Broadberry MultiFlex MF6000 review

£4341
Price when reviewed

SMBs doubtful about blade servers will take heart from Broadberry’s latest MultiFlex MF6000. It brings blade server technology within the reach of their budgets and introduces Intel’s new Modular Server platform, which targets space-conscious SMBs by consolidating their IT services onto a single platform.

It also offers a high expansion potential and aims to be much easier to manage than conventional blade servers.

Deployed in a 6U chassis, the MF6000 comes in a rack-mount configuration or, like our review unit, as a floor-standing pedestal system. There’s room for up to six server blades, or “compute modules” as Intel calls them. The motherboards are based on Intel’s PAL5000 platform, so they support dual- and quad-core Xeon processors. The modules support up to 32GB of memory and the pair of Gigabit ports can be doubled with an optional dual-port mezzanine card.

Storage potential is good – the two front bays each support seven 2.5in SFF SAS or SATA hard disks. Both are linked to the chassis midplane, where they are routed through to a storage controller blade at the rear, which supports all the usual RAID suspects, including RAID-6. This arrangement is essentially an internal SAN, as selected drives are placed in storage pools from where you create virtual drives each with their own RAID array type.

Advertised RAID levels will be determined by the number of drives placed in the pool and the array is assigned to virtual drives and not the storage pool itself. This allows a pool to support multiple arrays and each virtual drive can be a different RAID array as well. Next, you assign the virtual drive to a selected compute module where it will see it as local storage. This makes for good redundancy: if a compute module fails you just assign its virtual drive to another module and boot the system up and carry on with minimal disruption. The storage blade has a SAS expansion port allowing external storage arrays to be presented to the compute modules. You can add a second storage blade to run in an active/active fault tolerant configuration and this also allows an external SAS LTO tape drive to be added.

The MF6000 only supports Ethernet switch blades, with room for a pair of 10-port L2 Gigabit modules at the rear. For power you start with two hot-plug supplies and the chassis supports up to four modules. It comes as standard with one management I/O module which provides full remote access to the chassis and all components; you can add a second for redundancy. Intel is proud of its remote management features, and rightly so: the Modular Server Control (MSC) web interface is very well designed and offers good levels of access to all components.

The home page offers a dashboard showing power status, enclosure, drive and CPU temperatures, system health and detected problems. A row of tabs above allows you to swap to graphics of the front and rear panels showing installed components; selecting one provides more detail. KVM over IP access is provided to the compute modules so you can control power and remotely view and control their BIOS and OS.

The dashboard power meter is very optimistic, however. With the chassis powered up and no modules running, it showed a 90W draw when our inline power tester registered 197W. The 100W discrepancy remained when we tested with one and two modules running.

The Storage tab shows all installed physical drives, storage pools and virtual drives, and new storage pools are created from here. The Transport option is used to takes selected drives offline and move them to another module.

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site

Ratings

Physical

Server format Rack
Server configuration 6U rack/pedestal enclosure

Processor

CPU family Intel Xeon
CPU nominal frequency 2.33GHz
Processors supplied 1
CPU socket count 6

Memory

RAM capacity 192GB
Memory type FBDIMM

Storage

Hard disk configuration 3 x 147GB SFF SAS hard disks (max 14)
Total hard disk capacity 441
RAID module LSI storage controller
RAID levels supported 0, 1, 5, 6, JBOD

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports 2
ILO? yes

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0

Power supply

Power supply rating 1,050W

Software

OS family None

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