Boston Fenway 2224-0T review

Boston’s Fenway server scores home runs for value, power and performance

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£4,999
  • Fast NVMe SSD storage; Dual Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors; SAS3 RAID controller; Room to expand; Good price
  • Flimsy CPU air shrouds; Sticky button releases on lid

Boston's Fenway 2224-0T is a server aimed at businesses that want something of everything. This 2U rack system combines the latest E5-2600 v4 Xeons with fast 2,400MHz DDR4 memory, soups it up with a healthy dose of NVMe SSD storage and delivers it all at a sensible price.

It's an all-Supermicro system comprising its SuperServer 6028U-TNRT+ rack platform. You don't get to choose your motherboard as the chassis is specifically designed for the X10DRU-i+ model with Supermicro supplying the system fully assembled.

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This is because the four front drive bays to the right are dedicated to NVMe SSD storage with orange markers on the carriers to denote this. The drive backplane has four dedicated connectors cabled to a riser card at the rear. The riser card is plugged into a row of proprietary PCI-Express slots on the motherboard.

The system is also only available with two processors installed. The reason is quite simple as it uses CPU1 to activate the NVMe riser card and CPU2 to enable the standard PCI-Express riser cards across the way.

The system requires both CPUs installed to enable the NVMe ports and all PCI-Express slots

Storage connections

The Fenway has plenty of storage permutations as, along with the four NVMe SSD bays, its SAS3-ready backplane services all eight standard hot-swap drive bays. The motherboard has ten embedded 6Gbps SATA3 ports and its chipset supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays. 

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Boston improves your storage outlook further by including a Supermicro AOC-S3108L-H8IR RAID card. This delivers 12Gbps SAS3 support plus RAID6 to the first eight drive bays and has 2GB of onboard DDR3 cache.

To keep costs down, Boston chose four 6TB WD Enterprise SATA drives to provide a high-capacity data storage repository. The price includes a 400GB Intel DC P3500 MLC NVMe SSD for the OS and our tests confirmed that it is exceedingly fast with Iometer reporting 4KB random read and write rates of 282,000 and 50,000 IOPS.

Under the lid

We aren't fans of Supermicro's button release latches on its rack server lids. These can be very stiff making it difficult to remove the lid this was doubly annoying when the server was dangling out the front of our rack cabinet on fully extended rails. 

However, once inside we found the well-designed interior afforded easy access to all components. Our review system included a pair of 2.2GHz E5-2650 v4 Xeons with twelve physical cores apiece, a fat 30MB L3 cache, a 9.6GT/sec QPI speed and the ability to turbo boost core speeds to 2.9GHz in times of great need.

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The price includes 64GB of 2,400MHz DDR4 memory and with 24 DIMM slots up for grabs, there's plenty of room for more. The motherboard supports up to 768GB of RDIMM memory and a whopping 1.5TB using more expensive LR-DIMMs.

Expansion and power

With the two processors in residence, all seven PCI-Express slots are activated. These comprise five full-height plus two low-profile versions - the three cages are easily removed simply by pulling out a small locking tab behind each one.

The embedded RMM provides a simple web interface for remotely managing the server

Cooling is handled efficiently by four hot-swap fan modules, but we were disappointed by the flimsy plastic air shrouds covering the CPUs. Even so, they work well enough as air directors. The fans were also quiet with the server emitting 56dB on their optimal setting and only 51dB with the PUE2 (power usage effectiveness) mode set.

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Power won't be a problem either as the Fenway is endowed with two 1kW Titanium Plus hot-plug PSUs. Even though the Xeons have a 105W TDP, we clocked the system pulling 186W in idle and peaking at a very acceptable 285W under the load of our benchmarks. For comparison, HP's ProLiant DL380 Gen9 and its dual 14-core 2.3GHz E5-2695 v3 Xeons hit 352W under load.

Server management

Along with dual embedded 10GBase-T data ports, the server has a dedicated Fast Ethernet port for remote server management. The web interface isn't a patch on Dell's iDRAC8 or HP's iLO4, but it does provide valuable sensor information on key components and the facilities to link thresholds to SNMP traps and email alerts. 

The RMM provides information on all key sensors which can be linked to alerts

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It provides historical graphs of power consumption, a separate screen for viewing details of installed NVMe SSDs and remote power controls are provided too. Supermicro scores extra points for value as the controller includes full OS remote control and virtual media services as standard and not, as with HP and Dell, as expensive upgrades.

Surprisingly, Supermicro includes full OS remote control at no extra cost

Supermicro also includes its free SuperDoctor 5 SNMP Windows management utility. Using a web browser, we could access the server locally or remotely and view a gaudy graphical display of fan speeds, voltages, temperatures, disks and memory.

The SuperDoctor SNMP app provides a cheery dashboard full of coloured graphs and speedo dials

Conclusions

Boston's Fenway 2224-0T is great value as equivalent systems from some of the blue chips will set you back at least 1,000 more. It combines the latest Xeon E5-2600 v4 processing power with SAS3 support plus fast NVMe SSD storage and, apart from a couple of minor build quality issues, is well designed with plenty of headroom to handle demanding business apps.

Verdict

Boston delivers a powerful and affordable 2U rack server package with Xeon E5 v4 CPUs, fast NVMe SSD storage and plenty of opportunities to expand

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Chassis: 2U Supermicro SuperServer 6028U-TNRT+

Motherboard: Supermicro X10DRU-i+

CPU: 2 x 2.2GHz E5-2650 v4 Xeon

Memory: 64GB 2,400MHz 1.2V DDR4 RDIMM (max 1.5TB with LR-DIMMs)

Storage: 400GB Intel DC P3500 NVMe (max 4), 4 x 6TB WD 6Gbps SATA HDDs (max 8)

RAID: Supermicro AOC-S3108L-H8IR SAS3 PCI-Express card/2GB DDR3 cache

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 50, 6, 60

Expansion: 7 x PCI-Express Gen3 slots

Network: 2 x embedded 10GBase-T

Power: 2 x 1000W Titanium Plus hot-plug PSUs

Management: Supermicro RMM with 10/100 port

Warranty: Three years on site NBD

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