Introduction

There is something very intriguing about the server market. To understand it, you must take a look at the latest Gartner numbers and know a bit of background about Supermicro. Supermicro is the odd man out. Browsing through the website, you find very few trendy buzzwords; just the good old-fashioned "cutting edge technology" and "reliability". What happened to "SOA", "IT governance" and "IT lifecycle" to unearth "business value"? Surely a company that doesn't use "viral marketing", a massive amount of marketing blogs, and isn't present in "Second life" is close to extinction, right?

Supermicro is actually doing very well. In terms of annual growth it is one of the most successful companies. Supermicro is one of the rare companies where "marketing visionaries" have not taken over, and where engineers are still calling the shots: at the top of the company we find an engineer in heart and soul, Charles Liang. When we talk to HP, Dell, and IBM, they rarely consider Supermicro a competitor. Sun, HP, Dell, and IBM see each other as the biggest rivals, and depending who you talk to, Fujitsu-Siemens will be or will not be added to the small list of Tier-1 OEMs. Now take a look at the table below and consider that Supermicro ships about 600,000 servers a year.

Server Market Share
Company 2006 Shipments 2006 Market Share (%) 2005 Shipments 2005 Market Share (%) 2006-2005 Growth (%)
Hewlett-Packard 2,261,074 27.5 2,093,412 27.7 8
Dell Inc. 1,783,445 21.7 1,701,932 22.5 4.8
IBM 1,293,825 15.7 1,200,143 15.9 7.8
Sun Microsystems 368,603 4.5 342,457 4.5 7.6
Fujitsu/Fujitsu Siemens 256,794 3.1 262,898 3.5 -2.3
Other Vendors 2,270,036 27.6 1,959,258 25.9 15.9
Total 8,233,777 100.0 7,560,100 100.0 8.9

Source: Gartner Dataquest (February 2007)

Indeed, if you look at a typical Gartner table, Supermicro is nowhere to be found, despite the fact that Supermicro sells about as many servers as Sun and Fujitsu-Siemens combined and has about 7 to 8% of the total server market. The market share of Supermicro - along with Tyan, Rackable Systems, MSI, ASUS and many others - can be found in the hodge-podge "other vendors" figure, which is also referred to (with a slightly less serious almost negative undertone) the "unbranded or white box" market.

So why are companies like Supermicro absent in the big server market overviews? The answer lies of course in the financial side of things. The server revenue of IBM or HP is about 40-50 times higher than that of Supermicro. But that hardly matter for our readers: if Supermicro sells 8% of the total servers sold and the white box market is good for about a quarter of the volume of the server market, we have to ask an interesting question: what advantages does buying only from the Tier-1 OEMs bring you, and are there attractive alternatives in the white box market? We'll give them all a fair chance, as we are working with Tyan, Supermicro, MSI, HP, IBM, and others.

This server report is the first in a planned series of articles which will concentrate on the server and storage needs of SMBs. We find this to be a particularly interesting segment, as that is exactly where most of our readers come from: smaller and medium enterprises where the cost of hardware and software still matters; where the decision is still highly influenced by technical and price/performance considerations. We will search for the real tangible advantages that certain vendors and products can offer, advantages that really offer added value and lower TCO. To do so, we will keep an eye on TCO and we are working with several SMB which develop highly specialized server applications. This will allow us to give you some real world benchmarks of applications where performance still matters, a very good addition to our normal industry standard benchmarks.

In this first article, we look at a quite unique product of Supermicro: the Supermicro Twin, also known under its less sexy name Superserver 6015T-INF. We also introduce you to a first example of our new way of benchmarking servers.

Twin Server: Concept
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  • SurJector - Tuesday, June 05, 2007 - link

    I've just reread your article. I'm a little bit surprised by the power:
    idle load
    1 node : 160 213
    2 nodes: 271 330
    increase: 111 117
    There is something wrong: the second node adds only 6W (5.5W counting efficiency) of power consumption ?

    Could it be that some power-saving options are not set on the second node (speedstep, or similar) ?

    Nice article though, I bet I'd love to have a rack of them for my computing farm. Either that or wait (forever ?) for the Barcelona equivalents (they should have better memory throughput).
    Reply
  • Super Nade - Saturday, June 02, 2007 - link

    Hi,

    The PSU is built by Lite-On. I owned the PWS-0056 and it was built like a tank. Truely server grade build quality.

    Regards,

    Super Nade, OCForums.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Here are the VMWare ESX issues I see. ... They basically compound the problem.

    - No Local SAS controller. (Already mentioned)
    - No Local SAS requires booting from a SAN. This means you will use your only PCIe slot for a SAN Hardware HBA as ESX can't boot with a software iSCSI.
    - Only Dual NICs on board and with the only expansion slot taken up by the SAN HBA (Fiber Channel or iSCSI) you already have a less then ideal ESX solution. --- ESX works best with a dedicated VMotion port, Dedicated Console Port, and at least one dedicated VM port. Using this setup you'll be limited to a dedicated VMotion and a Shared Console and VM Port.

