Supermicro RTG RZ-1280i review
A low-cost Xeon E5-2600 rack server, but storage features are a mess and it’s noisy
Review Date: 8 Feb 2013
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: £1,668 (£2,002 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Supermicro’s RZ-1280i rack server is designed for businesses that need a powerful rack server for a rush job, but want to get the most of their investment in the long term. As one of the new RTG (Ready To Go) family, it’s available from stock for overnight next-business-day delivery, but offers plenty of expansion space so it can keep up with demand.
To ensure the delivery terms are met, the RTG servers are available in only fixed configurations. The price includes a Silver warranty, which provides three-year, on-site, next-business-day cover during office hours on weekdays. Cover can be upgraded to a Gold warranty for same-day, four-hour response, or Platinum cover, which gives you full 24/7 protection.
Storage options seem plentiful. There’s room up front for eight SFF hot-swap hard disks, with our fixed configuration including a single 300GB Toshiba SAS 2 hard disk. The server’s unusual dual-controller arrangement presents limitations, however.
A peek under the lid reveals an LSI SAS9211-4i PCI Express RAID card, which supports up to four hard disks in mirrors or stripes, cabled to the four left-hand drive bays. The motherboard itself has a real mess of SATA ports. It offers two SATA III, four SATA II and a separate SATA II/SCU quad-port connector linked via an iPass fan-out cable to the remaining four drive bays.
The SATA ports are handled by the embedded Intel C602 chipset, which offers mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays across them all. What this effectively boils down to is the RZ-1280i supports 6Gbits/sec SAS drives as JBODs, mirrors and stripes in the left-hand four bays and SATA drives with RAID5 in the four other bays.
The server’s horsepower comes in the shape of a 1.8GHz E5-2603 Xeon, which is the slowest of Intel’s basic Xeon E5 family. It has four cores, 10MB of L3 cache, a 6.4GT/sec QPI, but it doesn’t support either Turbo Boost or Hyper-Threading.
Upgradability is reasonable. The motherboard has 16 DIMM slots, although only eight are active here – you’ll need to add a second processor to enable them all, a feature common to all Xeon E5-2600 servers. Two 4GB DDR3 modules are included, and it’s worth noting the E5-2603 Xeon supports only 1,066MHz memory speeds. With the RAID card in residence, there’s room for one more full-height, half-length PCI Express card. Two embedded Gigabit ports are provided and a useful new feature is their support for IP SAN boot.
Cooling is handled by five dual-rotor cold-swap fans and airflow is aided by a clear plastic cover over the motherboard. Power redundancy is provided by a pair of hefty 700W hotplug supplies, and overall consumption isn’t bad for a 1U rack server. However, we found the PSU fans were noisy.
With one supply inserted we measured a power draw of 60W in idle, and 79W with the SiSoft Sandra benchmark app running. With both supplies fitted, the idle draw went up to 88W; under load it hit 99W.
Remote management comes as standard, with an embedded RMM chip and dedicated network port. Although nothing radical, Supermicro has finally seen fit to redesign the web interface to make it more informative. There’s now a table of sensor readings for critical components, along with a thumbnail view of the server’s screen and a pie chart of the event log. KVM-over-IP remote control is a standard feature and can be accessed directly from the homepage with a single click. This also provides virtual media services, so you can present a device on the guest PC to the server and use it to boot from. Another new feature allows the remote control screen to be recorded for a number of seconds.
For storage and RAID management, the server takes a two-pronged approach. The MegaRAID Storage Manager web application takes care of the LSI raid card, while Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise utility manages the embedded SATA ports. The latter provides tools for creating RAID arrays and sending email alerts if drive problems are detected.
You usually pay a premium for next-day delivery, but the RTG RZ-1280i provides decent value for money, providing a comprehensive selection of hardware components for the price. However, the mismatched array of storage ports and dual RAID controllers, plus the unpleasant noise levels, reduce its appeal.
Author: Dave Mitchell
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