Broadberry BDS-2300XU review

£3755
Price when reviewed
Whereas many vendors stick to tried-and-tested design processes for their rack servers, Supermicro is never afraid of trying out something new. This time Broadberry is the company first out with a solution based around Supermicro’s hardware. Its latest server aims to satisfy the demand for 1U rack servers supporting more than two expansion cards – a market it claims is huge.

The BDS-2300XU is a 1U package capable of handling five expansion cards. Even more impressive is the fact that three can be full length and full height. A glance at the specifications show that nothing major has been sacrificed, so how does it achieve this remarkable feat?

The BDS-2300XU comprises a Supermicro SuperServer 6015X-8V package made up of its SC819S chassis and X7DBX-8 motherboard. The front panel has four bays, with three occupied by 147GB Fujitsu Ultra320 hard disks in hot-swap carriers. The left-hand bay gives the game away, as it’s home to the single 700W cold-swap power supply. To make the extra internal space available, it was obvious something drastic would have to be done with this component. Removing the lid shows that Supermicro has reduced the length of the supply and moved it to the front, allowing it to free up enough space behind it to take two full-length PCI Express expansion cards.

Coined an “auxiliary bay” by Supermicro, this accepts PCI Express 4x and 8x cards as standard, although you can opt for a PCI-X riser card. The motherboard has been designed not to encroach into this area, so the riser is mounted on a slot on its edge. In the centre, you have a standard butterfly riser with a full-length, full-height PCI-X slot on one side and a low-profile PCI-X slot on the other. As with the auxiliary bay, you can opt for a PCI Express riser. The right-hand bay isn’t a standard expansion slot, as this is specifically for a Supermicro intelligent management (SIM) board. The SIM shows that Supermicro is taking remote server management even more seriously, as the board is IPMI 2 compliant and also incorporates a Raritan chip for KVM over IP. The board has another slot on it that’s used for the optional network card, which adds two more Ethernet ports to the mix. One looks after KVM and IPMI management, while the other can be used to augment the embedded Gigabit ports.

The cunning design means the rest of the system remains largely unaffected, so no key components have to be relocated. The pair of 3GHz Xeon 5160 processors sit at the front of the motherboard and are fronted by a bank of five, dual-rotor cooling fans. They can certainly shunt plenty of air through the chassis, and the noise levels once they’ve settled down after power up are reasonable. But fan noise will still preclude this system from anywhere except a server room. HP leads the way in this area, as its new DL360 G5 shows that noise levels can be reduced significantly.

Eight DIMM sockets are located behind the right-hand processor and covered in a plastic shroud to aid cooling. The review system came supplied with 4GB of 533MHz FB-DIMM modules, which can be expanded to 32GB. The motherboard has an embedded Adaptec Ultra320 chipset with one channel sensibly routed through to the rear for connecting external devices. The chipset does offer Adaptec’s HostRAID, which supports striped and mirrored arrays, but you also get RAID5 as the low-profile PCI-X slot is occupied by Supermicro’s ZCR (zero-channel RAID) card.

General server monitoring is handled by the bundled SuperO Doctor III utility, and its web browser interface provides plenty of operational information on all critical system components. Alerting extends to pager and email messaging, and you can pick the items that you want to monitor. Remote control facilities are also provided. The management card is accessed via the bundled IPMI View utility, where it provides readouts on temperatures, fan speeds and voltages plus controls for recycling power and performing server shutdowns. It also provides access to the KVM functions, but the IPMI View interface isn’t pretty and we found it more satisfying to point a browser at the card’s IP address. This provides a well-designed interface where you can monitor the server, access and control power and set up virtual boot devices. In a straight comparison, the management tools provided by HP with its ProLiant servers are far superior to Broadberry’s, although note that the latter’s KVM tools include full remote control whereas HP charges extra for this.

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