Boston Fenway 2104-0C review

A low-cost rack server with the latest Xeon E3 v5 CPU and frighteningly fast NVMe SSD storage

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£1,745
  • Compact package; Exceptional speed;
  • No hyper-threading;

Boston's Fenway 2104-0C is a slimline 1U rack server packing Intel's latest Skylake Xeon E3v5 CPU. Aimed squarely at small to medium-sized businesses, the 11-member Skylake family of server CPUs delivers a choice selection of new features, most notably a drop from 22nm to 14nm and support for 64GB of fast DDR4 memory.

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The Fenway is built around the entry-level 3GHz E3-1220 v5, which has four cores, an 8MB L3 cache and a low 80W thermal design power (TDP). Support for Intel's Turbo Boost 2 lets it shift up to 3.5GHz in times of need, but Hyper-Threading is off the table.

This is an all-Supermicro package with the X11SSL-nF motherboard housed in a compact, 53cm-deep SC113 chassis. It may be short, but it stands tall in the features department, especially storage.

The chassis has eight hotplug small-form-factor (SFF) drive bays, in the last of which is a 400GB Intel MLC NVMe SSD. It's been neatly integrated into the chassis: the drive backplane has its pair of PCI Express 3 NVMe ports cabled directly to dedicated sockets on the motherboard.

The price also includes a quartet of 1TB Seagate SFF SATA hard disks. The C232 chipset supports RAID0, 1, 5 and 10 arrays, but Boston has sidestepped this and used Microsoft's Storage Spaces to provide a 2.7TB parity drive.

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This means the Seagate drives provide a data-storage repository with room to expand, while the operating system lounges on an NVMe SSD - and boy, is that Intel SSD quick.

Running Iometer with a 4K transfer request size, we recorded read and write throughputs for the SATA parity drive of 20,000 and 2,300 IOPS respectively. Running the same test on the SSD delivered stunning rates of 192,000 and 130,000 IOPS.

Cracking open the Fenway reveals a tidy interior, with the CPU wearing a big passive heatsink and flanked by four DIMM slots. All six SATA ports are cabled to the backplane, so you have two spare drive bays ready for action.

The two orange SATA ports can also be used for disk-on modules (DOMs) as they have dedicated 5V power sockets. At the rear are pairs of Gigabit, USB 3 and USB 2 connectors, while the 10/100 port above provides dedicated remote-management access to the embedded Remote Management Module (RMM) chip.

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The system has four dual-rotor cooling fans with room for two more, should you decide to use the single PCI Express expansion slot. Noise levels are noticeable, though, with the SPLnFFT iOS app measuring the server emitting an annoying 63dB.

The price includes dual 600W hotplug PSUs and we found the Fenway to be a power miser. With the system in idle, we measured it sipping 53W and peaking at only 93W with the CPU under extreme load from the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking app.

Its remote-management features won't threaten rivals such as HP and Dell, but the basic RMM web interface does provide sensor readouts for all key components, power consumption graphs and options to link thresholds with Single Network Management Protocol (SNMP) traps and email alerts. Usefully, you get full remote control and virtual media services as standard and not as optional extras.

Supermicro's SuperDoctor 5 SNMP management utility is bundled and, as long as the server is running Windows, you can access it locally or remotely via a web browser. You'll be greeted by colourful graphs and speed dials for fans, temperatures and voltages, plus an inventory view.

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Boston has put together a super server for the price, with the Fenway 2104-0C packing plenty of features into its space-saving chassis. The Xeon E3 v5 CPU provides oodles of processing power; it has room to grow in the storage department; and that superfast NVMe SSD means never having to worry about OS performance again.

Verdict

Boston has put together a super server for the price, with the Fenway 2104-0C packing plenty of features into its space-saving chassis. The Xeon E3 v5 CPU provides oodles of processing power; it has room to grow in the storage department; and that superfast NVMe SSD means never having to worry about OS performance again.

1U rack chassis Supermicro X11SSL-nF motherboard 3GHz Intel Xeon E3-1220 v5 16GB ECC UDIMM DDR4 RAM (max 64GB) 6x SATA3 2x NVMe 4x 1TB Seagate Constellation SFFSATA 400GB Intel P3500 NVMe SSD Supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 8x PCI-E slot 2x Gigabit Ethernet RMM with 10/100 Ethernet 2x 600W hotplug PSUs 3yr on-site NBD warranty Power: 53W idle; 93W peak

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