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In-depth: Supermicro's youngest Twin is a real silent ice maiden

Don't look now, folks, Trevor's in luuurve


I spend a lot of time throwing LoginVSI at this setup. Based on my results, some rough maths say that a Supermicro 2028TP-DC1R with two Intel 2680 v3s per node and 512GB of RAM, four Micron 480GB M500s, eight 10,000 RPM disks running Maxta's MxSP on vSphere 6.0 and with an nVidia GRID K2 per node should be able to run 125 per node quite comfortably. That's 500 users in a four node, 4U cluster, with enough GPU power to keep the power users happy. Supermicro is a little more conservative.

Supermaxta screenshot


Their official literature on four node twin solutions talks about 400VMs in a 4 node VMware VSAN cluster, with only 1.5GB RAM per VM. That's pretty weedy. I won't do VDI without a minimum of 3.5GB per VM. Doing the raw math I should be able to get 140ish per node, so my 125 per node is a little conservative on the RAM. I get my 125 per node from wanting to be able to keep a standard boot storm profile to being able to start all VMs in under 60 seconds. I think the configuration I listed above should be able to handle that.


In truth, as I write this conclusion I am struggling to come up with negatives to try to balance out what feels like a very lovey-dovey review. Almost all of the biggest complaints that one could have traditionally thrown at Sueprmicro have been handled by now. I've crawled up and down these nodes for almost two months. After this kind of time I think the overall impressions matter more than the raw numbers.

A Dell or an HP running the same chips will give you the same speeds and feeds, so choosing what's worthwhile comes down to other factors. Supermicro offer 4 hour global enterprise support, if that's what your thing, they've been at it for well over a year and so the bugs of that particular support chain have been worked out. They're a proper enterprise server company now.

The thermals, power efficiency and overall capability of the systems are truly excellent. They're a clear cut above their predecessors and I find it difficult to believe that other companies are putting out anything that is going to be much better. We'd be bickering about low single digit percentages of efficiency or capability at this point, and the gap between all vendors is narrowing rapidly. I personally think that Supermicro servers are ugly as sin – Dell wins the prize for "pretty racks" – but that's a really, really minor item.

The IPMI in the 2015 Twins is a nice upgrade over previous versions, and while it isn't quite as capable as the lights out management of its larger rivals, Supermicro's efforts in this area have gotten them very, very close. While I am deeply impressed with the 2015 generation of Twin servers, I do have my complaints. The drive trays still need work. The little plastic flange things on the sleds, while upgraded to be plastic + metal still do have plastic. They haven't broken on me yet, but after the previous generation I have my concerns, and would like to see that upgraded to full metal widgetry.

Again, these are minor gripes, and if there is any source of sourness at all after two months of testing, it probably all stems from the part where I now have to send these servers back to Supermicro.

Still, these are not the servers I truly want to play with. No matter what I do to these systems I keep feeling that the SAS and SATA I/O used by these servers just aren't fast enough to truly challenge Grantley Xeons except in specific cases, like rendering.

Alongside the 2105 Twins I've tested in this review, Supermicro has a line of NVMe-capable systems that have hit the market, and Intel have NVMe SSDs available today. If the build quality on the NVMe servers is as high as the ones I've tested here, well...Supermicro might not get those servers back. ®


*Unblade is admittedly a bit of Trevorism. I use it to mean setups that have multiple servers to a chassis, but which only share power. Networking and baseband control are completely independent, making the shared backplane much, much simpler (and cheaper) than a traditional blade chassis. Supermicro Twin series servers can be considered the category defining models.

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