Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Review – Intel Avoton Platform

29
Posted October 14, 2013 by in Supermicro
Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Test Platform

Rating

Design & Aesthetics
9.0


Performance
10


Feature Set
9.5


Value for the Application
9.0


Total Score
9.4

9.4/ 10

Year: 2013
 
Vendor:
 
Server Class:
 

:

Intel Atom C2750, low power consumption, mITX form factor, quad gigabit NIC, integrated IPMI 2.0, USB 3.0 ports, 2x SATA III and 4x SATA II ports
 

:

Platform limits the expansion possibilities but still much better than the Intel Atom S1260 generation
 

The Supermicro A1SAi-2750F is an exciting new platform with the Intel Atom C2750 processor and a host of onboard functionality that make this an idea low end networking appliance or web server node building block.

by Patrick Kennedy
Full Article

We have worked quite a bit with the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F over the past few weeks. First we did an initial performance thread in the forums. We also published power consumption and Intel Atom C2750 performance numbers based on the platform. Certainly this has led to much experience with the platform and we felt is was prudent to do a review based on some longer-term perspectives. For those wondering, the Intel Atom C2750 is still supply constrained which will hopefully clear up in the near future. This class of computing platform is set to be a major game changer. The quick summary is that the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F provides similar performance to the lower end of the Intel Xeon E3-1200 series in many applications yet uses less than half of the power.

Test Configurations

We had two main test configurations which is not something we always get to do. Due to the SoC design, the Intel Atom C2750 platform is very compact and requires very little to get up and running. We have two Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Avoton test platforms that we have been hammering for the past few weeks in different configurations. Here are the two configurations:

Test Configuration #1 (used for power testing and performance testing):

Test Configuration #2:

We also utilized our standard array of PCIe add-on cards along with Seagate and Western Digital spindle drives to text maximum configurations, but those were our two main test beds.

The Supermicro A1SAi-2750F

The Supermciro A1SAi-2750F is a very compact server motherboard. It utilizes the mini ITX form factor. That means it is approximately 6.75″ by 6.75″ and makes most standard ATX and larger motherboards look enormous in comparison. We also removed the heatsink to see the Intel Atom C2750 SoC package. Overall, this is a densely packed motherboard. One will also notice that there is a major difference between our samples and the initial product shots on Supermicro’s site.

The Marvell Ethernet transceiver sits just behind the quad Gigabit Ethernet ports. It is one of the key components to get the Avoton / Rangeley quad Intel i354 NIC working. We have certainly heard that it is a quite expensive part. One very interesting note here is that the Marvell chip looks fairly large compared to the Avoton package.

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F no heatsink

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F no heatsink

Since the Avoton platform is very well integrated, this small mITX platform comes pre-installed with virtually everything needed for a working system. One major required component are the DDR3 SODIMMs that the motherboard takes. Kingston sent eight of their 1.35v low power 8GB DDR3-1600MHz ECC memory modules for our testing. One thing that we certainly noticed was that our ECC SODIMMs worked with the motherboard while standard non-ECC SODIMMs were causing issues. The bottom line here is to check manufacturer compatibility lists and use ECC SODIMMs with these server platforms.

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Test Platform

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Test Platform

The top of the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F shows some interesting features. There is a standard 24-pin ATX power connection plus a 4-pin CPU power connector. Other very interesting features are both a front panel USB 3.0 connector along with an internal Type-A USB 3.0 header. This is a major upgrade to previous generation Atom (and even Xeon) platforms as it allows for fast USB 3.0 sticks to be added inside the server chassis. Perfect for boot images.

The CPU fan’s power cable was just long enough to fit around the top SODIMM slots.

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Power and USB

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Power and USB

The bottom side of the motherboard had several interesting features. We see the ASpeed AST2400 chip displayed prominently which runs the BMC for IPMI 2.0 functionality.

The two white 7-pin SATA ports are SATA III 6.0gbps ports while the four black 7-pin SATA II ports provide additional storage flexibility. Overall, six onboard ports is ample for many applications. One other interesting feature is a 4-pin molex connector so that a hard drive can be powered directly from the motherboard. In theory, one can have an entire system powered solely by the ATX power connector.

