Boston Value Series 121 review
Boston was the first company off the mark with the Xeon E3-1200 and E3-1200 v2 CPUs, and now it’s repeated the feat by delivering the first Xeon E3-1200 v3 production server. In this exclusive review, we look at the 1U rack server, the Value Series (VS) 121.
The launch of the Xeon E3-1200 v3 Haswell family of CPUs is a big shift in focus for Intel. While the v2 model saw Intel gain a foothold in the microserver market, the v3 has far grander aspirations. This new generation is set to take pride of place in entry-level servers, workstations and data centres.
The v3 family comprises of 13 models. All utilise a single memory controller, which supports up to 32GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 – the same as the v2 range. Five of the CPUs have Intel’s latest dual-core HD Graphics GPUs, and are aimed at data centre desktop hosting and workstation duties.
The five server models in the range drop the GPU, but offer plenty of useful features to anyone looking for a fast entry-level server. There’s support for PCI Express 3 slots, SATA III and USB 3. The three “L” variants all have the low TDPs necessary for microserver applications.
Delve inside the low-profile 1U Supermicro chassis, and you’ll find the range-topping 3.6GHz quad-core E3-1280 v3 CPU. Turbo Boost 2 lets it step up to 4GHz if there’s enough thermal headroom available, and it has 8MB of L3 cache. In contrast to its stablemates, all of which have 80W TDPs, the E3-1280 v3 has a slightly higher TDP of 82W.
The Xeon CPU is presented on a compact Supermicro X10SLM-F motherboard. Intel’s new C224 chipset provides four SATA III and two SATA II interfaces, and, thankfully, it’s easy to differentiate between the two: the SATA III ports are white and the slower SATA II ports are black.
Up front, there’s room for four hot-swap 3.5in hard disks, and the backplane has been cabled directly to the SATA III ports. The only disappointment is that Boston didn’t stretch to SATA III drives: the pair of 500GB hard disks included are SATA II models.
There are plenty of RAID options: the C224 chip supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays. These can be managed from Windows using Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology (RST) utility, which provides tools for creating and monitoring RAID arrays and sending email alerts if problems are detected.
Although the new Intel controller brings support for USB 3, the four external ports at the rear are limited to USB 2 speeds. The Supermicro motherboard has two USB 3 headers (which won’t be of any use in this server), plus an internal USB 3 port for booting into a hypervisor. There’s also a dedicated 5V power connector right next to the SATA ports for a disk on module (DOM).
Power redundancy is provided by a pair of 400W hotplug PSUs. They’re much quieter than previous models: this is one of the quietest Supermicro 1U rack servers we’ve ever tested.
The higher TDPs of the v3 CPUs means they won’t better the previous generation for power consumption: we recorded idle and peak draws of 41W and 111W respectively. After we removed one of the 400W PSUs, idle and peak figures fell to 35W and 102W respectively.
The “F” in the motherboard model name indicates that remote management is supported via a dedicated network port at the rear. The basic web interface doesn’t rival HP’s iLO4 for features, but provides sensor readings for critical components, plus SNMP traps and email alerts if preset thresholds are breached.
Full control over power is provided, and remote control and virtual media services are also included. Notably, power monitoring makes its debut – the interface provides three graphs mapping hourly, daily and weekly consumption.
It will be a while before the blue chips release servers with the new Xeon E3 CPUs, but Boston’s Value Series 121 has set the bar high. It offers great performance and features, wraps them in a quiet, low-profile chassis, and offers good value, too.
|CPU family||Intel Xeon|
|CPU nominal frequency||3.60GHz|
|CPU socket count||1|
|Hard disk configuration||2 x 500GBWD Enterprise SATA II hot-swap|
|Total hard disk capacity||1,000GB|
|RAID module||Intel C224|
|RAID levels supported||0, 1, 5, 10|
|Gigabit LAN ports||2|
|PCI-E x8 slots total||1|
|Power supply rating||400W|
Noise and power
|Idle power consumption||41W|
|Peak power consumption||111W|
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