Boston Igloo I2600 review

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Supermicro has an excellent record for being first to market with new server technologies. The latest Igloo I2600 from Boston gives us our first look at Intel’s Harpertown 5400 Xeon processors. As part of the Penryn family, these new processors are based on 45nm manufacturing processes and aim to give AMD’s quad-core Opteron a good kicking in the performance department.

Boston Igloo I2600 review

The 5400 processors will replace the 5300 Clovertown family and deliver a large boost in L2 cache from 8MB to 12MB, while the manufacturing process allows Intel to increase the transistor count from 582 million to 820 million. The chipset can handle 128GB of fully buffered memory, supports the faster 800MHz PC6400 DDR memory and increases the FSB speed by 20% to 1,600MHz. Power consumption has also been addressed – the majority of the 5400 family has a TDP of 80W, the same as most 5300 processors.

Boston is offering this server asa solution for a range of apps, including mail and database services, media streaming and rendering. The package is presented in a low-profile 1U Supermicro chassis that’s only 503mm deep, so it will fit in just about any rack cabinet. The front panel has room for four hot-swap drive bays, with a DVD-ROM drive above and a status panel along with front-mounted serial and USB ports.

The lid comes off easily, and underneath Boston has delivered a tidy build with all the cables secured out of harm’s way, to provide easy access to the components. The system came kitted out with a pair of 2.66GHz E5430 processors, each mounted with passive copper heatsinks. Further back is a bank of six DIMM slots and a healthy 4GB of FB-DIMMs. However, although the chipset supports the faster 800MHz DDR2 modules, this motherboard doesn’t. We weren’t overly impressed with the air shroud over the processors and memory. It does a good job of directing air where it’s needed, but it’s cut from a flimsy sheet of plastic, which doesn’t inspire confidence.

Noise levels are often a cause for concern with Supermicro’s 1U servers and, although the I2600 is quieter than many of its predecessors, it would be best in an enclosed rack.

Storage prospects look good, as the motherboard provides both embedded Adaptec SATA and LSI Logic SAS controllers. Given that this isn’t a rack-specific board, the SAS controller offers eight ports while the SATA chip has six, but they’re easy enough to wire up to the hard disk backplane. Boston has activated the SAS option and fitted four high-performance Seagate Cheetah 15K.5 SAS hard disks. Standard RAID options extend to mirrors or stripes, but the price includes the iButton68 option, which adds RAID5 to the menu.

Power consumption is a major concern across a wide range of business sectors, so we connected the Igloo to an in-line power meter to test its appetite. It registered a modest 155W with the Windows Server 2003 R2 OS idling. With SiSoft Sandra pummelling all eight cores at over 90% utilisation, consumption rose to 245W. To put this in perspective, we measured the power draw on a dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 server and saw 215W at idle and 307W under load.

For remote server management and monitoring, Supermicro is never goingto beat the likes of HP, but it has madea good stab at it. You don’t get the sophistication of HP’s embedded iLO2 chip, but Supermicro offers a range of optional remote-management expansion cards, some of which include facilities for KVM over IP. Alas, the AOC-SIMLC card supplied by Boston wasn’t the ‘+’ variant, so it was missing the Raritan KVM-over-IP chip. However, it does provide IPMI over LAN, allowing the bundled IPMIView 2 utility to access it remotely. Unfortunately, whereas HP’s iLO2 offers BIOS-based configuration access, the Supermicro alternative makes you boot the server into DOS and run the bundled utility to set the IP address. This is tedious, but at least it should only need doing once.

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