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Fujitsu has revamped its rack-mount Primergy RX servers to take advantage of the latest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors, sending us two examples to see exactly what the end products look like.
- Latest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 (Broadwell-EP) processors
- Up to 1,536GB of DDR4 memory
- Flexible DynamicLOM module with 10GbE support
- Choice of chassis configuration with extensive storage options
- Lots of interchangeable components
- Faster processors can be pricey
- Disk carriers are a little awkward to fit
£6,936 (RX2540 M2) / £4,593 (RX2530 M2)
It's server upgrade time again with the big vendors all busy refreshing their product lines to take advantage of the latest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors. Designed for use in dual-socket systems and based on 14nm Broadwell-EP technology, these CPUs fit the same sockets as existing v3 (Haswell) processors and can be used with Intel's existing C610 series chipsets, making for a very easy swap out. BIOS changes are needed on most servers, but the new processors offer an instant performance boost, pushing the maximum core count up from 18 to 22 per CPU (36 to 44 when threading is factored in), supported by slightly faster RAM speeds of up to 2,400MHz.
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Maximum memory is unchanged at 1,536GB with the same four DDR4 channels, and peripheral support remains the same. However, tweaks to the Broadwell microarchitecture plus extra cache further enhance performance, enabling vendors such as Fujitsu to claim performance improvements of up to 20 percent compared to servers fitted with v3 chips.
The same but different
Quick out of the blocks, Fujitsu has refreshed all of its dual-socket Primergy servers to take advantage of the E5-2600 v4 silicon, sending us two samples in the form of a 2U RX2540 M2 and a 1U RX2530 M2 to see how they measure up.
The first thing to notice is that, in terms of motherboard options at least, there's very little to choose between these servers, with the same processor options and 24 DIMM slots apiece which, when filled with 64GB DDR4 modules, can accommodate the full 1,536GB memory limit.
Some 21 processors are listed as available to go in the two servers, spanning a wide range of clock speeds, core counts and TDP requirements to suit different workloads. Fujitsu fitted our review units with processors from the middle of the range: a pair of E5-2630 v4 chips (2.2GHz with 10 cores/20 threads) on the 1U RX2530 M2 and the slightly more capable E5-2650 v4 (2.2GHz with 12 cores/24 threads) on the 2U RX2540 M2.
Some care is needed when choosing what to go for here as processors like these account for a fair proportion of the price, and buying performance you don't need will prove costly. Similarly, although you can trade up to faster silicon, it's not exactly a cost-effective approach to server sizing.
Other things the servers have in common include the same redundant power supplies — so there's only one SKU to worry about — and the same modular approach to networking with, instead of fixed Ethernet ports, a custom socket to take so-called DynamicLOM modules available in a variety of port configurations.
These small adapters deliver flexible networking without taking up valuable expansion slots, the review servers shipping with two 10GbE ports apiece. Additional connectivity beyond that can of course still be provided through more conventional PCI-e adapters, Fujitsu fitting a dual Gigabit port card in both review systems.
On the expansion front, the two servers have the same set of six PCI-e slots with management yet another area of similarity. To this end, both servers sport an on-board remote management controller, the iRMC S4, complete with independent network interface which, as well as Fujitsu's own ServerView and other custom management tools, can be accessed via a browser. This provides remote access to monitor and manage both the server hardware and, via a Java-based remote console, the host operating system.
It's not the prettiest of interfaces, but it does cover the more important bases — including power management — and is easy to get to grips with.
Not all equal
There are differences, of course — notably a lot more room for storage inside the 2U chassis of the RX2540 M2. Up to twelve 3.5-inch disks can be accommodated and double that using 2.5-inch devices, plus an extra four at the back.
Our 2U review unit came with the metalwork needed to take eight hot-swap SFF drives, upgradeable to sixteen if required.
The 1U RX2530 can't quite match that, but the review system did come with slots for a respectable eight 2.5in. drives and, if you're prepared to lose the optical drive, can be configured with ten in total.
The same cornucopia of magnetic disks (SATA and SAS) plus SSDs is available to be fitted inside the servers; 300GB 15K SAS drives were provided for our review, two in the 1U server and four in the 2U box. We liked the fact that disks could be swapped between servers, but found the latching mechanism a bit fiddly.
Our servers also came with plug-in RAID controllers rather than use the limited on-board facilities, with an LSI-based Fujitsu CP400i in the 1U server and a more capable EP420i in the RX2540 to cope with the larger complement of drives that can be fitted in the 2U chassis.
And lastly, the keen-eyed may have noticed one other difference: the VMware label on the bezel of the RX2540 M2 in our photos. This isn't a special edition of the server, but an indication of the presence of an optional module to boot directly into the ESXi hypervisor from an image held in flash memory.
Fujitsu's 1U Primergy RX2530 M2 is targeted at HPC applications and for use as an affordable platform for small-scale web, email and database servers. The extra storage capacity of the 2U Primergy RX2540 M2, meanwhile, enables it to handle those same applications in bigger enterprises, as well as cope with large-scale server consolidation and VDI deployments.
Whatever the application, both these servers benefit from the new Broadwell Xeon processors, are highly specified across the board, and measure up well against the competition in terms of both functionality and price.