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Review: Stoked On Intel's Stoakley

Today's quad-core servers are powerful enough to run the most complex applications available. In some ways the days of bloated code are back, but execution time is less noticeable due to these multicore chips.

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These servers pack so much processing power that they can be multipurposed in small data centers. A single server can easily run multiple enterprise applications in a virtual server environment.

So what's happened since last year's quad-core server Bake-Off [CRNtech, May 21, 2007]? Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), Sunnyvale, Calif., released its Barcelona chip, which performed as high as anything that had ever come through the Test Center lab. But AMD wound up disappointing the channel when it found a glitch right before its planned mass ramp and stifled its availability.

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Meanwhile, Intel Corp., based in Santa Clara, Calif., released its 65nm and 45nm Penryn chipset generation. The new Intel Stoakley dual-socket platform, including the Penryn-based, 45nm Harpertown chip, has been fitted for the X7DWN+ mainboard from Super Micro Computer Inc. Reviewers recently received an Intel engineering sample with two 5400-series Xeon Harpertown 3.0-GHz chips and couldn't wait to take the high-end server for a spin.

The 2U-high Super Micro SuperServer 6025W-NTR+B comes with 16 GBytes of memory and 273 GBytes of disk space thanks to Seagate Technology LLC's superfast 15.5-K SAS drives. The server configuration was fitted with Adaptec Inc.'s 3805 8-port internal RAID controller with 128 MBytes of memory. Super Micro also fitted the box with a standard DVD-ROM drive and a rare 3.5-inch diskette drive.

At the front, the server houses two USB ports and a serial port. The mainboard comes with two integrated Ethernet ports in the back. The back panel also sports two more USB ports, PS/2 ports, another serial port and a VGA port. During testing, reviewers found that the server runs cool but is a bit noisy due to three large swappable 12-volt Sanyo fans. The box houses one 120V, 650-watt long power supply.

Reviewers tested Windows 2003 Standard Edition with a 32-bit operating system to be comparable with last year's quad-core results. Server storage was configured using Adaptec's 32-bit drivers for Windows. Adaptec's 64-bit Windows drivers that come with Super Micro's CD only work on AMD chips. Unfortunately, the Super Micro bundle doesn't have the correct drivers for the RAID card, so reviewers downloaded them.

Reviewers ran PassMark's PerformanceTest 6.1 and Primate Lab's GeekBench 2 for Windows, using both tests to see how well the server matched previous results. As expected, the overall PerformanceTest mark blew away previous server tests with a score of 2518.6. Reviewers didn't tweak the Windows server or update it with the latest drivers. The floating point math outstripped anything previously tested here with a score of 4535.5. Integer math also scored high at 1154.7, with prime number crunching surpassing it at 2257.4. String sorting hit a phenomenal 20842.5. Scores indicate the server is useful for large datasets, XML files and messaging systems. The Stoakley is also ideal for large transactional-based systems and real-time processing.

Not surprising, the server's score for disk writes and reads was level with previous scores and its 32-bit RAID drivers were on par with other access speeds measured in the past. The server's large memory also boosted server cache and memory allocation on Windows 2003. The Stoakley scored over 2000 on all memory caching functions.

Intel could not provide pricing for the engineering sample.

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