Supermicro SuperWorkstation 5037A-iL: Our LGA 1155 Test Platform
Supermicro set us up with two workstation platforms for our exploration. The first is LGA 1155-capable for the Xeon E3-1275 and -1275 v2 CPUs. The second, which we'll look at on the next page, is an updated version for the Haswell-based Xeon E3-1275 v3.
The SuperWorkstation 5037A-iL employs Supermicro's CSE-732D4F-500B mid-tower chassis. It's painted black, as the end of its model number suggests. From the outside, we only see a few key features; everything else is conservatively covered. Right off the bat, we notice the front panel's vented 5.25" optical drive bay covers, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and front-panel audio connectors.
This is a workstation case, so the top of the chassis doesn't have a fan mount. Instead, all airflow is directed from the front to the rear of the enclosure. In the back, we see the 500 W, 80 Plus Bronze-certified power supply vent, a 120 mm fan below it, and externally-accessible expansion slots. The side panel employs a combination of screws and a toolless latch to keep the system sealed up.
Inside the chassis we see the toolless 3.5" drive mounting solution, which can pivot out by simply activating a lever and giving the cage a nudge. Doing so provides quick access to four hard drive bays.
Disks are snapped into a plastic carrier; that carrier then slides into the chassis. This quick mounting mechanism eliminates drive screws.
Supermicro taps its X9SAE motherboard for use in the barebones platform. This is an interesting ATX motherboard because it centers on Intel's C216 chipset, enabling support for LGA 1155 processors and their integrated graphics engines. The X9SAE includes VGA and two HDMI outputs. As you likely noticed already, there's a big difference between the X9SAE's layout and what enthusiasts expect to find on desktop-oriented boards.
The platform's DIMM slots align with the case's front to back (or east to west) airflow. Enthusiast motherboards tend to have memory slots oriented top to bottom (or north to south), exploiting the airflow of those systems, which often involves exhaust up top. Clearly, this is a configuration for entry-level servers and workstations. That's why we're dropping Intel's Xeon E3-1275 and -1275 v2 processors into it.
Ethernet connectivity is handled by Intel 82579LM and 82574L controllers. If you're not already familiar with server and workstation networking, the 82574L is a roughly five-year-old controller. Its BOM cost is significantly higher than what a motherboard vendor would pay for a competing solution, but the benefit is great operating system support, speed, and stability. Even hardware-limited environments like Solaris and VMware ESXi work out of the box with Intel's 82574L because it's such a dominant building block in the server space. The 82579LM PHY, on the other hand, is integrated into the platform. Since it made its introduction alongside the Sandy Bridge architecture, many operating systems need additional drivers to get it working.
Storage support is typical for C216-based motherboards. There are four SATA 3Gb/s and two SATA 6Gb/s ports on-board. This is one area where Haswell-class hardware improves on the generations prior.
As a workstation, the A in Supermicro's model name indicates that the X9SAE includes up to 7.1-channel integrated audio, facilitated by Realtek's ALC889 codec. The board also includes a S/PDIF header for optical output.
Add-in cards are accommodated by one 16-lane PCI Express 3.0 slot, two second-gen PCIe x4 slots (one of which is exposed through a x8 slot), two, single-lane links, and a legacy 32-bit PCI slot. Coupled with Supermicro's SC732 chassis, the platform includes a retention mechanism for large discrete graphics cards.
Other notable platform features include four USB 3.0 ports and up to eight USB 2.0 ports for peripheral connectivity. Although there is only one fan that comes bundled, there are five on-board fan headers. A 64 Mb EEPROM with AMI firmware is also included, which should handle most system needs.