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Whose 2U Server System For Xeon E5 Is Best?

Three Xeon E5 Server Systems From Intel, Tyan, And Supermicro
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Despite the fact that we're looking at a trio of 2U server barebones systems capable of taking two LGA 2011-based processors, Intel, Supermicro, and Tyan all take very different approaches in getting there.

Tyan offers a 3.5" storage-oriented chassis (with 2.5" adapters) and a very standard motherboard design. Supermicro's system is more customized, including a PCIe riser, 80 PLUS Platinum PSUs, and the highest number of hot-swap bays of any enclosure in our round-up. Intel sells an even more customized riser design, similarly high-efficiency PSUs, configurable storage, and the largest price tag.

Each solution can be improved upon, we think. Tyan could benefit from more efficient power supplies to match Supermicro and Intel. Moreover, its adoption of a standards-compliant motherboard limits it to low-profile expansion cards. That's good if you want to upgrade the motherboard down the road, but that's a fairly rare occurrence in the server world, and it limits what you can plug in today. Supermicro offers fewer full-length slots than Intel, and Intel takes the advantage for custom expansion that takes networking, storage, and management cards without plugging up the PCIe slots. Unfortunately, Intel also requires that you buy a daughter card for dedicated IPMI 2.0/KVM-over-IP support, and it didn't give us a BMC reset through the MegaRAC GUI. Limited to eight 2.5" drives in the trim we received it, it also costs the most.

With those few critiques mentioned, each product has its strong points as well. Naturally, Tyan's solution is the easiest to upgrade in the future, given its standardized form factor. We also like the hot-swap bays with 2.5" adapters, able to accept either drive size, and the fact that Tyan also includes an on-board LSI-based SAS controller. For that, Tyan's system drops into the middle spot for pricing. Intel uses an absolutely massive motherboard to provide a very well-integrated solution with arguably the most expandability. The company's customization of the IPMI 2.0 WebGUI is attractive and easy to navigate. Meanwhile, Supermicro differentiates its solution with value pricing, a lot of room to add additional components, and high-capacity, efficient power supplies. In addition, Supermicro includes the largest number of hot-swap storage bays, on top of a nicely customized MegaRAC interface.

After extensive time spent testing and replacing components in each of these 2U servers deployed to a rack, the picture above sums up the order in which I'd rank them. The Supermicro chassis blends expandability and a feature-complete specification sheet into a package that compares well to the competition at a much lower price point (and with additional on-board options available.) Intel's submission actually came in above our round-up's price range. However, the inclusion of storage and networking expansion modules also gives the R2208GZ4GC a notable advantage in configurability, while preserving all six PCIe slots. Tyan's solution is very conservative, which pays off if you're a builder who plans to re-use the chassis for another motherboard in the future. We think it has the best redundant cooling implementation of the three contenders, too. The only reason it finishes behind Supermicro and Intel is because the other two vendors give you more room for memory, add-in expansion, and higher-efficiency power supplies.

With all of that said, even though these server systems are similar in many ways, there is clearly a niche for each. Realistically, an SMB buying from a VAR is going to end up with whichever vendor that reseller is using, and the configuration that makes the most sense for a given application or usage model.

Of course, we welcome any of your thoughts or feedback as look to continue our coverage of more enterprise-class products and technologies.

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  • 6 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , May 30, 2012 4:53 AM
    the charts are looking strange. they need to be reduced in size a bit....
  • 0 Hide
    EzioAs , May 30, 2012 5:55 AM
    Quote:
    the charts are looking strange. they need to be reduced in size a bit....


    I agree. Just reduce it a little bit but don't make it too hard to see
  • 0 Hide
    dogman_1234 , May 30, 2012 6:47 AM
    Cool. Now, can we compare these to Opteron systems?
  • 4 Hide
    TheBigTroll , May 30, 2012 11:06 AM
    no comparison needed. intel usually wins
  • 4 Hide
    willard , May 30, 2012 2:08 PM
    TheBigTrollno comparison needed. intel usually wins

    Usually? The E5s absolutely crush AMD's best offerings. AMD's top of the line server chips are about equal in performance to Intel's last generation of chips, which are now more than two years old. It's even more lopsided than Sandy Bridge vs. Bulldozer.
  • 2 Hide
    Malovane , May 30, 2012 2:09 PM
    dogman_1234Cool. Now, can we compare these to Opteron systems?


    As an AMD fan, I wish we could. But while Magny-Cours was competitive with the last gen Xeons, AMD doesn't really have anything that stacks up against the E5. In pretty much every workload, E5 dominates the 62xx or the 61xx series by 30-50%. The E5 is even price competitive at this point.

    We'll just have to see how Piledriver does.

  • 0 Hide
    jaquith , May 30, 2012 2:51 PM
    Hmm...in comparison my vote is the Dell PowerEdge R720 http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/poweredge-r720/pd?oc=bectj3&model_id=poweredge-r720 it's better across the board i.e. no comparison. None of this 'testing' is applicable to these servers.
  • 3 Hide
    lilcinw , May 30, 2012 6:04 PM
    Finally we have some F@H benches!! Thank you!

