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

Intel R2208GZ4GC: Layout And Overview, Continued

Expansion slots are enabled through two riser cards, which allow for up to six single-slot add-in devices in total. Intel also offers its own proprietary network and RAID cards. You can see the spot at the bottom-right corner of the rear panel that takes NICs, such as a dual-SFP+ X540-based Intel 10 GbE upgrade. Intel armed our machine with a dual-port 10 GbE controller, but we pulled it out to maintain better parity with the other systems, per our round-up request.

The rear I/O panel does not use a standard shield design, similar to Supermicro's offering. Intel does this to accommodate a pair of what it calls PCIe 3.0 super-slots (24-lane slots that enable three x8 connectors each) for expansion. Built-in I/O includes four 8P8C female jacks driven by Intel's bridgeless i350 controller, three USB ports, a serial-over-LAN port, VGA output, and a dedicated KVM-over-IP port enabled by a small daughter card.

Like Supermicro, Intel uses a shroud to guide airflow around its CPUs and memory. Intel's cooler employs a much lower-profile design, though, that looks like it'd even work in a 1U enclosure. As we'll see in the benchmarks, both solutions are able to keep our Xeon E5 processors at their full multi-core Turbo Boost clock rates for our entire test period. Atop of the Lexan air shroud, Intel provides two 2.5" mounting points probably best used for SSDs.

As we've mentioned, Intel sells a variety of proprietary add-on board options that let you install an upgrade without plugging up a PCI Express slot. Some of the options include 10 GbE Ethernet, LSI-based RAID controllers, and specialized management cards. In the picture above, you can see both the dedicated KVM-over-IP board and LSI-based storage card. Neither Tyan nor Supermicro make KVM-over-IP something you have to buy separately, and with so many servers shipping with that functionality already, it would have been nice to see Intel make that a standard feature, rather than an upsell.

Intel's server system, like Supermicro's, exposes eight 3 Gb/s SAS ports via a pair of SFF-8087 connectors in the middle of the board. Given that this platform has eight 2.5" bays, 6 Gb/s connectivity would have made more sense, which is probably why Intel outfitted our review unit with the LSI SAS 2208-based RAID card.