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Three Xeon E5 Server Systems From Intel, Tyan, And Supermicro

Three Xeon E5 Server Systems From Intel, Tyan, And Supermicro
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After taking a first look at Intel's Xeon E5 processors, we wanted to round up a handful of dual-socket barebones platforms to see which vendor sells the best match for Sandy Bridge-EP-based chips. Intel, Supermicro, and Tyan are here to represent.

Recently, Chris Angelini wrote about the Xeon E5-2687W CPUs in Intel Xeon E5-2600: Doing Damage With Two Eight-Core CPUs. Chris was able to compare Intel's flagship model, with a 150 W TDP, to the two generations that preceded it, along with a Core i7-3960X on the desktop. Around the same time, we were trying to get our hands on a number of barebones server systems to compare against each other.

We ended up with three very different models from Supermicro, Tyan, and Intel, along with a pair of Xeon E5-2690 processors. The -2960s are the highest-end Sandy Bridge-EP-based chips available for the server market (Chris' -2687Ws are workstation-specific). All three systems occupy 2U of rack space and were designed to accommodate 135 W CPUs, along with tons of memory and several hard drives.

Although much of our attention is spent on enthusiast-oriented desktop hardware and mobile technology, there's unquestionably an allure to a 16-core, 32-thread machine (cooled with passive heat sinks) sporting up to 768 GB of memory, redundant high-efficiency power supplies, hot-swap SAS bays, and all of the other features we associate with higher-end servers. The features found in this space are often precursors to capabilities that trickle down to the desktop, after all.

Three Intel Xeon E5-2600 2U Barebones SystemsThree Intel Xeon E5-2600 2U Barebones Systems

Two of the three platforms in this round-up employ custom-designed motherboards with accompanying 2U enclosures built to fit them. This type of proprietary design is common in the server segment, and it represents a significant departure from the desktop world where proprietary designs are often shunned by builders in favor of standard form factors and the interoperability benefits they bring. In servers, however, more custom layouts allow vendors to optimize cable routing and cooling, optimize expansion capabilities, and lower power consumption.

Again, the three vendors participating in this round-up are Supermicro, Intel, and Tyan. Gigabyte and Asus were invited as well, but weren't able to provide samples in time for our story. Intel provided two of its newest Xeon E5-2690 CPUs to serve as the test chips in this review. The Xeon E5-2690 is the highest-end non-workstation E5-2600-series CPU Intel sells, and it is rated at a 135 W TDP. Because 2U enclosures do pose thermal challenges, which in turn can impact power consumption, these are ideal test mules for this story. And we wanted to use barebones systems for our evaluation because they function as a foundation for servers, and are meant to be populated with a range of CPUs, memory, storage, and expansion cards.

Today, we're going to be looking at the hardware contained within each platform, along with its remote management capabilities. Although manufacturers don't release exact numbers on the number of systems sold with remote management and KVM-over-IP functionality, informal estimates point to 70% or more of these types of systems including remote management features. It is clearly an important consideration, and something Intel has put emphasis on with its enterprise desktop vPro initiative. Once we look at the systems themselves, we'll have a look at warranty and support options, the relative performance of each system, power consumption, and acoustics.

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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.