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Broadberry CyberServe XE5-RS720 review

Verdict

A basic Xeon E5-2600 storage server with plenty of expansion potential and a very low price

Review Date: 2 Jan 2013

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £1,875 (£2,250 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

Asus may not have the same kudos as Dell or HP in the rack server market, but it does offer a good range of affordable, basic alternatives. The CyberServe XE5-RS720 showcases the company’s latest 2U offering, which it’s pitching directly against Dell’s PowerEdge R720.

The RS720 comprises Asus’ RS720-X7/RS8 platform and Z9PR-D12 motherboard. Build quality isn’t as sophisticated as Dell’s R720, but it’s solid enough. The chassis has room at the front for eight LFF hot-swap hard disks, and the price of the review system includes a couple of 1TB Seagate SATA drives. Unlike Dell’s R720, there are no backplane options for SFF drives.

Even so, storage options are extensive. Behind the expansion slots sit four SATA II ports and to their right is a pair of SATA III ports. In between is a quartet of ports labelled ISAS, but which support only SATA II devices.

Broadberry CyberServe XE5-RS720

The reason for this strange brew is that the first group of six ports can be set in the BIOS to use either the embedded Intel RSTe or LSI MegaRAID controller. This enables them to support RAID5 in Windows, or mirrors and stripes with Linux. The ISAS ports are managed by the Intel RSTe chip and support software-managed mirrors, stripes and RAID5 in Windows only. And then there are the eight embedded SAS 2 ports down one side of the board. These come into play with Asus’ optional PIKE (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) modules.

These boards plug into a few proprietary slots on the edge of the motherboard and enable the SAS ports. Four are available; the latest PIKE 2108 module costs around £290, and supports 6Gbits/sec SATA III and SAS 2 drives plus hardware-managed RAID5, 6, 50 and 60 arrays.

The potential for expansion is excellent. Along with the PIKE slots, the motherboard has seven PCI Express slots for half-height cards. You won’t need to upgrade the network hardware; there are already four embedded Gigabit ports to play with. There’s plenty of processing power on tap, too, with support for the latest E5-2600 Xeons. The price includes a single 2GHz E5-2620 module sporting 15MB of L3 cache, a 7.2GT/sec QPI, and supporting memory speeds up to 1,333MHz.

The server’s front panel is spacious. Along with the drive bays, there’s room for a DVD drive, two USB ports and status LEDs for power, drive activity, network ports and temperature warnings. You’ll have to be careful around the power and reset buttons, though: these aren’t recessed and it’s very easy to press them accidentally.

Broadberry CyberServe XE5-RS720

The RS720 isn’t the best choice as a virtualisation platform since it has only 12 DIMM sockets – half the capacity of many competing 2U rack servers. It does have an onboard USB port for booting into a hypervisor, but the Dell R720 and its dual SD cards win the day for hypervisor redundancy.

Internal design is reasonably tidy, with clear access to major components. However, with SATA ports dotted all over the motherboard, you’ll need to keep your interface cabling tidy to avoid impeding access to the PCI Express slots.

The server came with a single 770W power supply; for £120, a second can be added for redundancy. Power consumption is commendably low: we measured the server pulling 75W with Windows Server 2008 R2 in idle and peaking at 126W under heavy load from SiSoft Sandra.

Remote server management is provided by Asus’ embedded ASMB6-iKVM chip. It doesn’t come close to HP’s iLO4 or Dell’s iDRAC7 for features, but its web console provides plenty of sensor information and remote access to the server’s power.

The CyberServe XE5-RS720 fits the bill nicely if you’re looking for a basic, dependable storage server with Xeon E5-2600 grunt under the lid. It can’t match the classy build quality and superior features of Dell’s PowerEdge R720, but a price tag that’s more than £600 cheaper goes a long way to make up for these deficiencies.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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