Viglen HX220Ui review
Never afraid of trying something new, Supermicro has now delivered its Universal I/O (UIO) technology, which it claims will revolutionise the high-density rack server market. Supplied as the HX220Ui from Viglen, this 1U rack server certainly looks to offer unprecedented expansion potential that few others at this price point can hope to match.
The idea behind UIO is to reduce the number of motherboard variations within a family, allowing design and manufacturing costs to be cut. Instead of offering a wide selection of embedded options such as SATA, SAS and RAID storage facilities, you provide one board that can be customised with a selection of UIO cards. At the time of writing, Supermicro was offering a range of high-performance SAS RAID UIO cards, but it expects to provide solutions for Gigabit Ethernet, 10GbE, InfiniBand and Fibre Channel. You simply add whichever card you require, but without losing any existing PCI-E or PCI-X expansion slots.
The HX220Ui comprises Supermicro’s SuperServer 6015-URB package, which includes its 1U rack chassis and X7DBE motherboard. The UIO slot is found at the base of a butterfly riser card and located next to a large cutout at the back of the board. Supermicro has been working closely with LSI Logic on its UIO SAS RAID cards, and the system came equipped with an AOC-USAS-H4iR card. This is endowed with LSI’s SAS1078 chip, which offers quad-port internal and external connectors. You also get support for RAID6 and 60 arrays, which are able to recover from dual-drive failure. The card fits neatly into the cutout and essentially becomes part of the motherboard, as it doesn’t block access to the PCI-E slot above. Supermicro offers one UIO riser card, but you can opt for non-UIO versions that have PCI-E slots only. A separate riser card is also fitted on the other side, and you can pick and choose from single-slot PCI-E and PCI-X versions.
The motherboard sports an embedded six-port Intel SATA RAID controller, but this lies idle, as the internal SAS connector on the UIO card has been wired up to the hard disk backplane. The storage contingent is made up of a tasty quad of high-speed 146GB 15K.5 Seagate SAS drives, which came configured in a RAID5 array with hot-standby. If we have any criticisms, they’d be aimed at Supermicro’s reluctance to support low-profile 2.5in drives. As we pointed out in our review of Dell’s PowerEdge 2970, these smaller drives can have a marked impact on power consumption, with many blue-chip server vendors now starting to phase out support for 3.5in drives entirely in their rack servers.
Internally, all looks tidy, and the price includes a single 1.86GHz quad-core Xeon processor. This is topped off with a chunky passive copper heatsink and large plastic shroud that directs air from the four fans in front. The eight memory sockets are behind the processors and are also serviced by the cooling shroud. High operation noise levels have often been a characteristic of Supermicro’s rack servers, but the HX220Ui was a lot quieter. However, although the chassis has room for six cooling fans, the two that would normally service the left side of the chassis have been removed.
Supermicro has been working on its remote-management act, as the server comes with its AOC-SIMSO board. This incorporates a Raritan chip for KVM-over-IP services and slots into a mini-PCI slot on the motherboard. It doesn’t have the extra header backplate, so all IPMI and KVM functions are piped through the first Ethernet port. You can use the bundled IPMI View utility to access the card, and this provides dials on temperatures, fan speeds and voltages, plus controls for recycling power and performing graceful server shutdowns. It also offers menu tabs for accessing the KVM functions, but for these you can simply point a browser at the board’s IP address. Setting up the board’s IP address is tedious, but at least it only needs doing once.