Boston GP 230 review

£459
Price when reviewed

The drive for power efficiency is bringing up some innovative solutions, and Boston’s latest GP 230 looks to hit the mark squarely since this is one of the first Intel Atom-based servers to market. It targets the three key areas of power consumption, noise levels and cost, and in this exclusive look we see whether it achieves these aims.

The system on review came equipped with a single core 1.6GHz Atom 230. It may seem an odd thing to do, as Intel has aimed this particular Atom primarily at what it calls the MID (mobile internet device) market. However, one feature that Boston is playing on is its incredibly low TDP of 4W and mere 30mW idle power consumption.

Performance isn’t going to be this server’s strong point, and in our tests we confirmed that the Atom 230 performed similarly to a Celeron-based Eee PC. It faired reasonably well in individual tests but multitasking isn’t a strong point, with it falling down badly in our multi-app tests.

Fortunately, Boston is well aware of the performance shortfalls and is aiming the GP 230 at those that want a low-power, highly cost-efficient server that can handle basic apps such as BlackBerry, print, FTP or media services.

The GP 230 is delivered in Supermicro’s 1U passive rack chassis and, at less than 27cm in depth, you could mount two back to back in the same rack slot. Internally, the X7SLA-L motherboard is a compact affair with the Atom 230 mounted by a small active heatsink.

Power is handled by a 200W high efficiency, low noise output supply situated to the right of the chassis, and on the opposite side is a small fixed bay that accepts two 2.5in SFF hard disks, with both slots occupied by 160GB WD Scorpio Blue SATA drives.

The embedded Intel ICH9R SATA controller supports a good selection of RAID options, but clearly the only sensible choice with the GP 230 is a mirrored array. The GP 230 offers only a basic memory configuration, as the pair of 1GB 533MHz modules included in the price can’t be upgraded since 2GB is the maximum the motherboard supports.

Some expansion potential is possible, as the PCI Express 8x slot has a riser card fitted to facilitate a horizontally mounted card. However, with the hard disk bay alongside there’s only room for a half-height, half-length card. The most likely candidate here would be a Gigabit Ethernet card to double the network port count.

For server management you’re limited to the bundled Supermicro’s SuperO Doctor III, which provides remote web access services. The interface could do with some refreshment, but it does provide plenty of operational information. The homepage opens with a summary of all installed components, which can be customised to suit, and the health page provides graphs and dial readouts on the fans, temperatures and power supply.

Basic remote-control facilities are also provided, so you can access the server from another system, gracefully shut down the operating system and power off the server. Applying thresholds to monitored components allows you to send alerts using pager or email if anything goes out of kilter.

Unfortunately, no performance data is available, so you can’t keep an eye on areas such as processor or network utilisation. The utility is supposed to tie in with the Windows SNMP service and the manual does show a performance tab in the console, but this wasn’t present after installation.

For local monitoring you also get Supermicro’s client utility, which offers simple graphs showing system and CPU temperatures, voltages and fan speeds. You can set upper and lower thresholds for each item and, as with the web service, if these are breached the client can also issue alerts via pager or email.

Warranty

Warranty3yr on-site

Ratings

Physical

Server formatRack
Server configuration1U

Processor

CPU familyIntel Atom
CPU nominal frequency1.60GHz
Processors supplied1
CPU socket count1

Memory

RAM capacity2GB
Memory typeDDR2

Storage

Hard disk configuration2 x 160GB WD Scorpio Blue SATA hard disks
Total hard disk capacity320
RAID moduleEmbedded Intel ICH9R
RAID levels supported0, 1, 5, 10

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports1
ILO?yes

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots total0
PCI-E x16 slots total0
PCI-E x8 slots total1
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots total0

Noise and power

Idle power consumption27W
Peak power consumption31W

Software

OS familyNone

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