As for PCIe connectivity the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F has a PCIe x8 slot. This gives the platform a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to add additional controllers. We tested using both the newer LSI 9300-4i4e card, 9207-8i, and 9240-8i HBA/ RAID cards and they worked fine. Moving to a 16 port card would provide 22 drives worth of connectivity along with the platform’s existing quad Ethernet solution. We also utilized our Mellanox QDR and FDR Infiniband cards in the slot successfully. Unlike the previous generation Atom S1260, the new Avoton / Rangeley platform is much more robust and having an extra PCIe x8 slot adds much flexibility to the platform.

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F SATA Ports

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F SATA Ports

The rear I/O panel follows the standard Supermicro X9 and X10 series I/O panel design. One can, for example, see a similar layout in our Supermicro X10SL7-F review. There are legacy VGA and serial ports. Peripherals can be connected using two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel.

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Rear IO Panel

Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Rear IO Panel

Networking is provided by a dedicated IPMI port (above the USB stack). The quad Intel Ethernet ports can be found on the rear panel as well. The Intel Atom C2750 has a quad port Intel i354 gigabit controller built-in. The built-in Avoton MAC is a 4x 2.5Gig Ethernet design so this is essentially a built-in quad port NIC. From those ports the general decision manufacturers must make is to connect them directly to a chassis switch chip or use a Marvell based PHY. Supermicro utilizes the Marvell controller as we saw in earlier board shots.

Software and Management

Supermicro’s IPMI and KVM-over-IP as described a few times on this site, allows for a lot of deployment flexibility. Things such as fan speeds, chassis intrusion sensors, thermal sensors, and etc. can be monitored remotely. Alerts can be setup to notify the admins of issues. Beyond this, the functionality also allows for remote power control. You can do remote power up, power down, and reset of the server in the event that it becomes unresponsive. In fact, the test system has never had a keyboard, mouse, CD/DVD ROM, or monitor hooked up to it, even after multiple BIOS tweaks and operating system/ hypervisor installations.

Supermicro Mount Images on IPMI 2.0

Supermicro Mount Images on IPMI 2.0

Another important feature is the ability to remotely mount CD images and floppy images to the machine over the dedicated management Ethernet controller. This keeps maintenance traffic off of the primary Intel NICs. At the same time it removes the need for an optical disk to be connected to the Supermicro motherboard. Combined with the onboard Type-A USB 3.0 header, mounting OS installation or recovery images remotely is a very simple affair.

Performance

The Intel Atom C2750 recently showed itself to be a solid performer. Here is a great example from our recent performance comparison using the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F platform:

Intel Atom C2750 UnixBench Multi Threaded benchmark

Intel Atom C2750 UnixBench Multi Threaded benchmark

Click the link for a more complete comparison, but the UnixBench 5.1.3 results show a significant increase over previous generation Intel Atom architectures.

Power Consumption

We did a full piece on the Intel Atom C2750 Avoton power consumption. For a quick reference, here is a key chart showing the difference between the options. One major item to note, our load included full network card loads. For other platforms to have quad gigabit Ethernet ports an additional 2-port NIC would be required, adding another 6w or more to the load figures.

Intel Avoton Power Consumption Compared - Supermicro A1SAi-2750F

Intel Avoton Power Consumption Compared – Supermicro A1SAi-2750F

Click on the image to read more, but suffice to say the Intel C2750 found on the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F is a game changer.

Conclusion – This is a game changer!

Overall the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F is an awesome product for those looking at a microserver sized deployment. The performance in many workloads is about 50-60% of a new Intel Xeon E3-1200 series part but the power consumption is likewise less than half, even with all four gigabit Ethernet ports working under full load. We already showed how to get VMware ESXi 5.5 working with the unit and there is no reason with the quad Intel NICs that this motherboard cannot run a virtual pfsense, Vayatta or other appliance along with a storage server appliance (without VT-d on the platform) and other application specific appliances. The power consumption figures and platform capabilities strongly support this use case.

