could also say "Compared with 2U servers, we save..." to make the sentence even more clear.

    Thanks for an awesome article, btw. It's nice to see these server articles from time to time, especially when they cover a product that appears to offer a solid TCO and strong comparative with the competition from big names like Dell.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Fixed! Good point Reply
  • gouyou - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    The part about infiniband's performance much better as you increase the number of core is really misleading.

    The graph is mixing core and nodes, so you cannot tell anything. We are in an era where a server has 8 cores: the scaling is completely different as it will depend less on the network. BTW, is the graph made for single core servers ? dual cores ?
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Gouyou, there's a link called "this article" in the part on InfiniBand which answers your question. In the original article you can read that they used dual 3 GHz Woodcrests.

    What's interesting is that the difference between InfiniBand and GigE is actually more pronounced for the dual core Woodcrests compared with single core 3.4 GHz P4s (at 16 nodes). The explanation given is that the faster dual core CPUs need more communication to sustain performance. So it seems like their algorithm uses no locality optimizations to exploit the much faster communication within a node.

    @BitJunkie: I second your comment, very nice article!

    MrS
    Reply
  • BitJunkie - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Nice article, I'm most impressed by the breadth and the detail you drilled in to - also the clarity with which you presented your thinking / results. It's always good to be stretched and great example of how to approach things in structured logical way.

    Don't mind the "it's an enthusiast site" comments. Some people will be stepping outside their comfort zone with this and won't thank you for it ;)
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Thanks, very encouraging comment.

    And I guess it doesn't hurt the "enthusiast" is reminded that "pcs" can also be fascinating in another role than "Hardcore gaming machine" :-). Many of my students need the same reminder: being an ITer is more than booting Windows and your favorite game. My 2-year old daughter can do that ;-)
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    It is however nice to learn about InfiniBand. This is a technology I have been interrested in for a while now, and was under the impression was not going to be implemented until PCIe v2.0 (maybe I missed something here).

    I would still rather see this technology in the desktop class PC, and if this is yet another enterprise driven technology, then people such as myself, who were hoping to use it for decent home networking(remote storage) are once again, left out in the cold.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    quote:

    And I guess it doesn't hurt the "enthusiast" is reminded that "pcs" can also be fascinating in another role than "Hardcore gaming machine" :-). Many of my students need the same reminder: being an ITer is more than booting Windows and your favorite game. My 2-year old daughter can do that ;-)


    And I am sure every gamer out there knows what iSCSI *is* . . .

    Even in 'IT' a 16 core 1U rack is a specialty system, and while they may be semi common in the load balancing/failover scenario(or maybe even used extensively in paralell processing, yes, and even more possible uses . . .), they are still not all that common comparred to the 'standard' server. Recently, a person that I know deployed 40k desktops/ 30k servers for a large company, and would'nt you know it, not one had more than 4 cores . . . and I have personally contracted work from TV/Radio stations(and even the odd small ISP), and outside of the odd 'Toaster', most machines in these places barely use 1 core.

    I too also find technologies such as 802.3 ad link aggregation, iSCSI, AoE, etc interresting, and sometimes like playing around with things like openMosix, the latest /hottest Linux Distro, but at the end of the day, other than experimentation, these things typically do not entertain me. Most of the above, and many other technologies for me, are just a means to an end, not entertainment.

    Maybe it is enjoyable staring at a machine of this type, not being able to use it to its full potential outside of the work place ? Personally I would not know, and honestly I really do not care, but if this is the case, perhaps you need to take notice of your 2 year old daughter, and relax once in a while.

    The point here ? The point being: pehaps *this* 'gamer' you speak of knows a good bit more about 'IT' than you give him credit for, and maybe even makes a fair amount of cash at the end of the day while doing so. Or maybe I am a *real* hardware enthusiast, who would rather be reading about technology, instead of reading yet another 'product review'. Especially since any person worth their paygrade in IT should already know how this system (or anything like) is going to perform beforehand.
    Reply

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