    The other issue is of coarse the non redundant power supply. While yes ESX has a High Availability mode where it restarts VMs from downed hardware. It restarts VMs on other hardware, doesn't preserve them. You could very easily loose data.

    Then probably the biggest issue ... support. Most companies dropping the coin on ESX server are only going to run it on a supported platform. With supported platforms from the Dell, HP and IBM being comparatively priced and the above issues, I don't see them winning ANY of the ESX server crowd with this unit.



    I could however see this as a nice setup for the VMWare (free) Virtual Server crowd using it for virtualized Dev and/or QA environments where low cost is a larger factor then production level uptime.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - link

    Superb feedback. I feel however that you are a bit too strict on the dedicated ports. A dedicated console port seems a bit exagerated, and as you indicate a shared Console/vmotion seems acceptable to me. Reply
  • DeepThought86 - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    I thought it interesting to note how poor the scaling was on the web server benchmark when going from 1S to 2S 5345 (107 URL's/s to 164). However the response times scaled quite well.

    Going from 307 ms to 815 ms (2.65) with only a clockspeed difference of 2.33 cs 1.86 (1.25) is completely unexpected. Since the architecture is the same, how can a 1.25 factor in clock lead to a 2.65 factor in performance? Then I remembered you're varying TWO factors at once making it impossible to compare the numbers.... how dumb is that in benchmark testing??

    Honestly, it seems you guys know how to hook up boxes but lack the intelligence to actually select test cases that make sense, not to mention analyse your results in a meaningful way

    It's also a pity you guys didn't test with the AMD servers to see how they scaled. But I guess the article is meant to pimp Supermicro and not point out how deficient the Intel system design is when going from 4-cores to 8
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Since the architecture is the same, how can a 1.25 factor in clock lead to a 2.65 factor in performance? Then I remembered you're varying TWO factors at once making it impossible to compare the numbers.... how dumb is that in benchmark testing??


    I would ask you to read my comments again. Webserver performance can not be measured by one single metric unless you can keep response time exactly the same. In that case you could measure throughput. However in the realworld, response time is never the same, and our test simulates real users. The reason for this "superscaling" of responstimes is that the slower configurations have to work with a backlog. Like it or not, but that is what you see on a webserver.

    quote:

    It's also a pity you guys didn't test with the AMD servers to see how they scaled


    We have done that already here for a number of workloads:
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/intel/showdoc...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/intel/showdoc...

    This article was about introducing our new benches, and investigating the possibilities of this new supermicro server. Not every article can be an AMD vs Intel article.

    And I am sure that 99.9% of the people who will actually buy a supermicro Twin after reading this review, will be very pleased with it as it is an excellent server for it's INTENDED market. So there is nothing wrong with giving it positive comments as long as I show the limitations.



    Reply
  • TA152H - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Johan,

    I think it's even better than you didn't bring into the AMD/Intel nonsense, because it tends to take focus away from important companies like Supermicro. A lot of people aren't even aware of this company, and it's an extremely important company that makes extraordinary products. Their quality is unmatched, and although they are more expensive, it is excellent to have the option of buying a top quality piece. It's almost laughable, and a bit sad, when people call Asus top quality, or a premium brand. So, if nothing else, you brought an often ignore company into people's minds. Sadly, on a site like this where performance is what is generally measured, if you guys reviewed the motherboards, it would appear to be a mediocre, at best product. So, your type of review helps put things in their proper perspective; they are a very high quality, reliable, innovative company that is often overlooked, but has a very important role in the industry.

    Now, having said that (you didn't think I could be exclusively complimentary, did you?), when are you guys going to evaluate Eizo monitors??? I mean, how often can we read articles on junk from Dell and Samsung, et al, wondering what the truly best monitors are like? Most people will buy mid-range to low-end (heck, I still buy Samsung monitors and Epox motherboards sometimes because of price), but I also think most people are curious about how the best is performing anyway. But, let's give you credit where it's due, it was nice seeing Supermicro finally get some attention.
    Reply
  • DeepThought86 - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Also, looking at your second benchmark I'm baffled how you didn't include a comparison of 1xE5340 vs 2x5340 or 1x5320 vs 2x5320 so we could see scaling. You just have a comparison of Dual vs 2N, where (duh!) the results are similar.

    Sure, there's 1x5160 vs 2x5160 but since the number of cores is half we can't see if memory performance is a bottleneck. Frankly, if Intel had given you instruction on how to explicitly avoid showing FSB limitations in server application they couldn't have done a better job.

    Oh wait, looks like 2 Intel staffers helped on the project! BIG SURPRISE!
    Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/it/2007/superm...">http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/it/2007/superm...
    Looks like the top DIMM is not fully seated? :D
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, May 28, 2007 - link

    Nice one.. not everyone would catch such a fault :)

    MrS
    Reply

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