Boston 3000GP review

£6738
Price when reviewed

Just when you thought processing density in your rack server cabinet couldn’t get any higher along comes Boston’s new 3000GP and its innovative design which is capable of doubling capacity. In this exclusive review not only do we take a closer look at Supermicro’s Twin System technology but also bring you the very first review of AMD’s new Shanghai quad-core processor in a production server.

Shanghai is AMD’s first quad-core Opteron processor family to use the 45nm manufacturing process and is directly targeting Intel’s 5400 and 7400 Xeon families. Whereas Intel runs its DP and MP processor developments separately, AMD will be announcing both 2300 DP and 8300 MP variants simultaneously. AMD is well aware that it needs to get this launch right as customer confidence took a real knock after the Barcelona fiasco with its delayed deliveries and bugs.

The new processors have 6MB of shared L3 cache and AMD has opted to stick with Socket F1 1207 compatibility so it’s supported by current nVidia and Broadcom chipsets and is effectively a drop-in upgrade requiring a BIOS update. It will not be supporting the new HT-3 HyperTransport interconnect and AMD advised us that in its DP solutions there will no significant performance benefits over HT-1.

it_photo_32060The initial range has a TDP of 75W with 105W SE and 55W HE versions coming later. Memory support for Shanghai has improved from 667MHz to 800MHz DDR2 but you’ll have to wait until 2010 if you want DDR3 support as this is expected to be introduced in the San Paolo chip which will also double L3 cache to 12MB.

Moving on to the 3000GP itself and at first glance it looks to offer a remarkable specification for such a slim-line package. The key feature here is the 1U chassis is home to two separate motherboards and with dual sockets on each one it can deliver up to sixteen cores.

With the lid removed all becomes clear as the two boards run the length of the chassis with a shared power supply module located between them. Other than power, each board is totally independent and both came with a pair of 2.6GHz Opteron 2382 processors installed. The price of the review system includes 8GB of DDR2 memory for each server and with eight DIMM sockets per processor this can be expanded to 128MB.

The nVidia chipset also looks after storage where it provides an embedded four port SATA controller. A single backplane services the hard disks but each motherboard is wired through to its own pair of hard disks and also provides power from an auxiliary socket.

RAID options are more limited on the 3000GP as you only have two 3.5in. SATA drives per server so you can only go for a mirrored array for storage fault tolerance. However, Supermicro has other chassis options available that support up to eight SFF hard disks.

Considering the sheer number of internal components general internal design is extremely good. The motherboard power connectors are right next to the power supply outputs so there is virtually no cable related clutter to mar this perfect symmetry. The pair of SATA cables and the disk backplane power connectors are also carefully concealed and key components are laid out carefully down the length of each board to maximise air flow. Each motherboard gets three dual rotor fans and we found noise levels to be surprisingly low.

it_photo_32063Even full remote management is provided as each server it fitted with Supermicro’s SIMSO+ board which incorporates a Raritan chip for KVM over IP services and slots into a mini-PCI slot on the motherboard. It has the extra header backplate wired up which blocks the second PCI-e expansion slot but presents a dedicated management network port. The board provides a tidy web interface offering plenty of data about all motherboard sensors and full server remote control as standard. For general remote and local server monitoring you can also use the SuperO Doctor III and IPMI View 2 utilities which provide plenty of information on critical system components.

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site

Ratings

Physical

Server format Rack
Server configuration 1U

Processor

CPU family AMD Opteron
CPU nominal frequency 2.60GHz
Processors supplied 4
CPU socket count 4

Memory

RAM capacity 256GB
Memory type DDR2

Storage

Hard disk configuration 4 x 1TB WD1000FYPS hard disks in hot-swap carriers
Total hard disk capacity 4,000
RAID module Nvidia SATA II
RAID levels supported 0, 1, 10, 5, JBOD

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports 4
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 980W

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 188W
Peak power consumption 335W

Software

OS family None

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