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

The Rules, Contenders, And Test Setup

We set some ground rules for the vendors that wanted to participate in this story. The manufacturers received instruction that all platforms were to have:

  • At least two LGA 2011 interfaces supporting at least 135 W CPUs to accommodate the Xeon E5-2690 processors we planned to use.
  • At least two gigabit Ethernet ports (excluding any dedicated IPMI NIC.) Most server motherboards already include at least two gigabit ports. Although some vendors offer solutions with four or more on-board ports, we wanted the option for at least two.
  • IPMI or similar remote monitoring and KVM-over-IP integrated or through an included add-in module. Nobody has industry-wide numbers breaking out how many servers have IPMI 2.0 and remote KVM-over-IP built-in versus provided by an external controller, though we've heard that as many as 70% of these platforms ship with these features.
  • No additional SAS controller (such as an value-added LSI SAS2008). However, PCH-enabled SAS is OK. One of the major new features with the Patsburg chipset is its ability to enable up to eight SAS 3Gb/s ports using an on-die Storage Controller Unit. This is really an aggressive move by Intel, as LSI sells many of its own controllers that augment Intel-based servers. If Intel can achieve parity with LSI in terms of features, then this will become a major industry trend.
  • No built-in InfiniBand or 10 GbE, as typical servers in this segment do not have those more enterprise-oriented extras as integrated features. Vendors do offer solutions with them, but in lower volumes.
  • A price, including any required accessories, below $1800. This figure may seem high, but it is actually very close to average for a barebones chassis, motherboard, and redundant power supplies in the segment we're targeting.

Generally, most vendors complied with our list, which made our comparison easier. There were a few exceptions, which we'll note as we go through the story. Notice that we didn't ask the manufacturers to adhere to a size restriction, since we wanted to make sure that vendors had the flexibility to submit different types of servers. As the picture on the previous page reveals, all three vendors submitted 2U chassis. That's a pretty telling indicator of what the industry considers its sweet spot.

The other key piece of this puzzle is the processors we're using. Intel sent two Xeon E5-2690 CPUs, which are very similar to the workstation E5-2687W parts reviewed previously (except that 200 MHz of base clock rate is sacrificed for a 15 W-lower TDP, a trade-off that makes sense in a cramped 2U enclosure). The Sandy Bridge-EP-based Xeon E5 platform's new features were covered in this short video, which is worth watching as an overview.

Another important consideration was our choice of memory. Trying to be vendor-agnostic, Micron, Kingston, and Samsung memory were all used with each barebones system. Also, the systems were tested with both unbuffered ECC and registered DIMMs. After verifying that compatibility was uniform across each system, we settled on registered DIMMs for testing, since they're most common in dual-processor servers.

Test Hardware
Processors2 x Intel Xeon E5-2690W (Sandy Bridge-EP) 2.9 GHz, Eight Cores, LGA 2011, 8 GT/s QPI, 20 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
BarebonesSupermicro 6027R-N3RF4+
Tyan GN70-K7053 (S7053 + KGN70M1)
Intel R2208GZ4GC "Grizzly Pass"
MemoryMicron 64 GB (16 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333CL9 Registered ECC
Samsung 64 GB (16 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333CL9 Registered ECC
Kingston 32 GB (16 x 4 GB) DDR3-1333 CL9 Unbuffered
Hard Drive2 x OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB in RAID 0
GraphicsOn-board graphics from each platform
Power SupplyIncluded power supplies from each platform
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate 64-bitUbuntu Linux 10.10 64-bit

An abbreviated test suite was used for this round-up, since the performance differences between platforms ended up being very slight (in light of common processors and memory). All tests were run using a clean installation of Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit, except the Folding@Home test that used Ubuntu Linux 10.10 64-bit. The older version of Ubuntu is probably the most widely-used distribution for this application, as it produces consistently high performance.

Benchmarks and Settings
Applications
Adobe After EffectsVersion: CS5.5Tom's Hardware Workload, SD project with three picture-in-picture frames, source video at 720p, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously
Adobe PhotoshopVersion: CS5Tom's Hardware Workload, Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates filters
Adobe Premiere ProVersion: CS5.5Paladin Workload, Maximum Render Quality, H.264 Blu-ray profile
Euler3DCFD simulation over NACA 445.6 aeroelastic test wing at Mach .5
3ds Max 2012Version: 10 x64Rendering Space Flyby Mentalray (SPECapc_3dsmax9), Frame: 248, Resolution: 1440 x 1080
Visual Studio 2010Compile Chrome project (1/31/2012) with devenv.com /build Release
Folding@Home6903 Work Unit under Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit-smp -bigadv CLI client parameters
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
Cinebench 11.5CPU Test, Built-in benchmark
  • mayankleoboy1
    the charts are looking strange. they need to be reduced in size a bit....
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    9532821 said:
    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
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    Cool. Now, can we compare these to Opteron systems?
    Reply
  • TheBigTroll
    no comparison needed. intel usually wins
    Reply
  • willard
    TheBigTrollno comparison needed. intel usually winsUsually? 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.
    Reply
  • Malovane
    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.

    Reply
  • jaquith
    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.
    Reply
  • lilcinw
    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 and visibility is our biggest problem).
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    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 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!
    Reply
  • lilcinw
    I don't expect promotion at this point, just basic recognition would be appreciated.
    Reply