We summarise the charts that tell the tech story of the past month.
Caption by: Alan Stevens
You wait for ages for a Xeon E5 server to be released, and then two come along together: the first example we reviewed was the Dell PowerEdge R720. Now it's the turn of the Fujitsu Primergy RX300 S7 which, as you'll see below, proved pretty impressive when put through its paces.
As with the PowerEdge, this seventh generation of the Primergy RX300 is a 2U rack-mount server, equipped with two sockets to take any of the new Xeon E5-2600 (Sandy Bridge-EP) processors that — after considerable delay — finally got their official launch at the beginning of March.
Both sockets were occupied on our review system, Fujitsu providing us with a pair of E5-2670 processors. These 8-core CPUs sit close to the top of the E5-2600 family tree with a clock speed of 2.6GHz; the E5-2670 also benefits from 20MB of L3 cache per processor plus a full set of 8.0GT/s QPI links and support for both HyperThreading and Turbo Boost 2.0, enabling individual cores to be accelerated to cope with peaks in demand.
To get an idea of CPU performance, we ran a number of benchmarks on both the Dell and Fujitsu servers, recording similar scores well in excess of what we'd expect from the older Xeon 5500/5600 processors that the E5 series succeeds. The Primergy RX300 S7 proved the equal of the PowerEdge R720 in pure number-crunching terms, even though the Dell server was equipped with slightly quicker 2.7GHz E5-2680 processors.
With 16 cores and 32 threads accompanied by 32GB of DDR-3 memory, expandable up to a massive 768GB in total, the Primergy RX300 S7 comes with a pretty impressive base configuration, enabling it to service a wide variety of applications. It doesn't quite fit the HPC mould (it's too big and expensive for that), but could easily host multiple databases or be put to work as a virtualisation host — both for virtual server deployment and in support of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
Chassis and storage options
The motherboard inside the 2U Fujitsu chassis has been comprehensively re-jigged compared to the earlier S6 model, with the processor sockets now in the middle surrounded by 24 DIMM slots for memory. A set of five hot-swap fans provide the necessary cooling, located just behind the storage at the front of the unit, with a single lift-off baffle to direct the airflow.
The RX300 S7's motherboard has centrally located CPU sockets surrounded by 24 DIMM slots — our review unit had 32GB of DDR3 RAM on 4 x 8GB modules
Like the previous model, the S7 can be ordered with a chassis to take either 3.5in. or 2.5in. disks. Our review unit had hot-swap bays to accommodate up to eight 2.5in drives, with the option of doubling that up to sixteen. Go for the 3.5in chassis, however, and it's a six-drive limit.
A 4-port SATA controller is built into the chipset on the Fujitsu motherboard and budget buyers could save money by using this to manage the storage. However, this configuration is somewhat limited and most customers will opt for a more capable plug-in RAID controller. Indeed, one of the available PCIe expansion slots is positioned close to the storage end of the chassis specifically to facilitate this option.
On our test server a fairly basic LSI MegaRAID controller was fitted into this slot — a 6Gbps card capable of handling both SATA and SAS setups. Just one disk was supplied for our tests, a 300GB, 10,000rpm enterprise-class SAS drive, although the adapter can cope with up to eight in total with several other SAS disks and SSD modules available.
On the downside this adapter only supports RAID 0, 1 and 10 arrays, so for many customers an alternative adapter with RAID 5/6 capabilities will be needed.
Networking and management
Four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and/or 10GbE on the motherboard are fast becoming the norm on this class of server, but the RX300 S7 still jogs along with just two GbE ports. Still, with six PCIe expansion slots available (the seventh, remember, is reserved for the storage controller) there's plenty of scope to add more; if you stick with Fujitsu, there's a good number of multiport Gigabit cards and 10GbE adapters to choose from.
A third Gigabit Ethernet port is to be found on the back panel, but this is dedicated to management, giving access to the embedded iRMC S3 remote management controller. This hasn't changed much since the S6 server was introduced and is still no match for Dell's Lifecycle Controller, soon to be replicated on HP ProLiants. However, it does provide web-based remote access with plenty of tools on offer here, including basic power controls. Moreover, if you opt for the Advanced licence upgrade (included in the price on the review system), a graphical remote console with remote media support can also be implemented.
The RX300 S7's iRMC remote management controller supports web-based remote access, including basic power monitoring tools
Finally, as befits a server designed with virtualisation in mind, there are a couple of options to enable the RX300 S7 to boot from an embedded hypervisor. There's no redundant SD option as on the Dell PowerEdge R720, but there is an internal port for a USB key plus a connector for a custom Fujitsu USB Flash module with 2GB of memory on-board.
Build quality on this server is good, with redundant power an option that most buyers will take up — our review unit had just one 800W PSU in place. It also proved very power efficient, and is a definite step forward in terms of processing capability compared to the previous S6 generation.
The Primergy RX300 S7 doesn't quite match Dell's PowerEdge R720 in terms of management features and Dell offers a lot more in the way of storage and other options, but it's still a good solution. It's on the expensive side, but deals are available from Fujitsu resellers and, overall, it's a scalable and affordable platform that can handle a wide variety of tasks.
Caption by: Alan Stevens
Caption by: Alan Stevens