Armari SR-X64DC review

£4499
Price when reviewed

Intel must be kicking itself for not taking AMD seriously as a threat in the server market. In 2003, it had to follow in AMD’s shadow with its 32-/64-bit products. Now, AMD beats it yet again with its new dual-core server processors, which have arrived earlier than expected. Enterprise brings you an exclusive review, as we deliver not only one of the first looks at the new Series 200 dual-core Opteron, but also the first AMD-based system from Supermicro. This was hand-delivered to us by its UK distributor Boston Ltd and is reviewed as an Armari SR-X64DC.

Armari SR-X64DC review

Vendor support for AMD has been steadily growing since the launch of the original single-core Opteron. IBM was among the first to jump on the bandwagon, closely followed by HP. Cray and Sun Microsystems have now also pledged support for dual-core Opteron. With Supermicro now onboard, it leaves Dell, Fujitsu Siemens and NEC out in the cold and looking increasingly isolated. Another area where the new Opteron will make its mark is with blade servers. HP has already announced a BL45p server blade, which will allow it to double processing density across its blade chassis products.

Intel and AMD are coming at the server market from opposite ends. In PC Pro’s exclusive review of the new dual-core Pentium, it’s clear that Intel is starting from the desktop. Although announced nearly a year ago, its E7230 Mukilteo chipset is aimed only at single dual-core chip, entry-level server applications. AMD, on the other hand, has stepped straight in at the mid-range and enterprise markets and its launch also comes well ahead of the expected dual-core Xeon processors. Intel has already stated that the Paxville Xeon MP and Dempsey Xeon DP dual-core processors won’t be released until early 2006. There’s even more, as AMD’s current 8131/8111 chipset supports the entire range of new Opterons, so you can simply drop them straight into existing motherboards and upgrade the BIOS. At the time of writing, AMD had launched the Series 100 and 200 dual-core processor families, with the Series 800 on its way. HP is looking forward to the latter, as the company advised us it plans to implement them in its PC Pro Recommended ProLiant DL585, turning it instantly into a tasty eight-way processing system.

And so to the Armari server, which is an all-Supermicro package, comprising a SC743S1 chassis and the brand-new H8DA8 motherboard. Build quality is good, and the chassis is also offered as a 4U rack-mount variant, where the assembly holding the LED status panel and 5.25in bays can be completely removed and rotated through 90 degrees. The chassis offers plenty of storage potential, with no less than eight hot-swap drive bays hiding behind the lockable front panel. No doubt its internals are of more interest and, with the side panel removed, you’re presented with a tidy interior that gives little away as to its processing prowess.

Supermicro’s motherboard is well designed, and the two Opteron 275 processors are fitted with large passive heatsinks. The server’s BIOS recognises them as dual-core processors, making a total of four units, while the Windows Task Manager also acknowledges the presence of four physical processors. Two banks of four DIMM sockets are located above and below the processors, and the price includes 8GB of PC3200 SDRAM. Cooling has been taken seriously, as the hard disk and device bays have four hot-swap fans behind them, and there’s another pair at the rear of the chassis. The processors and memory are covered in a clear-plastic duct to channel this veritable hurricane, which, unfortunately, does generate high noise levels.

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