Three Xeon E5 Server Systems From Intel, Tyan, And Supermicro

Supermicro 6027R-N3RF4+: Management Features And Serviceability

Supermicro utilizes the AMI MegaRAC line of management processors to provide out-of-band remote management. This is not a complete review of the management features and BIOS settings (that'd take 10 pages per system). But I did want to provide a quick overview for anyone not yet familiar with these capabilities.

One of Supermicro's biggest differentiators is the ability to mount images from network shares. Although that doesn't seem like critical functionality, it is very useful. A common practice is to store drive images on a network share. Using most other solutions, you have to map a network share to the drive, then use remote management to mount those images to the server. The issue there is that if you're installing an operating system, for example, and then lose network connectivity on the system you're using (let's say a notebook goes to sleep when you walk away), the image is no longer accessible and the installation fails. Also, bandwidth is consumed from the administration end point because data has to be passed from the network share to the administrator's machine, and then from the administrator's machine to the server. Directly mounting images on the server takes your admin system out of the equation.

You can see that there are fairly standard MegaRAC power controls in Supermicro's implementation.

The company provides a lot of settings related to user authentication and e-mail alert notifications.

Monitoring is another necessity in remote management, and Supermicro provides access to fan speeds and temperatures. Personally, I use Supermicro IPMIview 2.0 rather than the IPMI management most of the time because it lets me monitor more than one system at a time.

Using the KVM-over-IP features, you can do a few things that SSH, VNC, and RDC cannot do, such as remote troubleshooting from POST. An administrator can use the Java-based application to see exactly what is being shown on the VGA port, and then use his keyboard and mouse as if it were plugged into the server's own USB ports (with a few exceptions). For commands like Ctrl-Alt-Del that normally trigger a local system event, MegaRAC uses macros to get those commands out remotely.

Supermicro's solution exposes the 3 Gb/s SAS ports on Intel's C606 chipset, and their status is easily monitored in the BIOS.

As in the automotive world, green is a key concept in data centres since there are real cost-savings to be had. Supermicro does have a number of power-saving features that are configurable in its firmware.

One more feature before we move on to Tyan's offering: Supermicro offers the ability to control iSCSI settings in its BIOS. This is fairly important if you boot servers to iSCSI shares.

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  • Dr_M0rph3us
    An impressively well-written article, top to bottom, included all the information a barebones server review should have. I'm looking forward for more similar enterprise-oriented articles. Congrats!