Broadberry CyberServe R272-Z31 review: Core blimey

A powerful, expandable rack server that’s perfect for businesses with an eye on core-based licensing

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£7,295 exc VAT (as reviewed)
  • Affordable for core-based licensing schemes
  • Installing your own drives won’t affect warranty
  • Powerful performance
  • No drives included
  • Default fan profile is noisy and power-hungry

AMD’s latest core-dense server CPUs are a huge challenge to Intel, and its three new 7Fx2 chips promise speeds, cache capacities and prices that their Xeon equivalents just can’t match.

Broadberry’s CyberServe R272-Z31 showcases their potential. It’s built around the EPYC 7F72 model, which features 24 cores, a 3.2GHz base clock speed that’s higher than the Xeon Scalable Platinum 8268 and a 192MB L3 cache that’s more than five times the size of its rival’s. It also supports up to 2TB of 3,200MHz RDIMM DDR4 memory, and a huge 128 PCIe 4 lanes.

While this is undeniably a high-end server, the R272-Z31 is good value for virtualisation, as it doesn’t attract VMware’s extra licensing charge for CPUs with more than 32 physical cores. Similar benefits apply if you’re running SQL databases with core-based licensing models.

Storage options are cost-effective too: the price above doesn’t include drives but, unlike some vendors, Broadberry leaves you free to source and fit your own, with no impact on the main warranty. An impressive 24 hot-swap SFF bays at the front with two more at the rear should be adequate for hyper-convergence duties, and all carriers are included in the price.

Architecturally, the CyberServe is built on a Gigabyte R272-Z31 2U barebones rack system. It’s a safe choice, as Gigabyte offers more EPYC 7002 server platforms than all the blue chips put together. It also means you get the benefit of Gigabyte’s modularised drive backplane, and a good choice of exchangeable expander boards. A total of one PCIe 3 and five PCIe 4 slots are on offer, and our system came with a single SAS 3/SATA backplane expander with all 26 bays connected to it and routed to a MegaRAID 9361-8i PCIe 3 card. If you want more storage performance, you can pay an extra £200 for the MegaRAID 9560-8i, the industry’s first PCIe 4 RAID card.

The Gigabyte design also includes a powerful cooling system, designed to cope with the high 240W TDP of the EPYC 7F72 CPU. By default, the four main fans in front of the motherboard spin at a huge 6,900rpm: this certainly keeps the CPU cool, but it’s very noisy, with our iPad recording sound levels of 73.5dB at one metre in front. It also drains a lot of power: after some experimentation in the server’s web-based remote management console, we settled on a profile that drops the fans to a calmer 4,200rpm when the CPU temperature is below 30°C, and only ramps them up when it goes above this. 

On that note, the AST2500 web console won’t be worrying the likes of Dell’s iDRAC9, but it provides plenty of information on critical components with views of all hardware sensors. It includes OS remote control and virtual media services as standard too, rather than optional upgrades.

You can additionally enable the built-in Gigabyte Server Management utility, which presents a web-based status dashboard for remotely monitored systems. The latest version 2.03 includes power consumption statistics for EPYC 7002 servers, plus (again) detailed views of installed hardware and sensors, fan speed graphs and tools for remote firmware upgrades. 

The CyberServe R272-Z31 is a very impressive server. With AMD’s powerful EPYC 7F72 at the helm, and a generous 256GB of RAM included in the price, it’s geared up for heavy-duty processing. At the same time, it lets you save money on per-core licensing and storage provision, making it an excellent all-round proposition that current Xeon Scalable systems simply can’t compete with. 

Broadberry CyberServe R272-Z31 specifications

Chassis

2U Gigabyte R272-Z31 rack server

CPU

3.2GHz 24-core AMD EPYC 7F72 

Memory

256GB 3,200MHz DDR4 RDIMM (max 2TB with LRDIMM)  

Storage bays

26 x SAS 3/SATA hot-swap SFF drive bays  

Storage included

N/A

PSU

2 x 800W hotplug PSUs  

RAID support

Avago 9361-8i PCIe 3 RAID card  

Network

2 x Gigabit Ethernet, AST2500 BMC with Gigabit Ethernet

Other ports

1 x PCIe 3, 5 x PCIe 4 slots  

Management

Gigabyte Server Manager software

Warranty

3yr advanced replacement warranty

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