Boston Quattro 5500GP review

£12994
Price when reviewed

We thought we’d seen it all when Boston delivered its remarkable 3000GP twin server solution but its new Quattro 5500GP pushes the envelope of rack server design even further. In this exclusive review we take a closer look at Supermicro’s latest Twin2 rack server that delivers four independent, dual socket, hot-swap server nodes in a 2U chassis.

Read the full review of Intel’s Xeon 5500 series

There’s much more as each node in the review system came equipped with a pair of the latest L5520 quad-core Xeons. These have a low TDP of 60W and support Intel’s Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost technologies. The 5500GP pushes processing density through the roof with up to 32 cores per chassis allowing an industry standard 42U rack cabinet to deliver a total of 672 physical processor cores – easily beating the current crop of blade servers.

From the front the 5500GP looks like a storage server as it’s packed out with 12 hot-swap drive bays and the price includes a full complement of 500GB Western Digital GreenPower SATA hard disks. The backplane has been designed to give each server node three drive bays so RAID-5 is a possibility for each one. There’s no room for USB ports or optical drives but the rack brackets on each side incorporate illuminated power buttons, UIDs for visual identification plus network and temperature warning LEDs for each node.

A quick glance at the rear of the chassis confirms that each server node is totally independent and has its own monitor, network and USB ports. The nodes are removed by releasing small locking tabs and pulling the unit out using the grab rings on each side. The node motherboards are well designed with the processor sockets staggered down their length to avoid impeding the air flow. The processors are mounted with large passive heatsinks with each accompanied by six DIMM sockets and every node came with a generous 24GB of DDR3 memory.

Storage is handled by an embedded Intel SATA RAID controller which supports mirrors, stripes and RAID-5 arrays and the motherboard interfaces are wired though to an extension bar on the side of the server casing. This is used to mate with the chassis backplane allowing the server to receive power and its allotted hard disk bays from a single connector. There’s even room to expand as each node has a 16X PCI-e slot that accepts a half-height, half-length card. Supermicro will also be offering a motherboard version that presents an InfiniBand port at the rear.

For remote management each node has an embedded IPMI controller routed through to a dedicated Fast Ethernet port at the rear where it provides full KVM-over-IP services. The web interface sees a few design improvements making it easier to use and it offers plenty of data about all motherboard sensors plus options to issue SNMP trap and email alerts if preset thresholds are breached.

Along with full control over power, remote control is also provided so you can access the BIOS setup menu and OS via a browser. It supports virtual floppy and optical drive media allowing you to boot a server node from another system and install an OS if required. This feature adds value to the 5500GP as most blue chip server vendors only offer this as an option and expect you to pay extra for it.

Supermicro has naturally given cooling a high priority and this is handled entirely by four large fans situated between the nodes and the drive backplane. Each fan is dedicated to a node and only runs when it is powered up but the high noise levels make the 5500GP a candidate for the server room only. Supermicro ought to offer a version of this server with 2.5in. SFF hard disks as not only would these drop power demands further but would free up space at the front to create more vents and allow cooling fan speeds to be reduced.

Warranty

Warranty3yr on-site

Ratings

Physical

Server formatRack
Server configuration2U

Processor

CPU familyIntel Xeon
CPU nominal frequency2.26GHz
Processors supplied8
CPU socket count8

Memory

Memory typeDDR3

Storage

Hard disk configuration3 x Western Digital GreenPower SATA disks in hot-swap carriers
Total hard disk capacity1,500
RAID moduleIntel ICH10R embedded SATA RAID controller
RAID levels supported0, 1, 5, JBOD

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports2
ILO?no

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots total0
PCI-E x16 slots total4
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots total0

Power supply

Power supply rating720W

Noise and power

Idle power consumption584W
Peak power consumption976W

Software

OS familyNone

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