Boston Fenway 2104-0T review

A small rack server that’s well suited to small businesses hungry for high-performance storage

Price
£1,246
  • Full remote control and virtual media services enabled as standard;
  • No RAID5 support for SAS drives;

Boston's Fenway 2104-0T and its mighty hardware package are a pairing well-suited to a small business with big demands. It may be only 1U high, but the Fenway supports eight SATA or 12Gbits/sec SAS3 small-form-factor hotplug drives, and comes with dual 10GbE ports.

This all-Supermicro setup comprises a 53cm deep SuperChassis 113M and X11SSH-CTF microATX motherboard. The latter is a member of Supermicro's new data centre-optimised range and offers a heap of extra storage goodness.

Its embedded LSI 3008 SAS3 controller is cabled directly to the chassis' hybrid backplane via the dual onboard four-port connectors, which delivers 12Gbits/sec SAS speeds to all drive bays. However, it's disappointing that RAID options extend only to mirrors and stripes.

The motherboard is very versatile, with a row of eight SATA connectors down one side that team up with the Intel C236 chipset to offer mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays.

Unfortunately, these aren't employed in this implementation. The two orange-coloured SATA ports can be used for disk on modules (DOMs) and have dedicated 5V power sockets next to them.

You can add a single M-Key type SATA SSD using the motherboard's M.2 slot, while the internal USB 3 port can also be used to boot the server into a hypervisor.

The operating system is taken care of prior to delivery, because the price includes two 128GB Samsung 850 Pro SATA SSDs preconfigured as a mirrored array. Performance for this SSD mirror is impressive: with a 4KB Iometer block size, we recorded raw random read and write I/O rates of 103,000 and 31,000 IOPS respectively.

You'll have no problem getting inside to maintain the hardware itself. The lid is easy to remove, and exposes a tidy interior with all cabling neatly tucked out of the way. The system sports an entry-level 3GHz E3-1220 v5 Xeon CPU and, thanks to the four DIMM slots, you can boost the DDR4 memory to 64GB.

Cooling is handled by a bank of four dual-rotor fans with room for a fifth that services the expansion card. Noise levels from these and the dual PSUs may be an issue in a small office, because the SPLnFFT iOS app measured the server generating a slightly annoying 62dB.

Full remote management comes courtesy of the embedded remote management module (RMM) and its dedicated 10/100 port. The web interface isn't as attractive as those offered by Dell and HP, but it does provide plenty of data about critical components, email alerting and handy power consumption graphs.

The RMM has full remote control and virtual media services enabled as standard - Dell and HP expect you to buy a costly licence upgrade. There's also the free SuperDoctor 5 SNMP management utility, which presents a cheery interface chock-full of graphs and speedo dials for fans, temperatures and voltages.

The Fenway loses a point for its lack of RAID5 support for SAS drives, but this can be remedied with Supermicro's low-profile SAS3 PCI Express adapter card. It brings RAID6 and 60, plus 2GB of DDR3 cache, into the storage equation, but you'll need to specify a riser card since this wasn't included in the review system.

Power won't be a problem, because the price includes dual 600W hotplug PSUs. Furthermore, the Fenway is easy on the supply - we measured it drawing 60W in idle and peaking at only 84W, with the CPU being pummelled by the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking app.

Small and medium-sized businesses that are looking for a low-profile rack server with some serious storage features should take a closer look at Boston's Fenway 2104-0T. The dual SSDs provide a fast operating system repository, there's plenty of room to expand, and those embedded 10GbE ports just add even more to the Boston Fenway's appeal.

Verdict

Small and medium-sized businesses that are looking for a low-profile rack server with some serious storage features should take a closer look at Boston's Fenway 2104-0T. The dual SSDs provide a fast operating system repository, there's plenty of room to expand, and the embedded 10GbE ports just add even more to the Boston Fenway's appeal.

1U rack chassis

Supermicro X11SSH-CTF motherboard

3GHz E3-1220 v5 Xeon

16GB DDR4 2,133MHz UDIMM (max 64GB)

Intel C236/8 x SATA/RAID0, 1, 10, 5 l LSI 3008 SAS3/8 x SAS3/RAID0, 1, 10 l 2 x 128GB Samsung 850 Pro SSD

M.2 slot

PCI-E 3 l 2 x 10GBase-T

2 x 600W hotplug PSUs

RMM with 10/100

Supermicro SuperDoctor 5 l 3yr on-site NBD warranty

Measured power: 60W idle; 84W peak

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