Broadberry 8014T-TB review

£7795
Price when reviewed

AMD may have made significant inroads into the higher-end multiprocessor server market over the past year, but the latest Xeons aim to put Intel right back in the fight. Codenamed Tulsa, these dual-core Xeon MP processors take over from the Paxville Xeon MP.

In this exclusive review, we deliver a closer look at Broadberry’s 8014T-TB, which achieves the remarkable feat of squeezing four 3.2GHz Xeon 7130M processors into a 1U rack chassis. Naturally, Broadberry is aiming this server at environments demanding high processing performance, such as high-demand SQL applications or medium to large mail servers and render-farm environments.

The Xeon MP has had a troubled time, as we noted when we reviewed Dell’s PowerEdge 6850 (see issue 141, p150), which came supplied with the Paxville Xeon MP processors. At the time, only Intel’s E8500 chipset was available so the 800MHz FSB variants weren’t supported, leaving you with a choice of only two processors. The E8501 as implemented in the 8014T-TB rectifies this problem, and the Series 7100 family delivers an impressive range of speeds and cache combinations. All models are based on 65nm fabrication, with the 7130M modules supporting an 800MHz FSB and sitting at the top of a range that has 8MB of Level 3 cache – the next three models sport a hefty 16MB. The biggest differentiator with the 7100 family is that, despite Intel’s move to Core technology, these processors still use the older NetBurst architecture and will almost certainly be the last to do so.

This technology may still deliver good performance, but power requirements are high. However, compared with the 7000 series, this range does claim lower power consumption and thermal dissipation plus much larger caches. It also incorporates Intel’s Cache Safe technology, which can keep the Level 3 cache going in the event of failures by isolating transistors. Unfortunately, another downside is that the E8501 chipset supports only older 400MHz DDR2 memory – the 5100 series uses the latest fully buffered memory.

Traditionally, Xeon MP servers are hefty beasts, but the 8014T-TB bucks the trend: it’s the first 1U rack implementation to hit the market. It’s a complete Supermicro package, comprising the latter’s SC818TQ chassis and X6QT8 motherboard. The chassis comes with room for three hot-swap hard disk carriers at the front, with a fourth bay filled by a 1,000W cold-swap power supply. Internal design is good, with the four Xeon MP processors laid out in a neat row across the motherboard. All cooling is handled by a bank of dual-rotor fans placed in front of the processors. There are six in total and, considering the number of cores that need cooling, noise levels aren’t excessive. To test power consumption, we hooked up the server to 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 CPU load of between 80% and 90%. There’s no denying this is a power-hungry server, as even at idle it was drawing about 420W; under heavy load this rose to an energy-sapping 680W.

Storage is somewhat muddled, as although the chassis has a three-drive backplane the motherboard has onlya pair of embedded SATA ports. The reason for this is the choice of an ICH5R controller, for which Adaptec wrote the firmware and provides drivers supporting hardware RAID for both Windows and Linux (Supermicro could have opted for Intel’s ICH7R controller, but this doesn’t provide RAID support for Linux). The motherboard also includes an embedded Ultra320 SCSI chipset, and Supermicro will be offering a version of this server with a SCSI backplane. The existing backplane supports SAS and SATA, but for the former you’ll need a SAS controller card installed in the single expansion slot.

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