Broadberry CyberServe CLx40 review

£12495
Price when reviewed

Supercomputers have traditionally been in the enterprise and research centre domains, but Broadberry’s CyberServe CLx40 makes it personal. It may not have the credentials to get onto the Top500 supercomputer list (www.top500.org), but the CLx40 achieves the remarkable feat of cramming 40 Intel processors into a system that can slide under your desk.

Broadberry CyberServe CLx40 review

The CLx40 is actually a Tyan PSC T-650 QX and has been designed to satisfy a market the Taiwanese company has identified as requiring supercomputing at the desk. Users looking to run simulations, rendering, modelling, analysis and design would normally join the queue for computing time, but now they can have it all to themselves. This solution is offered in dual- and quad-core Xeon variants, with the review system endowed with ten Xeon 5320 processors. Tyan benchmarked the system using Intel’s Linpack benchmarking software and rates it as capable of delivering a sustained 170GFlops – not earth shattering, but try getting this kind of compute power elsewhere at this price.

Four of the biggest issues with supercomputers are size, power consumption, heat output and noise levels, and the CLx40 solves all of them neatly. It’s delivered as a wheeled pedestal chassis measuring 36 x 59 x 69cm and weighing 80kg. At the rear, you have a trio of 600W power supplies that connect to standard three-pin wall sockets and require 15A. Above is a bank of three cooling fans, while two larger fans are located at the top. In between are two trays, with one occupied by a pair of 8-port Gigabit Ethernet switches providing node-interconnect services.

Inside, you have one motherboard mounted horizontally at the top of the chassis that functions as the head node and has one dedicated power supply. The other four boards are designated as compute nodes and split into two pairs, with each pair mounted vertically under the head node in housings complete with two dedicated fans. So with these five Tyan Tempest i5000VS motherboards inside, connecting it all together has resulted in a lot of cable clutter, although this isn’t a system that’s designed to be upgraded on a whim.

Both Gigabit Ethernet ports on each node are wired separately into the internal switches and this provides the basic interconnect fabric for the cluster management network. If you want faster interconnects, Broadberry offers InfiniBand adapter cards for each node and a separate switch mounted in the spare tray at the rear. The motherboards have embedded Intel SATA RAID controllers, and storage is handled by seven hard disk bays located at the front of the chassis. The head node gets three of these, so it can implement RAID fault tolerance, while each compute node gets a single drive. They’re not hot-swappable, but with the lid off each drive can be disconnected and removed easily.

For node management and monitoring, you have many options. From the hardware perspective, the chassis has USB and monitor ports at the front that are wired directly into the head node. On the opposite side is another USB/monitor port combo and this is used by an internal KVM switch to which the four compute nodes are connected. Buttons are provided at the front, allowing you to switch easily between each compute node.

With nine fans for the chassis, three for the power supplies and one for each of the ten processor heatsinks, you’d expect a hurricane on power-up, but the CLx40 makes less noise than many 1U rack servers. Very impressive considering the power on offer.

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