Four AMD horses on a budget
Appro’s 4148HS-82 quad-Opteron server packs punch, compromises I/OFollow @pvenezia
Most applications for four-processor servers are heavy. Big databases and HPC (high-performance computing) implementations can make the most of the horsepower provided by the bigger iron, whereas lighter-weight tasks — such as Web serving, file serving, and application servers — are best suited to dual-processor systems. Appro’s 4148HS-82 borrows from both worlds.
As with anything that promises more for less, the 4148HS-82 has some drawbacks, particularly when it comes to disk I/O. The mainboard behind the 4148HS-82 is a standard Tyan S4880 with integrated parallel ATA controllers, a Silicon Image 3114 SATA controller, and an LSI Logic SCSI controller.
The server shipped by Appro came with 8GB of DDR400 RAM (expandable to 32GB), four 2.2GHz Opteron 848 processors, and two 72GB 10K RPM SCSI drives. Although only two drives were included, the 4148HS-82 can house eight hot-swap SCSI drives, while its sister, the 4148HI-82, swaps the SCSI subsystem for SATA. For those looking to run Linux on the 4148HS-82, factor in the cost of a SATA RAID controller or purchase the Ultra320 SCSI version of the 4148HS-82 to ensure compatibility. Appro offers 3ware’s 9500S SATA RAID controller as an option.
In the lab, I put the 4148HS-82 through its paces under Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0. I tested overall Windows performance by running SiSoftware’s Sandra 2005, nbench SMB file-sharing benchmarks, and the MySQL benchmark suite. The Linux tests included some baseline measurements such as RSA key generation times, MySQL benchmark testing, and nbench testing. Under both operating systems, the results were on a par with other quad-processor Opteron servers, with the disk I/O subsystem showing relatively poor performance owing to the low-end LSI Logic controller hardware.
Compute performance was impressive, however. For example, I pitted the 4148HS-82 against a dual-Opteron 248 system with the task of encoding a 30-minute VOB (DVD Video Object) file into an AVI (Audio Video Interleaved) file using transcode on Linux. The 4148HS-82 finished approximately five minutes ahead of the dual CPU system, for a 12 percent edge in performance. When later tasked with many simultaneous encoding jobs, the 4148HS-82 really demonstrated its available torque. In short, if the goal is to cull through mountains of data on a continuous basis, the 4148HS-82 will fit right in.
The rear panel provides access to two 64-bit 100MHz PCI-X slots, two 64-bit 66MHz PCI-X slots, and a single 32-bit 33MHz PCI slot. Nearby, an airflow panel can then be removed to access the processors. The CPUs are adorned by active heat sinks covered by a duct and cooled by three hot-swappable fans.
The 4148HS-82 exhibited no heat problems during testing, but it is power hungry. The server requires at least two of its 500-watt hot-swappable power supplies to be running at all times, and uses a third for redundancy. In terms of management, the 4148HS-82 has none — yet. Appro is modifying its blade server management framework, which runs on an outboard management device, to manage as many as 10 separate servers. The solution is expected to be available in a few months.
For specialized applications requiring significant storage capacity and number-crunching performance, the 4148HS-82 would be a good choice to stretch the budget. Packing it with 300GB SATA drives, you could squeeze a 2.1TB RAID 5 array within the chassis. Considering its processing power and RAM capacity, using this box as a file server might be overkill.
The Appro 4148HS-82 is a capable server but lacks enterprise-class I/O components. As configured, it would shine as a SAN-connected database server or an HPC node. For standalone tasks, though, a better-performing RAID controller would be necessary to get the most out of this server. If the application relies heavily on local disk, then be sure to factor in the cost of those additional components.