Boston Quattro 5500GP review
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.
|CPU family||Intel Xeon|
|CPU nominal frequency||2.26GHz|
|CPU socket count||8|
|Hard disk configuration||3 x Western Digital GreenPower SATA disks in hot-swap carriers|
|Total hard disk capacity||1,500|
|RAID module||Intel ICH10R embedded SATA RAID controller|
|RAID levels supported||0, 1, 5, JBOD|
|Gigabit LAN ports||2|
|Conventional PCI slots total||0|
|PCI-E x16 slots total||4|
|PCI-E x8 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x4 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x1 slots total||0|
|Power supply rating||720W|
Noise and power
|Idle power consumption||584W|
|Peak power consumption||976W|