Xeon D vs ThunderX: Supermicro vs Gigabyte

While SoC is literally stands for a system on a chip, in practice it's still just one component of a whole server. A new SoC cannot make it to the market alone; it needs the backing of server vendors to provide the rest of the hardware to go around it and to make it a complete system.

To that end, Gigabyte has adopted Cavium's ThunderX in quite a few different servers. Meanwhile on the Intel side, Supermicro is the company with the widest range of Xeon D products.

There are other server vendors like Pengiun computing and Wistrom that will make use of the ThunderX, and you'll find Xeon D system from over a dozen vendors. But is clear that Gigabyte and Supermicro are the vendors that make the ThunderX and Xeon D available to the widest range of companies respectively.

For today's review we got access to the Gigabyte R120-T30.

Although density is important, we can not say that we are a fan of 1U servers. The small fans in those systems tend to waste a lot of energy.

Eight DIMMs allow the ThunderX SoC to offer up to 512 GB, but realistically 256 GB is probably the maximum practical capacity (8 x 32 GB) in 2016. Still, that is twice as much as the Xeon D, which can be an advantage in caching or big data servers. Of course, Cavium is the intelligent network company, and that is where this server really distinguishes itself. One Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable Plus (QFSP+) link can deliver 40 GB/s, and combined with four 10 Gb/s Small Form-factor Pluggable Plus (SFP+) links, a complete ThunderX system is good for a total of 80 Gbit per second of network bandwidth.

Along with building in an extensive amount of dedicated network I/O, Cavium has also outfit the ThunderX with a large number of SATA host ports, 16 in total. This allows you to use the 3 PCIe 3.0 x8 links for purposes other than storage or network I/O.

That said, the 1U chassis used by the R120-T30 is somewhat at odds with the capabilities of ThunderX here: there are 16 SATA ports, but only 4 hotswap bays are available. Big Data platforms make use of HDFS, and with a typical replication of 3 (each block is copied 3 times) and performance that scales well with the number of disks (and not latency), many people are searching for a system with lots of disk bays.

Finally, we're happy to report that there is no lack of monitoring and remote management capabilities. A Serial port is available for low level debugging and an AST2400 with an out of band gigabit Ethernet port allows you to manage the server from a distance.

The ThunderX SoCs Supermicro and the Xeon D
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  • Daniel Egger - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    I could hardly disagree more about the remote management of SuperMicro vs. HP. Remote management of HP is *the horror*, I've never seen worse and I've seen a lot. It's clunky, it requires a license to be useful (others do to but SuperMicro does not have such nonsense), the BCM tends to crash a lot (which is very annoying for a remote management solution), boot is even slower than all other systems I know due to the way they integrate the BIOS and remote management on the system and it also uses Java unless you have Windows machines around to use the .NET version.

    For the remote management alone I would chose SuperMicro over most other vendors any day.
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    I found the .Net client of HP much less sluggish, and I have seen no crashing at all. I guess there is no optimal remote management client, but I really like the "boot into firmware" option that Intel implemented.
  • rahvin - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    Not only that but Supermicro actually releases updates for their BCM's. I had the same shocked reaction to the HP claim. Started to wonder if I was the only one that thought supermicro was light years ahead in usability.

    I should note that Supermicro's awful Java tool works on Linux as well as windows. Though it refuses to run if your Java isn't the newest version available.
  • pencea - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    All these articles and yet still no review for the GTX 1080, while other major sites have already posted their reviews of both 1070 & 1080. Guru3D already has 2 custom 1080 and a custom 1070 review up.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    It'll be done when it's done.
  • pencea - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Unacceptably late for something that should've been posted weeks ago.
  • Meteor2 - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    Will anyone read it though? Your ad impressions are going to suffer.
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    Maybe. Maybe not. But it's my own fault regardless. All I can do is get it done as soon as I reasonably can, and hope it's something you guys find useful.
  • name99 - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    Give it a freaking rest. No-one is impressed by your constant whining about this.
  • pencea - Thursday, June 16, 2016 - link

    Not looking to impress anyone. As a long time viewer of this site, I'm simply disappointed that a reputational site like this is constantly late for GPU reviews.

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