Broadberry BDS-1020A-T review

£2975
Price when reviewed

Once Supermicro gets the bit between its teeth, there’s no letting go. Its wholesale embrace of AMD’s processors has resulted in the delivery of one of the first 1U rack servers to market with twin dual-core Opterons. Broadberry is the first UK manufacturer to take advantage with its BDS-1020A-T, and it’s hard to believe this slimline rack server is home to four physical processors. What’s even more impressive than its size is the price, as standard quad-Opteron systems such as HP’s ProLiant DL585 could set you back nearly four times as much.

Broadberry BDS-1020A-T review

This tasty package is put together from Supermicro’s brand-new H8DAR-T motherboard and its standard SC-813 rack chassis. Good design means four hot-swap bays have been squeezed in along the front and there’s still room for floppy and CD-ROM drives above. Supermicro has picked Serial ATA (SATA) as its storage interface of choice for these new motherboards, and the chassis provides a hot-swap backplane neatly cabled to the embedded interfaces. These are looked after by the integrated Marvell controller, which supports RAID0, 1 and JBODs, but the review system also came fitted with Adaptec’s 2020SA ZCR (zero-channel RAID) controller card. This pinches the SATA channels and adds RAID5 to the mix along with 64MB of cache memory. Storage also looks good, as the price includes a trio of 320GB hard disks preconfigured in a 600GB RAID5 array.

With the lid removed, there are no clear signs as to the power of this system. The pair of Opteron 265 modules are hidden underneath Supermicro’s standard heavy-duty passive heatsinks and covered in a small plastic shroud. This arrangement is testament to AMD’s smart design, as the new dual-core modules don’t generate a significantly higher heat output than single-core Opterons. Even so, a bank of four small fans is positioned in front of the shroud and, although quite efficient, these do generate a lot of noise. The server’s BIOS correctly recognised the Opterons as dual-core processors with a total count of four units, while the Windows Task Manager also acknowledged the presence of four physical processors.

The motherboard provides a bank of four DIMM sockets for each processor, with each populated by 2GB of PC3200 memory. As each processor has its own built-in memory controller, opting for a single processor system will mean the corresponding DIMM slots will be unusable. Even with the Adaptec ZCR card installed, there’s room for another, as the butterfly riser can accept a standard full-height 64-bit adaptor card. A pair of Broadcom Gigabit adaptors handles network services, and these can be teamed up for fault-tolerant and load-balanced links.

Remote server management looks good as well, since the motherboard has a separate socket at the back for an IPMI 2 BMC (baseboard management controller) card. Surprisingly, few vendors have updated their servers to support this specification, which adds enhanced network security with authentication, encryption, VLAN support and a firmware firewall. Other new features include improved network discovery tools and a ‘Serial over LAN’ feature, which provides serial redirection and support for multiple serial connections to the same port. The bundled IPMI View utility is used to access this information remotely and gives readouts on temperatures, fan speeds and voltages. Controls are supplied for recycling power and performing graceful server shutdowns or reboots, plus remotely accessing and controlling the chassis’ power and reset buttons.

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