Further, there are times when simply having many nodes helps. For example, if one wants to build a redundant architecture, but does not necessarily need a maximum amount of processor power, this is a great motherboard. One simple example here is with web serving where the Intel Atom C2750 will shine. In a 1A / U (at 120v) for example, the Avoton platform can fit three full nodes with SSDs and a low power switch. This allows for small clusters of nodes with sufficient memory, performance and networking capabilities to replace a typical Intel Xeon E3-1200 system. With the Atom S1260 the performance difference and lack of memory did not allow these platforms to take this role. The Atom C2750 is fundamentally a more robust architecture.

A final great use case for these, and potentially the Rangeley variant (the Supermicro A1SRi-2758F) is as low end firewall/ network appliances. For example, the STH architecture has dual pfsense nodes. Each node has a single Intel Xeon L5520, 24GB of RAM, a SSD, two onboard NICs and an add-in dual port gigabit controller. One gigabit ports on each is used for the uplink, one for the heartbeat with the mirror node, and one NIC for each switch. These Avoton/ Ragneley platforms use significantly less than half of the power and have about the same performance (and much faster AES speeds due to AES-NI) as the currently used nodes.

At the end of the day, the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F and similar variants are a major shift in computing. The idea of readily accessible, low power, high core count architectures with solid networking and decent memory configurations is here. Bottom line: this is a game changer in terms of performance/ watt/ capability.


About the Author

Patrick Kennedy

Patrick has been running ServeTheHome since 2009 and covers a wide variety of home and small business IT topics. For his day job, Patrick is a management consultant focused in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about basic server building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

29 Comments


  1.  
    mike

    Two minor minor notes- the total ram for the second config should be 8GB not 32GB and the form factor is mini-ITX, not micro-ITX…




  2.  
    TongaFire

    Why are these so expensive?!?! $700 is rediculous. I thought they were supposed to be around $400-$450 USD?




    •  
      Peter Hoberg

      Hello, am seeing these for 375USD with availabilty in US.. At this price is a real consideration to change a build I am planning..Regards PGH




  3.  
    Edith V

    Saw this on Facebook. We would totally use those clusters. We could build a CDN with these and Crucial M500 960gb drives. Would cost nothing to colo if you could put 3 + switch + 6x 2.5″ drives in a 1U.




  4.  
    Tyler

    I like the fact that you guys have been reviewing this stuff for like a month while there is almost no other information on Avoton.

    Kudos! Certainly more information than anyone else at this point. Keep up the good work




  5.  
    Greg

    Noticed this setup has an ASPEED ast2400. Would be curious to see a real world comparison of capabilities between it and a Matrox G200eW. Also curious if this setup would make a good media center PC with a 1080P display or is the ast2400 still to limited.




    •  

      Greg, I have been looking at the same comparison. The biggest thing I have seen thus far is that the AST2400 Supports a USB 2.0 host + 2x USB 1.1. The AST2300 supports 1x USB 1.1

      Certainly video output speed is not anything amazing. I think for a HTPC I would still want HDMI out.




  6.  
    omniscence

    If you believe the sparse documentation available, the 4-pin power connector next to the ATX power connector is not a standard CPU power connector. It is 12V input thought as an alternative to a ATX supply. That is also the reason they included a 4-pin molex.




    •  

      I saw that too but have not found the power supply that works with this. Interestingly enough, the 4-pin power connector is the same one used for normal 4-pin CPU power connections.




      •  
        Atle

        One don’t have to use a PC powersupply, one can feed 12V via this plug from an external powersupply.
        A very useful solution if one have a local 12V system home.

        Do it fit a 1U rack if one change the fan to a “blower” ?

        I want this!




  7.  
    Jon

    This board would be better for NAS with more SATA ports, another PCIE port or a mini PCIE/mini sata slot on the board. I think there’s room for it. :-(

    Thanks for the review.
    Wish the review had some real world benches.




  8.  
    Tralalak

    Hi,
    it is posible testing some benchmark with discrete graphics card AMD or Nvidia?
    Regards
    Tralalak




    •  

      A bit hard on this platform unless one uses a PCIe x8 to x16 riser. What tests are you specifically thinking about? I am unsure what the use case would be for this.




