Boston Quattro 6000GP review

£11494
Price when reviewed

If you thought blade servers had the monopoly on high density processing then think again. The latest Quattro 6000GP from Boston has just set a new record – offering no fewer than 48 cores in a 2U chassis. That’s 1,008 cores in an industry standard 42U rack cabinet, thanks in the main to AMD’s new Six-Core Opteron processor (codenamed Istanbul).

It’s not just the processor that’s exciting, though. This remarkable feat is also down to Supermicro’s Twin² chassis – a unique rack server that delivers four independent, dual-socket, hot-swap server nodes and takes advantage of the fact that the 2400 series Six-Core Opterons support dual-socket motherboards.

Three models are available – from 2.2GHz up to 2.8GHz – and all run at an average of 75W. AMD also currently offers 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz 8400 quad-socket models and these again run at 75W. None of Intel’s six-core 7400 Dunnington processors support dual-socket servers and their TDPs range from 65W to 130W.

Offered as a drop-in upgrade to the 45nm quad-core Opteron family, the new processor has all six cores fully integrated on-die with AMD’s Direct Connect architecture. Each core has its own L1 and L2 caches and all share a common L3 cache. Power is a big priority and AMD claims the new processors not only have the same power/thermal envelope as the quad-core Opterons but offer up to a 50 per cent performance improvement.

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The new Opterons also debut AMD’s HT Assist technology, which keeps a record of cached data and uses this to direct a processor to the relevant cache in another processor if it isn’t stored locally. The HyperTransport 3 gets a bandwidth boost to 4.8GT/sec and power management is improved with a power capping feature.

On to the 6000GP itself and the front panel is crammed full of storage, with all 12 hot-swap bays occupied by 1TB WD GreenPower SATA hard disks. Move to the back and you can see that each node is, indeed, totally independent with its own monitor, network and USB ports. To remove a node you release the locking tabs on each side of the tray and pull the unit out with the two grab rings.

Inside, the motherboards have the processor sockets staggered down their length to improve air flow. Each module is topped off with a large copper heatsink and partnered by banks of four DIMM sockets and the price includes a generous 16GB of DDR2 memory per node.

Nvidia looks after core logic and storage duties and for the latter supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays. The motherboard interfaces are wired though to an extension bar on the side of the casing, which mates with the chassis backplane allowing the node to receive power and its three allotted hard disk bay allocation from a single connector.

Remarkably there’s room to expand as each node has a PCI-E x16 slot that accepts a half-height, half-length card and the motherboard also has an embedded InfiniBand CX4 port for high speed server clustering links. There’s even full remote management: each node boasts an embedded controller and dedicated network port offering a well-designed web interface with full KVM over IP services, virtual media and plenty of monitoring and alerting tools.

For cooling, the chassis employs four large fans positioned between the nodes and the drive backplane; each one is dedicated to a node, only running when it is powered up. Noise levels are high enough to make the 6000GP only suitable for the server room but this isn’t an issue – HP or IBM blade servers aren’t exactly quiet either.

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site

Ratings

Physical

Server format Rack
Server configuration 2U

Processor

CPU family AMD Opteron
CPU nominal frequency 2.40GHz
Processors supplied 2
CPU socket count 8

Memory

Memory type DDR2

Storage

Hard disk configuration 3 x WD GreenPower
Total hard disk capacity 3,000
RAID levels supported 0, 1, 10, 5

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports 2
ILO? no

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 1
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0

Power supply

Power supply rating 1,200W

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 630W
Peak power consumption 1,026W

Software

OS family None

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