Armari 6015B-3RB review

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It doesn’t seem long ago that Intel’s dual-core Xeon bandwagon rolled through town with the dynamic duo, Dempsey and Woodcrest, leading the way. Well, we now have Intel’s latest quad-core Xeons in the lab, and in this exclusive review we look at the Armari 6015B-3RB, one of the first servers equipped with the new processors.

Armari 6015B-3RB review

Codenamed Clovertown, the new 5300 series of processors easily gets Intel back on a level pegging with AMD, which is due to deliver its quad-core Opteron early next year. Clovertown is designed for dual-socket systems, with the multisocket Xeon MP Tigerton processors expected to launch soon as well. However, this could have all happened a lot sooner. Intel’s quad-core development has been through some tricky times, as the original Whitefield project was cancelled in 2005, due to major problems centred round a failure to integrate Intel’s high-speed CSI (common serial interface), which was touted as the answer to AMD’s HyperTransport. Rumours are that this feature may not be delivered until next year and will probably appear first in the next generation of Itanium.

The 5300 processors incorporate a pair of 5100 series Woodcrest cores and are offered with either a 1,066MHz or 1,333MHz FSB. Since they use the same pin package, they’re supported by the current 5000 chipsets and will plug into the same sockets, so it’s possible to upgrade existing systems. You get a hefty 8MB of on-die Level 2 cache per processor module, which is achieved by each physical 5100 die delivering 4MB of Level 2 cache apiece. The 6015B-3RB came equipped with a pair of E5345 processors running at 2.33GHz and supporting the faster 1,333MHz FSB.

The server uses a standard Supermicro 1U rack chassis that delivers comprehensive storage potential, as it has four hot-swap bays squeezed in the front. Airflow throughout the chassis is unimpeded, as there are open grilles above the drive bays, with only the DVD-ROM drive in the way. However, it’s about time Supermicro stepped into line with the blue-chips and started supporting the smaller 2.5in SAS and SATA drives, as this would give it more leeway with internal design and cooling facilities.

Internally, all is neat and tidy, with good design exhibited throughout. The two chunky copper heatsinks at the front of the motherboard give no clues as to what lies beneath, but they certainly handle the heat. Supermicro’s monitoring tools showed core temperatures of no higher than 38C. Heat output shouldn’t be high anyway, as the E5345 processors are rated at 80W – only the high-performance 2.6GHz E5355 has a higher power rating of 120W. The system came supplied with 4GB of memory, made up of four fully buffered DIMM modules and, with eight slots to play with, this can be expanded to 32GB.

The storage picture looks rosy, as you get an embedded Adaptec dual-channel SAS controller, which provides a single internal four-port connector cabled through to the drive backplane. Expansion potential is particularly good, as a four-port connector is also available at the rear for adding external SAS drive arrays. Armari’s package includes an Adaptec-based, zero-channel RAID card slotted into the half-height PCI slot on the riser card. There’s also an embedded six-port Intel SATA controller that supports RAID0, 1 and 5 arrays.

The riser card has a second PCI-X slot on the other side, but this is unusable as Armari has fitted a Supermicro intelligent management (SIM) board. This is IPMI 2-compliant and incorporates a Raritan chip for KVM-over-IP. The board in question slots into a mini-PCI slot on the motherboard and uses a header backplate to provide a dedicated Fast Ethernet management port. You can use the bundled IPMI View utility to access the card, and this provides a dashboard of dials on temperatures, fan speeds and voltages, plus controls for cycling power and performing graceful server shutdowns. It also offers access to the KVM functions. But it isn’t a pretty sight and we found the card’s web server provides a more satisfying experience, with a well-designed interface where you can monitor the server, control power and set up virtual boot devices.

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