Viglen SX145 review

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This year could prove to be one of the most interesting in the server market, as Intel is threatening us with a whole raft of new processors. In issue 137, we showed you three implementations of its 2.8GHz Paxville Xeon DP processor, which was launched at the end of 2005. Now we bring you yet another exclusive with Viglen’s SS145 – the first rack server to market sporting the latest Intel Sossaman processors.

Viglen SX145 review

Sossaman is a dual-core chip based on the Yonah Core Duo T2500 and is being pitched by Intel as the Xeon LV processor. It uses a 65nm fabrication process and is compatible with current Xeon chipsets, so is supported by the Intel E7520. The key focus areas of the Sossaman are power consumption and heat output. Operating at 2GHz, the dual-core Sossaman has a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of a mere 31W, and there’s even a 1.67GHz version on the cards with a TDP of only 15W. The bottom line is that power consumption will be radically reduced, making this platform a top choice for rack-dense environments such as data centres, where it could have a major impact on overall power costs. There’s some debate about whether Sossaman will be superseded by Woodcrest, which is due out later this year. Suffice to say at the moment that the latter’s TDP is expected to be around the 80W mark and therefore isn’t aimed at the same markets as the Sossaman.

ISPs renting slots in their rack cabinets used to charge only for the space required for a customer’s rack servers. But as processing power has gone up with a commensurate reduction in chassis height, most now charge on power consumption as well. As our power tests show, these new servers could also make significant reductions in service charges. With such a low TDP, heat output will be significantly lowered as well, so server-room air-conditioning requirements could be reduced. So far so good, but there are some flies in the ointment. The Sossaman has a slower 667MHz FSB and doesn’t incorporate EM64T technology, so is purely for 32-bit applications. However, with the current dearth of 64-bit Windows apps or the lack of inclination of many businesses to use them, we don’t see this as a major issue in the short term.

The SS145 is a smart amalgamation of Supermicro’s SC-813M 1U chassis and X6DLP-4G2 motherboard. This comes as no surprise, as this particular manufacturer has consistently had the courage to deliver new server technology to the market well in advance of most other blue-chip vendors. The ‘M’ designation on the chassis also indicates that this is the rack-dense version aimed at storage and data-centre applications and is only 504mm deep. Plus, there’s plenty of storage, as the system came supplied with a trio of the latest 400GB RE2 (RAID Edition 2) SATA/150 hard disks from Western Digital. These were hooked up to an LSI Logic RAID card and configured in a RAID5 array. Hot-spare capacity is available, as the front panel even has room for a fourth drive.

Internally, everything is neat and tidy, with the compact processor chips located behind a bank of four fans and mounted with small passive heatsinks. Even here costs are reduced, as Supermicro only needed to fit aluminium heatsinks rather than the more efficient but more costly copper variety. The new CPUs certainly deliver on Intel’s claims. Using a PeakTech 9024 in-line power meter, we tested the server’s total power consumption in idle mode and also with SiSoft’s Sandra generating a heavy CPU load of between 80 and 90 per cent. When idle, the SS145 drew 119W, and under load this rose to 160W. We compared this with a standard 2.4GHz dual Xeon 1U rack server equipped with three Ultra320 hard disks and saw this pulling 228W at idle and a hefty 244W with the CPUs loaded.

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