Armari 1040C8B review

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Just when you thought it wasn’t possible to fit anything more into a 1U rack server, along comes Armari and its 1040C8B. The model name doesn’t give away any clues to this server’s secrets, but hiding inside this slimline chassis are not one, not two, not four, but eight Opteron processing cores.

Armari 1040C8B review

This server is another result of Supermicro’s move to embrace AMD’s dual-core Opteron in 2005. With what we know now, it seems a smart decision: as we can see in the review of IBM’s new X3550, the dual-core Dempsey is now so late to market that it’s likely to be little more than a validation tool for Woodcrest platforms. In contrast, with the Series 200 and 800 Opterons launched well over a year ago, AMD can offer a solid dual-core processing platform with impeccable credentials.

With eight cores to play with, the 1040C8B can deliver a phenomenally high density of 336 processors in an industry-standard 42U-high rack – far more than most of today’s blade servers can offer. To achieve this remarkable feat, there have been a few sacrifices. Fortunately, build quality isn’t one of them, as the chassis is solidly constructed. Four bays are provided on the front panel, with three supporting hot-swap disk carriers, while the left-hand bay is home to a single, cold-swap 1,000W power supply. A low-profile DVD-ROM drive has been squeezed in above the drive bays, but the lack of floppy drive means you’ll need to source a USB model.

And so to the interior, where it’s immediately clear that a substantial redesign has taken place to accommodate the quad of AMD processors. The bulk of the motherboard is occupied by the four processor sockets, and each is fitted with 2.2GHz Opteron 875 modules. Alongside each one is a bank of four dedicated DIMM sockets, and Armari has generously filled each one with 2GB of PC3200 memory. Obviously, cooling is a real concern with the high component density, so the processor and memory sockets have been staggered to ensure the front pair doesn’t block airflow to the rear pair. In front of the motherboard is a bank of six dual-rotor fans mounted in rubber blocks to help absorb vibration. We’ve generally found that Supermicro’s cooling arrangements have high operational noise levels. But the lower power consumption of the Opterons means the fans can run slower, allowing noise levels to be reduced slightly.

With the processors and memory taking up so much of the field, the core logic chips have been shifted over to the touchline, which leaves them behind the power supply and out of the general airflow. To counter this, Supermicro has had to fit a dedicated plastic shroud with a pair of miniature blower fans over the chipset heatsinks. Fortunately, this is low enough to fit beneath the expansion riser card so the PCI Express 8x slot can still be used. An embedded Adaptec dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI controller looks after storage and offers Adaptec’s HostRAID feature, which can only manage striped and mirrored arrays.

The network connection is handled by a pair of Intel Gigabit adapters. Remote management gets a boost, as the mini PCI-X slot on the motherboard is fitted with Supermicro’s IPMI 2 baseboard controller, allowing the server to be remotely accessed and managed irrespective of its condition. Along with this, you get Supermicro’s standard management toolkit, which allows the server to be accessed remotely via a web browser. This isn’t as sophisticated as the facilities provided with HP, IBM and Dell servers, but the interface is nicely designed and offers good access to all components, plus plenty of monitoring and alerting features.

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