      •  
        Tralalák

        I want build my world’s “Personal Gaming a Home Entertainment Console” on the Intel Atom C2750 8-Core Avoton Processor /Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Mini-ITX board or ASRock C2750D4I Mini-ITX board/ :-)

        Now I have VIA EPIA M920-12Q Mini-ITX with VIA QuadCore L4700E 1.2GHz with discrete graphics card etc. and I can play Batlefield 3 MP, or F1 2012 in HIGH details 1080p etc. (on the youtube is my some videos) End of course Avoton C2750 is more powerful.

        May be enough only one 3DMark and one MultiThreaded game. This is only for the possibility this 8-core Atom platform “Yes, we can!”




        •  
          Jon

          For your case, I’d highly recommend a mini – iTX Haswell platform over the avoton.




          •  
            Tralalak

            I dont want the Haswell. Haswell have every other customer.
            Intel Atom 8-core processor (open “Personal Gaming a Home Entertainment Console”) vs. AMD Jaguar 8-core processor (PS4, Xbox One) that is my Point of View.




            •  
              Jon

              “Haswell have every other customer.” is a pretty silly reason not to use it.

              It’s the best solution for your problem.

              An i7-4770K is guaranteed to destroy the avoton, or the Jaguar, even if 8-threaded application




              •  
                AKumba

                Maybe he just wants to be different and doesn’t really care about performance as much?

                Totally agree. These are not for gaming.




              •  
                Tralalak

                OMG. I know that Haswell is more powerful than Atom Silvermount. And what? I want 8-core Atom Silvermount processor with max TDP 20W.
                AMD Jaguar 8-core processor is also not for gaming and Sony and Microsoft have gaming console PS4 and Xbox One. Where is Haswell in gaming console?
                Anyway. I just only ask if Mr. Kennedy can tested. If not so ok. When will Supermicro A1SAi-2750F Mini-ITX board or ASRock C2750D4I Mini-ITX board available in EU so I will prepare this open “Personal Gaming a Home Entertainment Console” alone.




                •  
                  Msalloot

                  Totally agree that it would be an awesome thing to try, paired with a passive gpu in a convection case so its totally quiet. Ofcourse it would be eaten by a deskop i3-5 but thats not the point.Its already just cool to see how it would compare




  9.  
    zer0sum

    I really really wish these had Vt-d and SRIOV support.
    Then they would make for an awesome virtualization platform!!




  10.  
    modulus

    Any word on availability of these boards? I’ve seen them around at a few e-tailers I’ve never heard of and was hoping some more major players would start stalking them soon.




  11.  
    somedude

    I too really wished these new Atoms could do VT-d. I want to replace my old desktop used as a server and it too cannot do VT-d. It’s built with ESXi 5 and consumes 120w idle. Part of that power is used by 10 hdds that are never spinned down because the VMs don’t have control over the disks.

    Now I’m faced with 3 choices:

    1 – Buy 2 new Atoms system, one would be a iSCSI target and the other would be the consumer of those targets.

    2 – Buy a low power Xeon that does VT-d

    3 – Buy only one Atom system and run it as I do now, with disks running all the time.

    Which would you do?




  12.  
    Adrian

    These are amazing little systems considering they are Atoms, just replaced my X3380 NAS mobo with one of these, and upgraded to W2K12 R2 in the process. Did try hunting around but couldn’t find one available for less the $699.00, but from a performance perspective on a NAS, it seems to be worth it so far.

    It does look rather lonely though in my 2U 12 drive case though!

    One question though, how do you get the Supermicro IPMI LAN to work…..this seems to be a lot more difficult than it should be….IPMI set to DHCP but still no joy….I think it is related to an empty MAC address, but I can’t seem to set this (not from within W212 anyway)….thoughts?




  13.  
    Bobii

    Supermicro propose, on their website, an uATX version with two pci-e (one 8x and one 4x) : A1SAM-2750F




  14.  
    Bobii

    and standard memory DIMM.




  15.  
    Rick

    Did the CPU fan used in your setup come with the board? I recently got an A1SRi-2758F which came with a passive heatsink only. If you added it yourself, which one did you use?




  16.  
    woo

    …ecc so-dimm?





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