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Broadberry CyberServe XE3-RS300 review

Perfectly priced for small businesses, the XE3-RS300 offers an expandable and versatile rack package

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Asus may not enjoy the same reputation as Dell or HP in the rack server market, but it's fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. This machine is a case in point. As a showcase of the company's latest RS300-E9-RS4 platform, Broadberry claims its CyberServe XE3-RS300 has more expansion features than any other Xeon E3 system on the market.

Broadberry has put the XE3-RS300's attributes to good use. Although it has room for only four LFF hot-swap drives across the front panel, it's what lies beneath that's of most interest. The Asus P10S-C motherboard has two M.2 SATA slots, both of which are populated by 120GB Intel Series 350 SSDs.

The thinking here is to put the OS on a pair of fast, mirrored SSDs and use the front bays as a high-capacity data store. It certainly worked for us, because - when we put the system through its paces in Iometer - the SSD mirror turned in raw sequential read and write rates of 640MB/sec and 490MB/sec respectively.If M.2 SSDs aren't your cup of tea, don't worry: the chassis also has an internal cage for two standard SATA SSDs. Installing them is easy, with the interface cables and power connectors ready and waiting.

All of the SATA ports are handled by the Intel C232 chipset, which incorporates Intel's Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (RSTe) RAID controller. Stripes, mirrors and RAID5 arrays are available, all of which can be managed and monitored using a Windows utility.

In our review system, the front bays were unpopulated, but any SATA drive could be installed in those slots. We tested them by plugging in off-the-shelf 2TB WD Enterprise drives while the server was running, and they popped up in the RSTe utility ready for RAID use.

The CyberServe can also handle high-performance 12Gbits/sec SAS3 drives. Asus has a range of Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion (PIKE) SAS3 RAID PCI Express cards, of which the 3008-4i4e model offers four-port internal and external connectors.

Networking is well catered for, too. The server has four embedded Gigabit ports and can be upgraded to 10GbE speeds, while Asus itself provides a good selection of single or dual-port copper and fibre PCI Express adapters.

The price includes dual hotplug 450W PSUs and our tests showed that their power consumption was commendably low. In idle, we measured a draw of only 37W, which rose to a modest 78W with the 3GHz E3-1220 v5 CPU under extreme load.

Broadberry has clearly spent time considering the cooling in this server. The CPU socket sports two heat pipes routed to a small radiator in front, serviced by three dual-rotor fans. It kept the CPU temperature under control, but the effect was spoilt by the noisy PSU fans, the sound from which our iPad measured at 63dB.

The ASMB8-iKVM plug-in controller, which is included in the price, handles remote management and activates the dedicated network port. The simple web interface provides views of critical components and provides access to power controls. It includes KVM-over-IP remote control and virtual media services as standard, and a particularly neat feature is the auto video recording that kicks in when critical hardware events occur.

Centralised server management comes courtesy of Asus' free ASWM Windows utility, which is much improved here with a fully automated install routine and a main interface refresh. The console deploys an agent to each managed server and uses it to pull in details on hardware and performance, while fault monitoring sends out email alerts and SNMP traps.

Noisy PSU fans aside, there's little to fault in the CyberServe XE3-RS300, which is a fine hardware package at a good price. SMBs will appreciate its versatile storage arrangement, combining top SSD performance with plenty of growth space to keep up with future demand.

This review originally appeared in PC Pro issue 260.

1U rack chassis

Asus P10S-C/4L/SYS motherboard

3GHz E3-1220 v5 Xeon

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

Intel C232/RSTe

supports RAID0, 1, 10, 5

4 x LFF hotplug drive bays

2 x SATA SSD bays

2 x 120GB Intel Series 350 M.2 SSDs

2 x PCI-E 3

4 x Gigabit Ethernet

2 x 450W hotplug PSUs

Asus ASMB8-iKVM with 10/100

Asus ASWM software

3yr on-site NBD warranty

Measured power: 37W idle, 78W peak

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