    Having said that I would suggest you include expected PPD for the given TPF since that is what folders look at when deciding on hardware. Or you could just devote 48 hours from each machine to generate actual results for F@H and donate those points to your F@H team (yes Tom's has a team [40051] and visibility is our biggest problem).
  • 1 Hide
    dogman_1234 , May 30, 2012 6:46 PM
    lilcinwFinally we have some F@H benches!! Thank you!Having said that I would suggest you include expected PPD for the given TPF since that is what folders look at when deciding on hardware. Or you could just devote 48 hours from each machine to generate actual results for F@H and donate those points to your F@H team (yes Tom's has a team [40051] and visibility is our biggest problem).

    The issue is that other tech sites promote their teams. We do not have a promotive site. Even while mentioning F@H, some people do not agree with it or will never want to participate. It is a mentality. However, it is a choice!
  • 2 Hide
    lilcinw , May 30, 2012 6:58 PM
    I don't expect promotion at this point, just basic recognition would be appreciated.
  • 1 Hide
    Luscious , May 30, 2012 9:05 PM
    I've seen a few 2U 4-node blade servers from Asus and Supermicro running dual-socket E5's - just the thought of populating a single 42U rack with those things makes the mind boggle (168 processors, 1344 cores, 2688 threads, 42TB of total RAM and 1008TB of storage).

    F@H on such a monster? Do the math and you'll see that just after one year of 24/7 operation you would rack up over 3 billion points, putting you in the top 10 for teams and no.1 spot for single user.

    That's assuming, of course, that you've forked out $20k for your monthly power bill to run that fully-stocked 42U rack and paid $240k to your utility company for the entire year. Then there's the cost of the hardware itself - around $26k for each 2U server, or around a cool $600,000.

    SPEND MONEY FAST
  • 0 Hide
    utomo88 , May 31, 2012 12:43 AM
    We need somebody to design new server which is powerful and can handle a lot of memory and harddisk and affordable price.
    all powerful server are expensive now.
    I believe market for cheap but powerful server are big, and no one is working on this area.
    I know the profit is not big, but by big quantity it mean big money too :) 
  • 0 Hide
    bit_user , May 31, 2012 2:45 AM
    Would be cool to test both a E5 Xeon and a Sandybridge-E of the same clock speed, in the same C602 motherboard (Supermicro's X9SRA), to see if DDIO has any performance impact on 3D and GPGPU benchmarks.
  • 0 Hide
    bit_user , May 31, 2012 8:11 AM
    Also, how about posting measuring the scaling from 1x 4core E5 Xeon -> 1x 8core E5 Xeon -> 2x 4core E5 Xeon?

    The point is that memory is directly connected to 1 CPU only. Adding a 2nd CPU doubles aggregate bandwidth, but could actually hurt performance, if the software isn't written to carefully to localize data and manage affinity between threads & CPUs.
  • 0 Hide
    _zxzxzx_ , May 31, 2012 2:44 PM
    Would be nice to see how these compare to the AMD systems.
  • 0 Hide
    saturn85 , June 2, 2012 6:22 PM
    nice folding@home benchmark.
    great work.
  • 0 Hide
    centosfan , June 4, 2012 10:14 PM
    Why don't you include HP DL series and the Dell R series. Those two companies have about 70% market share on the 2U Inter server market. I don't understand why you would exclude them. Most companies wouldn't buy anything but a Dell, HP or and IBM.
  • 1 Hide
    pjkenned , June 5, 2012 7:41 PM
    centosfanWhy don't you include HP DL series and the Dell R series. Those two companies have about 70% market share on the 2U Inter server market. I don't understand why you would exclude them. Most companies wouldn't buy anything but a Dell, HP or and IBM.


    That is something that we are looking at. This was more of a look at what is out there for barebones kits. I totally agree that these types of comparisons would be great.
  • 0 Hide
    DVFinn , June 19, 2012 8:15 PM
    I've been using Supermicro bare bones servers for a few years now and I love them. When it comes to performance per dollar there's no way to compare these systems with off the shelf dell or HP offerings. I've specced them out 20 ways and the bottom line is I can build nearly 2x the horsepower at significantly lower cost vs. a fully configured server from one of the big vendors. My newest SQL servers are 8xSSD Raid10 data sets and simple sata mirrors for the OS. 128GB RAM, dual, quad-core Xeons, adaptec 6805 controllers. About $5k each for the full build, and their chassis are so easy to work in the whole build takes less than 30 minutes before I'm loading the OS.
  • 0 Hide
    razor512 , August 24, 2012 11:14 AM
    utomo88We need somebody to design new server which is powerful and can handle a lot of memory and harddisk and affordable price.all powerful server are expensive now. I believe market for cheap but powerful server are big, and no one is working on this area.I know the profit is not big, but by big quantity it mean big money too


    That is already done (but as more of a work around) build a standard PC.
    Many high end gaming motherboards work well in a server environment, and can easily handle a high traffic website.
    Most web hosting does not need a super powerful server (which is why virtualization is so popular). If you are running a relatively small business and are not doing anything that is hugely CPU bound (eg, rendering) then you can save a bit of money with a decent desktop PC.