Boston Quattro 1396-T review
When it comes to increasing rack density, multinode servers are the most efficient option. Boston’s Quattro 1396-T uses an innovative design that crams up to 24 compute nodes into a 3U chassis, offering a compact, economical proposition with which blade servers can’t compete.
Boston Quattro 1396-T review: design
The design is an evolution of the Quattro 1332-T, which packed eight Xeon E3 server nodes into 3U of rack height. Here, the use of Supermicro’s dual-socket X10SLE-DF motherboards enables Boston to triple the compute density, with each of the 1396-T’s 12 slide-out sleds hosting two Xeon E3-1200 v3 series servers.
The sleds are easy to remove and replace using the locking tab and handle. At the back, a small edge connector draws power from the backplane and provides fan control data. There’s space for two SFF SATA III hard disks per node – the two fore drives are routed to the first node, with the two AFT drives assigned to the second node. These plug into a daughterboard, and each pair is controlled by an Intel C224 chipset, offering striping and mirroring, which is as much as you could hope for with only two drives available.
Boston Quattro 1396-T review: connectivity and expansion
At the front, each node offers its own Gigabit network port, plus a KVM port for attaching a local keyboard, monitor and mouse using the supplied adapter cable, which adds a serial and two USB 2 ports. Conveniently, a large button in the middle of each sled’s end plate is used to swap control between each node: it lights green for node 1 control and amber for node 2. There’s also a tiny power button that lets you power on or turn off both nodes; it’s wisely tucked away behind the sled’s locking tab to avoid it being pressed accidentally.
Since space is at a premium, there’s no room inside for expansion slots, but you do get four DIMM sockets per node. These support modules of up to 8GB, so each node can be pushed to a maximum of 32GB. Our review system included 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 per node. There’s no internal USB port, nor an SD card slot for booting from an embedded hypervisor.
Apart from the hard disks, the individual sleds have no moving parts. The processors are cooled by large passive heatsinks, which are in turn cooled by four big cooling fans built into the chassis. The internal layout is tidy, with components neatly laid out along the length of the motherboard to ensure a decent airflow, but the fans are noisy. On their optimum setting, they sound like a passenger jet waiting to take off, so the noise from a fully populated rack will be deafening.
Boston Quattro 1396-T review: power consumption and remote management
Boston supplied our review system with three fully loaded sleds, leaving the remaining nine slots empty. With all of the sleds powered off, we measured a baseline power draw of 270W for the chassis and fans (170W with all nodes unplugged). With Windows Server 2012 sitting idle on two, four and six nodes, power consumption rose to 310W, 340W and 360W respectively. A torture test using the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking tool saw power consumption peak at 420W, 550W and 660W. This juice is provided by two hefty 2kW Platinum-rated PSUs, and the power cables are routed to the front, so you don’t need to rummage around at the back to swap out a faulty PSU.
Remote management is straightforward – each node has an RMM chip with its own IP address, accessible via a single shared 10/100 Ethernet port on each sled. The web interface is basic, but provides sensor readouts for all key components, and their thresholds can be tied in with SNMP traps and email alerts. Node power can be managed from the console, and you also receive full remote control and virtual media services as standard.
Boston Quattro 1396-T review: verdict
A full 24-node system of equivalent specification to our review sample is available at around £16,999 exc VAT, which works out to £708 per server. That makes the Quattro 1396-T an ideal low-cost platform for multiserver tasks such as cloud services and web hosting.
|CPU family||Intel Xeon|
|CPU nominal frequency||3.10GHz|
|Hard disk configuration||4 x 500GB Seagate Constellation SATA III|
|RAID levels supported||0, 1|
|Gigabit LAN ports||4|