Newisys 4300 Opteron server is a screaming success
Blazing fast and power-packed, this 4U server could use a mufflerFollow @pvenezia
Despite being only the second server produced by a 3-year-old company, the Newisys 4300 has the makings of an enterprise-class workhorse, moving the company’s nascent server line into the realm of heavier tasks.
Last year we looked at the Newisys 2100, a 1U, single-processor 64-bit Opteron server. The 4300 sports as many as four 2.2GHz Opteron 848 CPUs, 64GB of DDR (Double Date Rate) 333 RAM (pending the availability of 4GB DIMMs), hot-swappable PCI-X slots, an integrated LSI MPT RAID controller, and five hot-swappable SCSI drives in a 4U package.
Following the unpacking and racking ritual, the first thing I noticed about the 4300 was the volume. As soon as I plugged in the power supply, the 4300 simply screamed. I measured the decibel levels at approximately 78 before power-up and at 95 decibels during normal operation. In fact, the noise it generates surpassed the levels generated by the rest of the servers in the lab, which clock in at about 60 decibels ambient. Whereas high noise levels are to be expected in a datacenter of any reasonable size, the 4300 takes this to a new level. Conversing with a technical support representative within earshot of this server would prove difficult, which is an issue when troubleshooting hardware problems. Newisys acknowledges this problem and hopes to release a BIOS update to mitigate it.
To its credit, the 4300 screams in another way: It’s possibly the fastest x86-based server I’ve ever seen. My test unit came equipped with four 2.2GHz Opteron 848 CPUs, 2GB of DDR333 RAM, and a pair of 36GB 10,000-rpm SCSI drives. I performed most of the tests under Red Hat Advanced Server 3.0 but also tested with Windows Server 2003 32-bit and a beta of Windows XP 64-bit. The times returned by CPU-intensive tasks were better than any results I’ve seen on this class of server. For instance, the MySQL benchmark testing with RedHat’s stock 2.4.21EL kernel clocked in at 1,536 seconds. The results with the 2.6.0 kernel showed even better performance, with the 4300 at 1,003 seconds. This server is fast.
The 4300 has a few novel features, the most interesting being the SP (Service Processor) architecture. The SP is responsible for general server-health monitoring, interacts with agents running on the main server, and also powers the Web-based management interface. The 4300 SP sports a 60MHz PowerPC processor with 64MB RAM running a customized Linux distribution based on the 2.4.18 kernel. The SP communicates via a dedicated out-of-band management interface and supports daisy-chaining of SP network interfaces within a rack.
The Web interface for the 4300 is clean and straightforward, providing tools to actively monitor server health, status, and hardware configuration. Furthermore, it permits remote power-up and shutdown. There are also facilities for supporting multiple-server management; however, there is no facility to access the server remotely at the BIOS level, akin to the capabilities of Hewlett-Packard’s iLO (Integrated Lights-Out) offering.
The 4300 can also be managed via SSH (Secure Shell) and SNMP. You can actually use SSH to access the SP and work within the file system, run applications, and check status as with any other Linux server.